Ansell is The Man in Whistle Down The Wind
POP-opera's golden boy makes seamless transition to stage star.
AS a showcase for his remarkable voice Jonathan Ansell couldn't beat making his musical dbut in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Why not start at the very top if you are blessed with a golden voice, handsome looks and acting talent to boot?
If that sounds like I was taken with the lad then I have to admit it. Not only did he illuminate a rather downbeat and depressing drama but he also made time afterwards to meet fans, sign autographs, pose for pictures and chat to the local press. Jon was charm personified and deserves a glittering future in musical theatre.
The tenor, who shot to fame with the pop-opera group G4 in the original series of ITV's X Factor, has been starring in ALW's Whistle Down The Wind at Milton Keynes Theatre this week and it was clear, right from his entrance, that a stage star was born.
As an introduction to the genre the musical was perfect giving him not too much to do other than looked ripped, mean and moody (though the straggly beard made him look more Robinson Crusoe than desperate death row convict).
But I'm not a fan of Whistle. The score features too many echoes of other Webber hits and the story contains little light relief, weighed down with heavyweight themes of religion, coming of age, loss of innocence, teenage angst, racial prejudice, menace and violence.
Its one big song is No Matter What which was beautifully sung by the chorus of moppets from the locally based Myra Tiffin stage school and their parents must have been proud.
I had a soft spot for A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing, which betrayed lyricist Jim Steinman's roots as Meat Loaf's favourite song-writer, but in the main they were forgettable.
The story, written by Mary Hayley Bell, comes from a 1960s film of the same name that starred her daughter Hayley Mills and Alan Bates as "The Man".
Set in a small farming community buried in America's Bible belt a teenage girl stumbles on an injured and filthy man hiding in her barn.
Due to a misunderstanding of monumental proportions she believes he is the Second Coming and soon word spreads among the township's children that Christ has returned.
There's a lot of hell-fire and damnation before an uplifting denouement that leaves the audience drained but strangely contented.
The characters are one-dimensional stereotypes we've come to expect from middle-America – the fat lazy sheriff, the dirt-poor farmers clad in trendy checks, the bad boy with a DA and a bike, a black girl with attitude and a slimy preacher who plays with snakes.
But there are stand-out performances from Ansell and from Carly Bawden as 15-year-old Swallow whose pure, powerful and angelic voice captured everyone's hearts.
Let's hope Mr Ansell pencils Milton Keynes in for another visit – but please have a shave first!
Whistle Down The Wind finishes at MKT tomorrow (Saturday). For tickets call the box office 0844 8717652 or go online www.ambassadortickets.com/miltonkeynes
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