Our Day Out - The Musical 2010
"This show is one of those truly magical theatrical experiences that should very definitely not be missed."
The success of Glee and High School Musical proves that groups of misfit teenagers singing and dancing their way to salvation are the stuff of global entertainment franchises. Except that Willy Russell had the same idea 30 years ago.
Viewed alongside Russell's other creations, Our Day Out always seemed the runt of the litter. A tender-hearted but slightly awkward tale of a group of disadvantaged kids on a school outing, it became a youth-theatre fixture. Now it's back, in a completely revised version by Russell and director Bob Eaton. The result is a confident, through-composed musical with street-dancing, rapping, live penguins and a llama. It's a measure of the show's ambition that not only are the vast majority of the cast local under-16s, they even filch a hoard of real animals from the zoo.
Best of all, this show has acquired its sleek new look without sacrificing any of its soul, although it may be susceptible to what could be called the Glee conundrum – whereby the supposedly ostracised kids turn out to be the most staggeringly talented. Yet Eaton's production feels well crafted without being manufactured; its success comes down to the energy of a young ensemble giving everything they've got.
The adults have their work cut out to match them, but there's a beatific performance from Pauline Daniels as the teacher who recognises that a day out in Wales is a poor palliative for the broken homes many of her charges will return to. Rarely has a school bus trip been so transporting.
ALFRED HICKLING - THE GUARDIAN
LIVERPOOL DAILY POST
The myopic lollipop man who risks lives every time he helps pupils cross the street is the only thing that’s short-sighted about the revival of Our Day Out.
Modernised and extensively reworked from Willy Russell’s original script, he and co-writer Bob Eaton have remained true to its roots while creating an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular.
The cast of 27 young performers, many of school age, put on a show actors twice their age would be proud of. It’s pacy, funny and tightly executed, thanks to Eaton’s attention to detail in the directing and choreographer Beverley Norris-Edmunds ambitious routines. And beneath the pizzazz are moments of bitter truth and that make this much more than a feelgood night out.
Thanks to the intervention of the disapproving Mr Briggs (Mark Moragham) the progress class’s annual day trip has been diverted from Alton Towers to Wales.
And of course the singing-written as half-playground chant, reminiscent of Kids’ Game from Blood Brothers.
There are also big blousey musical numbers that take the characters off the coach and into their imaginations.
Pauline Daniels is lovely as Miss Kay, the teacher trying to bring a bit of light into the children’s shadowed lives; Moraghan's fierce Mr Briggs, whose enlightenment may have to wait for another day; and Fletcher, Georgina White and Keiran Cunningham strong in their supporting roles.
But it’s the young performers who have the power to make or break the show. Sinead Thompson and Kelly Forshaw are perfectly in unison as the perpetually bored best friends.
But it’s Mia Molley’s sad eyes that haunt you as you leave the theatre – in her role as Amy, the girl who wants to stay on the Conwy cliffs for ever, simply because “it’s nice”.
That’s what Russell does best - draws you in with clever lyrics and swanky numbers before bowling you over with a bit of realism.
LAURA DAVIS – LIVERPOOL DAILY POST
As pupils and teachers across the country prepare to head back to school this September, Willy Russell revisits the Royal Court in Liverpool with a revival of last year’s musical version of his school-themed play Our Day Out.
At just over two hours, the story takes audiences on a roller coaster of emotions which is brought through a talented bunch of young actors, singers, and dancers.
A school ‘progress class’ are promised a day out to Alton Towers but are taken on a trip to North Wales instead. What follows is everything you might expect from a group of unruly children while an underlining sub plot of escapism and freedom is created.
New to this year’s production are Pauline Daniels, as Mrs Kay, and Mark Moraghan, as Mr Briggs. Daniels is certainly convincing as the teacher with a sense of fun, and Moraghan, as the teacher of discipline, is absolutely superb, his transition from being detestable to likeable is cleverly performed.
