Book: Paul Hurt
Music and lyrics: Adam Howell
Director: Ellie Jones
British Youth Music Theater Educate Yorkshire T’Musical! is “inspired by” the award-winning television documentary series. Your review is slightly adrift, having never seen the TV series, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of a very successful show.
In fact, Adam Howell and Paul Hurt’s script fits a fairly well-worn pattern, following year 11 through to their GCSE year, starting with alarmingly bad behavior towards a new maths teacher and ending with the passage of the head, but in this framework, things ring true enough. Only the chief’s final gesture, at the end of the term, telling the popular English teacher that she is leaving and that the work is hers, gives a real false note. The questioning of staff and students by an invisible voice adds a clever touch of realism.
On a bare stage, with EDUCATING YORKSHIRE T’MUSICAL above the excellent instrumental quartet, a brash and extremely confident girl (unfortunately there is no cast list) intimidates the audience in response and explains that they replicate the events of their year 11 There is an opening number (probably called “Yorkshire”) where, in the tradition of “Another Op’nin’, Another Show”, between verses we are introduced to the individual members distribution, then it’s with the chairs and the screens and we leave with the poor maths teacher who admits that she is overwhelmed.
Among the various mishaps and accidents that ensue, the key plot point occurs when a boy takes advantage of a gesture of sympathy to grab a kiss from the hapless math teacher – as things go happen, it’s not the kiss, it’s the photograph that counts, causing a final dust between the two “bad girls”.
So what is special about Educating Yorkshire? Well, Ellie Jones brings her forces together brilliantly, characters that never take the lead from the main story establishing their personalities or the whole block of students that set off Ash Mukherjee’s choreography. Then, what becomes apparent as the evening progresses is that it’s not just about a few stars. There are so many great voices around, all getting their solos – a special word here for Jasmine, plagued by a stutter (and rather miraculously cured).
And then there are the teachers, the headmaster totally convincing to take charge of a failing school, the nice maths teacher who toughens up, the English teacher capable of experimenting because he has the class on his side. Two of the best songs are the teacher in charge of Isolation (a terrifying concept, but a nice and fair guy) recounting the perils of internet dating and the kind veteran teacher expressing her perspective on life beautifully.
The occasional missed signal for a mic aside, the technical side works well, the music under Josh Kemp is spot on, but the overall lasting impression is the energy and talent of the big cast.
Until August 7, 2022.