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The Hired Man

A must see for all fans of musical theatre

The Musical Youth Company of Oxford has a reputation for producing theatre of high quality but having seen The Hired Man at Headington Theatre I can report that its reputation is well founded because this is musical theatre at its very best.

The Hired Man is set in a community in Cumbria at the turn of the century where the men seek work in the fields to support their families. Soon the mining of coal replaces agriculture as the main source of employment, but it is the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 that tears into the very heart of the people.

Starting as it means to go on, a rousing opening number is belted out by the huge ensemble of talented young people, with a strength and diction normally reserved for West End productions. The cast takes on the fabulous score and its difficult harmonies with apparent ease, a huge credit to musical director Julie Todd. They were matched by remarkable performances from the leads. Johny Allison as John added an emotional depth to his character, impressive for someone so young. John's pals Ben Platt and Oscar Pratley's powerful voices were perfect, as was Maddie Pirrie as Sally.

Alek Auton and Lucas Lluna as John's children May and Harry were fine comedy actors and the kitchen table scene was a fantastic glimpse of family life in the early 1900's. For me however, the star of the show was Saffi Needham playing Emily. Saffi has a phenomenal voice and acting ability, bringing me close to tears! Her duet with Finley Pratley (Jackson) was another highlight and both of these young stars have a promisting future on the stage.

Director Ed Blagrove will be undoubtedly proud of his young cast and rightly so. A stunning production and a must-see for all fans of musical theatre.


Rob Hall - Oxford Times, 13th April 2017