Funny moments involve the versatile Kieran Cunningham as the blind lollipop man Les, as well as the use of real animals, from an alpaca to a pig, during a zoo scene, and a scene involving a young boy stealing a condom machine.
As for the songs, ‘We’re Going Out Today (With Mrs Kay)’, ‘Boss Of Bus’, and ‘Scream If You Wanna Go Faster’, will have you tapping your foot, while ‘Beach Boy’, performed by Georgina White, will have your sides splitting from laughter.
The younger cast members are led once again by Abby Mavers, as Carlene, Sophie Fraser, as Jackie, Chris Mason, as Reilly, and Jack Rigby, as Digga, and all execute their roles with the same aplomb and familiar hilarity.
Youngster Mia Molley is also back on the Court stage as Amy, a girl from a volatile home, and shows a maturity in her performance together with an angelic voice.
So, all in all, it’s top marks for Russell and Bob Eaton, back on directing duties, for staging another excellent show. Thus highlighted further by what is now becoming a customary standing ovation for their efforts.
MICHAEL HUNT - WHATSONSTAGE
Mongs, window-lickers, spastics – that’s what the school bullies in Mrs Kay’s Progress Class. As the stigmatised kids themselves announce, with a defiant touch of pride they’re dealing with a whole range of issues: a boy with a colourful vocabulary has Tourettes syndrome, another has ADHD, a girl has “allergies, all kinds”; one unfortunate youngster just has wind. But they all struggle with literacy; so a day trip away from the classroom is greeted with noisy enthusiasm.
Willy Russell’s big-hearted musical, adapted from his Seventies TV and stage play with the director Bob Eaton, never loses sight of the social problems that behest the children at its down-at-heel Liverpool comprehensive. But it’s also hilarious and ebullient, performed with élan by a cast of local youngsters bursting with talent.
Mark Walters’ set is made up of graffiti-covered blocks, which become seats on the bus that the class hope will take them to Alton Towers. At the last minute, though, authoritarian Mr Briggs (Mark Moraghan) climbs on board, wrests control from Pauline Daniel’s warm, relaxed Mrs Kay and diverts the coach to Wales. It’s a predictably unpopular decision, but Briggs is persuaded to include a zoo and a beach on the itinerary as well as an educational visit to Conway Castle, and the outing is such a success that one child – Mia Molloy’s pale, poignant Amy – declares that she never wants to go home again.
On the whole, though, ribald fun is the order of the day. The bouncy soft-rock score may not be musically rich but, paired with smart-mouthed, salty rhymes and Beverley Norris-Edmunds’s hip-hop-inflected choreography, it cleverly conveys the fidgety, skittering energy of teenagers let loose. The execution by both the kids, aged from 13, and the adult actors is impeccable and there’s some priceless characterisation, notably a duo of girls who dub every activity “bleedin’ borin’” to feisty Carlene (Abby Mavers), who is nurturing a girlish crush on Mrs Kay’s good-looking, newly qualified colleague, Mark (Stephen Fletcher). There’s even – when the party, departing from the zoo, decide to take some of their new furry friends with them – a surprise appearance by a real menagerie, from white rabbits to a shaggy lama. That’s typical of this show’s audacity and exuberance.
SAM MARLOWE – THE TIMES
SECOND time around can be fraught with all sorts of difficulties, as many a husband and wife have discovered on remarriage. It’s the problem of expectations - will it be as good as the first time?
Willy Russell’s musical version of his play Our Day Out has returned to the Royal Court for a second outing following its success last year.
It comes with a new and bigger set, a new adult cast and some reworking. But the young cast, with a couple of exceptions, remains the same, and the plot – about a Liverpool school outing to North Wales – is unchanged.
And, yes, it is as big a success as before as the standing ovation suggested, just a bit different.
If you saw it last time you might be disappointed that some faces are new, so performances are different and the look of some of it has altered. But it remains a terrific musical show.
Russell has the ability to inject, into what is superficially a jolly knees-up, social comment and human understanding. Amid all the comedy and music is a serious view of kids and education that is the same today as yesterday.
The class heading off on the coach trip for the day out is a so-called “progress class”, one that has learning difficulties. Even before they get on the coach they are called names by pupils from a regular class.
In charge is the understanding Mrs Kay (played by local comedienne/actress Pauline Daniels) and younger teachers Mark (Stephen Fletcher) and Katie (Georgina White).
The plan, to the pupils’ delight, is to spend the day at Alton Towers. But that all changes when disciplinarian teacher Mr Briggs (Mark Moraghan) decides to join the trip.
The itinerary is changed to a visit to North Wales. Despite being told that “it’s not just castles and sheep” the kids are not pleased.
What happens on that trip makes up the bulk of the show as they head through the Mersey Tunnel, bump over a humpback bridge, stop for a comfort break, visit a zoo, take in Conwy Castle, go to the beach and then end up at an unexpected venue. All to a constant musical score.
The music and lyrics were written by Russell and director Bob Eaton with some additional music by Chris Mellor. It may be my imagination but there seems more music than before and all of a very high standard.
All the previous numbers are there including Our Day Out, Boss of the Bus, I’m In Love with Sir, Why Can’t It Always Be This Way and Beach Boy, each a hit in its own right.
The cast of youngsters dance and sing with a verve and skill that is quite breath-taking, greatly helped by the imaginative choreography of Beverley Norris-Edmunds.
Pauline Daniels fits neatly into the role of the sympathetic Mrs Kay while Mark Moraghan is perfect as the bellowing martinet Mr Briggs who softens as the trip progresses.
Among the young cast Abby Mavers makes her mark again as the would-be sexpot Carlene with her eye on getting to grips with her teacher. There is a delightful dream sequence, given a Hollywood touch, in which she imagines a love affair with him only to be brought rudely down to earth by her fellow pupils.
Mia Molloy is poignant as the sad Amy who hates her home surroundings and refuses to go home, singing her solo Why Can’t It Always Be This Way? She thinks the kids at home would destroy anything nice.
Russell has a good ear for youthful dialogue (“It’s boring, bleedin’ boring” is the constant chant from two young girls) but also gives his adult actors plenty of meat, including the coach driver Ronny (Kieran Cunningham) who declares that in his day “the teachers talked properly and wore suits”.
Despite his strict education, however, he laments that he ended up driving a coach.
Throughout, Russell keeps the laughs coming and no more so than in the visit to the zoo where the pupils manage to come away with some of the animals all of which appear live on stage including a chicken, a pig, a rabbit, a sheep and a llama.
The new set, by designer Mark Walters, may not be to everyone’s liking, rather brash with its colours and graffiti-styled design, but it works well enough in the context of the show with plenty of movement, particularly with the boxes on wheels suggesting the coach itself.
The strength of any show is the ability to withstand recasting and still come up bright and shiny and Our Day Out The Musical – directed as before by Bob Eaton – meets the challenge.
It’s a production that tells a good story, offers some great songs, features lively characters and delivers a powerful message without ever preaching.
PHILIP KEY - LIVERPOOL CONFIDENTIAL
THE DAILY EXPRESS
Willy Russell’s hilarious, high-energy musical was first performed , in one form or another, in Liverpool in 1983 and seems to have taken up permanent residency.
Following a hit run here last year, Russell wondered if lightening strikes twice and gambled on a foot-tapping success again.
A modern take on the original 70s TV play, it tells of a school coach trip by illiterate Scouse youngsters to Conway Castle, the North Wales seaside and the zoo, supervised by authoritarian deputy headmaster Mr Briggs (grumpily played by Mark Moraghan).
The idea seems, as some of the schoolgirls repeatedly chirp “boring!” but there is a real warmth and grit – other than the sandy stuff on the beach.
It’s an endearing tale of growing pains and the gloomy realism of kind-hearted class teacher Mrs Kay (Pauline Daniels) and assistants Mark (Stephen Fletcher) and Katie (Georgina White) who only pray the kids will not be swallowed up when they crash with a bang on the bleak, jobless streets.
Director and co-writer Bob Eaton gives us from the start a hormone-packed frenzy.
The class makes Lord Of The Flies look like Harrow but we’re invited to glimpse underneath the ill-fitting uniforms and bare-faced front to see the insecurity, angst and problems within, and we love them all the more for it.
It’s happy and dark, albeit with an oft repeated motif.
With the singing, bounce and attitude, it’s like an X-Factor day out… but thankfully minus Simon Cowell.
CHRIS RICHES – THE DAILY EXPRESS
It was difficult to see how Our Day Out - The Musical could be improved, but it has.
Bigger, brighter and ultimately better, Willy Russell and Bob Eaton have taken a show that was always very, very good and turned it into something utterly glorious, with an adult cast that add new dimensions to their roles and a team of young actors who have raised their game magnificently.
Fine performances from Mark Moraghan as old disciplinarian Briggs and Pauline Daniels as kind-hearted Mrs Kay, whose Progress Class is about to embark on its annual school trip, add a fresh authority that is beautifully mirrored by both Stephen Fletcher as heart-throb teacher Mark and Georgina White as his wife-to-be, Katie.
However, what drives the show is the enthusiasm, energy and outright talent of the youngsters, and this aspect remains unchanged, with Chris Mason, Mia Malloy and Abby Mavers turning in even more assured performances than those of 12 months ago.
Yet there is one huge difference to this production that makes the whole thing come together so well, and that is the innovative and imaginative set - which is just astonishing in the way it has made everybody up their game.
A multilevel backdrop, of graffiti-scrawled walls that swap and change as the story progresses, has never looked so good or been employed so well. It allows a sense of intimacy that lifts the audience out of their seats and takes them along for the ride.
This show is one of those truly magical theatrical experiences that should very definitely not be missed.
CHRIS HIGH - THE STAGE
- LIVERPOOL LIVE
A blind lollipop man, a big bag of sweets, a bucket load of barefaced cheek and a erm.. a llama all the ingredients for a school trip it seems if Mrs Kay's progress class are involved.
- After the initial disappointment of a cancelled trip to Alton Towers and the addition of hardline teacher Mr Briggs (Mark Moraghan) who joins the class determined to instil some discipline, Mrs Kay's (Pauline Daniels) class of illiterate and misunderstood pupils reluctantly agree to go to Conway Castle instead.. after all castles are ‘borin they're bleedin borin’
Following unscheduled stops along the way at the services (now minus one condom machine) and a local zoo which lost most of its animals from pet corner including, chickens, a baby goat, a full grown sheep and a llama, Briggsy would obviously have his work cut out. But as the day progresses even Briggs shows a chink in the armour for a short while, albeit with the assistance of Mrs Kay's whisky laced coffee.
The teenage cast of singers and dancers were superb and delivered the songs and dance routines flawlessly. All the songs are belted out with a passion throughout and none more so than Mark Moraghan who nailed first act closer 'Animals'.
Among the humour and fabulous musical numbers however, there is a darker undercurrent highlighting the harsh realities of life that will face this class of underachievers on their return home.
The urban backdrop subtly spells 'our day out' amongst the 3D graffiti strewn set and baseball caps off to designer Mark Walters and his team as the complexities of movement from such a large cast was seamless.
The cast received a standing ovation at the end and rightly so, Our Day Out - the musical is one of the best shows you'll see this year, I swear on our baby's life!
RICH DENTON – LIVERPOOL LIVE
- WITH Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita currently back in the West End and Blood Brothers doing brisk trade just about everywhere, Willy Russell must surely have a weather eye on the possibilities for Our Day Out.
After all, the tale of Mrs Kay’s progress class on an eventful day trip from their inner city comp has all the requisite elements - hope and aspiration over the drudgery of reality, lessons learned, irresistibly catchy tunes and a great big anthem to finish the evening.
This latest production at the Royal Court is a reprise of a reprise, following last year’s reworking of the Russell/Bob Eaton musical which started its life in one form or another three decades ago.
The class of 2010 includes quite a lot of kids held back from last year - but there’s no one behind in their studies here.
The show benefits greatly from having a young cast who are supremely confident, and comfortable, with both music and movement after 18 months’ together.
In fact, the only real new boys and girls are the adults.
The chorus of young performers could be a hard act to follow, but the Royal Court has chosen well in its grown-up team.
All the adults have strong singing voices - although they are sometimes menaced by the sheer volume coming from the terrific multitude, and you could quite believe Pauline Daniels and Mark Moraghan as the two conflicting sides of the teaching coin.
Georgina White meanwhile almost threatens to steal the second half with a purring red swimsuit-clad rendition of cod-siren song Beach Boy, while Stephen Fletcher proves dashing in Hollywood white tie and tails in a revamped version of Carlene Croxley’s (Abby Mavers) teen love song I’m In Love With Sir.
But really the evening belongs to the teenagers who quite obviously relish every note and step of their roles.
Proceedings are certainly more slick and sophisticated than they were 12 months ago, from Mark Walters’ moving jigsaw set, to the seamless transition from dialogue to song, to choreographer Bev Norris-Edmunds’ snappy street dance routines.
There are moments when the wall of sound threatens to distort, and the impetus dips very slightly after the interval.
- But the sheer relentless enthusiasm and exuberance is still impossible to resist.
Catherine Jones - Liverpool Echo
Going back to school is never easy, but going back to a school you created over 20 years ago and giving it a complete overhaul, modernising it and transforming it was always going to be a difficult task, but Willy Russell alongside Bob Eaton have managed to send the show to an all new high, not only thanks to its lively new score, its witty script but also thanks to the care and professionalism of the seriously talented younger cast, who pore their heart and soul out from start to finish.
Mrs Kay’s progress class are off on their annual trip out, this year to Alton Towers, however the constantly grumpy Mr Biggs has heard about this and changed the class’s trip last minute and now the class are Conway bound. Hilarity reigns as the kids from Liverpool run riot, causing mischief with condom machines, penguins and castles.
The 27 strong cast is mainly made up from local youngsters who are virtually back for another year following the sell out success of its original run last year, and the show feels even stronger because of this. These young professionals give their all throughout, with not one ounce of nerves showing. Mia Molly gives a beautiful wide eyed portrayal of Amy the girl who would rather stay at the beach where it’s ‘Nice’ than have to go back home and face the stark reality that faces her. Sophie Fraser and Abby Mavers as the overly sexed teenage girls Jackie and Carlene are fantastic and give such strong and assured performances that they really are destined for bigger things in the future. Jack Rigby shows a natural flair for comedy in his enigmatic take on class clown Digga and Chris Mason rounds things of nicely with a hard edged but slightly soft in the middle turn as Reilly. Kelly Forshaw and Sinead Thompson as the two incredibly bored teens made sure that we could never be bored of their performance. Credit must also be given to Caitlin Evans from the younger cast who really shone and has such a strong stage presence that it was hard to take your eyes off her.
Pauline Daniels as the caring Mrs Kay gave a heart-warming production so different to the harder edged roles we are used to seeing her play. Mark Moraghan is bitingly sharp as the touchy Mr Briggs, whilst Stephen Fletcher, Keiran Cunnigham and Georgina White tighten things up and round off this uniformly excellent cast.
Bob Eaton’s direction is consistently brilliant, possessing so much energy, the piece flows faster than the unbelievably focused and performed street dance choreographed by Beverley Norris-Edmunds. The design of the show created by The Royal Courts resident designer Mark Walters keeps things simple with a striking and flexible set and the music comes thick and fast, with an air of panache thanks to Howard Gray’s excellent musical direction.
This is a rare theatrical gem of a show, it’s hilarious yet poignant and you can’t help but be touched by the underlying subtext of the piece, this really is a must see show and I can only hope that a full cast recording is produced ASAP.
“No one can take this time away, no matter what they do, no matter what they say, we couldn’t give a shit ‘cos it was BRILLIANT…MAGIC…FIT!”