The creative minds behind the public performances of Makin’ Steps seldom fail to impress and To The Movies was no exception.
Just for starters, the opening bars of the theme to Jaws accompanied by a menacing shark’s fin took us through a compilation of over twenty movies played out in silhouette on the company’s big screen before Abbie Middleton Evans and Charlotte and Janine Rudin took us into the Little Shop of Horrors. There we had our first encounter with Reece Harper, playing the nerdy Seymour.
This impressive young man is growing in confidence, ably demonstrated in his contributions to both musical theatre and dance numbers.
Twelve months ago when reviewing iTimeTravel I suggested that the company’s backing-singers could have been more visible and sure enough that was noted and the huge range and versatility of voices were used to tremendous effect.
What was also interesting was the increase in the number of credible and capable male performers, both dancers and singers, like Danny Evans who came to the fore in the Purple Rain Prince tribute choreographed by Scott Simpson.
There were frequent reminders of the full range of training the students are engaged in at Makin’ Steps – musical theatre and singing, modern and street dance, ballet and tap dancing and although I’m becoming more familiar with some of the terminology – step, shuffle, ball-change – I don’t think I will ever stop marvelling at how you can move seamlessly from having 20 young penguins with very Happy Feet to the foot-tapping, hand-clapping, world of Mary Poppins that brought the first half of the show to a close.
Ross Simpson’s choreography in numbers like Romeo Must Die suggested that these young performers are terrifyingly streetwise, whilst elsewhere the sensitive en pointe direction of Lana Williams hinted that they are just as much in command of their minds as their bodies. In fact, Makin’ Steps showcased, not only the talent of the here and now, but the promise of the future.
Brooke Turnstill and Abbie Middleton Evans are rapidly becoming the Makin’ Steps headline acts. When Brooke sang the words I don’t want to hurt anymore from The Bodyguard you really felt she meant it and Abbie’s rendition of On My Own from Les Mis was of West End standard. However there are others honing their skills and beginning to flourish who will soon be snapping at their heels.
The pièce de résistance however came in an extraordinary pre-recorded video montage of 11 of the company’s singers performing acapella themes from Star Wars. Technically flawless, vocally stunning, very, very funny, this feat of theatrical engineering by Ross Simpson and Makin’ Steps was phenomenal.
I suggested on the way home that if loaded onto YouTube it would get loads of hits. “No”, my seven-year-old daughter informed me “you mean it will go viral”. I stand corrected. Well done Margaret Wright and all at Makin’ Steps.
One thing has always been clear, Makin’ Steps have always had a close eye on the future and their latest production reflected this with all the elements of talent and quality that Harlow audiences have come to expect.
The flexible but cunning narrative centres around two girls, Maisie Humphreys and Abbie Middleton, exploring a new app on their iPad called “iTimeTravel”.
Unaware of quite what this will allow them to do they take a leap into the unknown and travel back through Makin’ Steps past productions to join in with the present ensemble and to take a glimpse of what the future might have in store.
And so the audience are treated to thirty-four numbers over two and a half hours from the company’s extensive repertoire – street dance and hip hop, ballet and tap dancing, musical theatre and quality singing that could grace any professional venue during any era.
In fact, increasingly, it is the quality of the vocals that are drawing me to Makin’ Steps productions and my only criticism is although the dance performers were centre-stage and rightly so, the “backing-singers” could have been more visible. They certainly deserved to be.
Five performances over four days, Makin’ Steps played to packed houses at their Potter Street base location.
A quick glimpse at the programme shows you that Makin’ Steps is very much a family-affair and with the majority of audience members greeting proprietor Margaret Wright with a hug and a kiss it’s very clear who the head of the household is. Don’t upset mum and the show’s guaranteed to be a sure-fire success.
With astonishingly, more than 90 performers involved in this tremendous showcase, it’s hard to single anyone out but the vocals of Hannah Furness (What Now) and Brooke Turnstill (Thinking Out Loud) were particularly impressive. And the choreographers, who are integrated members of the company, should be immensely proud of the work they achieved.
The pièce de résistance was saved for the moment that Maisie and Abbie literally jumped into the screen of the giant iPad and out again. Clearly there are few barriers Makin’ Steps can’t break through – just give them TIME.
What strikes me, time and again when I see Makin’ Steps productions is not just the sheer professionalism of the performances but the reflection of the confidence and conviction shown by Harlow’s young people taking part. They say that Britain has Got Talent. Well, Makin’ Steps is growing it and showing it and it’s something that they and the entire town should be proud of.
Review by Ian Beckett
Makin’ Steps 30th Anniversary Show Review
FORGET Britain’s Got Talent, Makin’ Steps have proved that Harlow’s got talent.
Ambitious, breath-taking and in parts jaw-dropping, the performing arts school’s amazing anniversary show was an adrenalin-fuelled ride through 30 years of teaching in Harlow.
A breathless journey from street dance to classical ballet and from tap and modern to musical theatre, with beautifully choreographed numbers, the show had the audience on their feet and dancing along. Any concerns the group might have overstretched themselves were swiftly put to bed with a seamless introductory sequence that had the audience gasping and cheering in equal measures. And despite some very young performers, the hugely talented cast did not put a foot wrong throughout the three-hour song and dance extravaganza.
As well as dancing–Makin’ Steps professional live band – under the musical guidance of Ross Simpson – gave the performance a professional feel that wouldn’t be out of place in London’s West End.
But it wasn’t just the school’s obvious flair for showmanship that shone through. The smiles on the faces of the performers told their own story–one of a committed group of youngsters comfortable in their own ability and grateful for the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of an audience of hundreds. From the adorable suit-wearing tots to the accomplished adults pulling off gravity-defying routines, the show struck the perfect balance between the cute and the jaw-droppingly acrobatic and really did showcase the talents of every student… and even some of their teachers!
So hats off to Makin’ Steps for their fantastic performance and for 30 years of nurturing Harlow’s talented young singers and dancers.
Diamond Jubilee Show Review
SLICK, ambitious and breathtakingly bold, Makin’ Steps’ dazzling diamond jubilee showcase was an adrenaline-pumping thrill-ride through 60 years of pop culture.
A breathless musical journey from the rock ’n’ roll revolution of the Coronation era to the athletic street-dance workouts of the noughties, 5212 was impressive in scale and immersive in its period detail.
Any concerns the group might have overstretched themselves were swiftly put to bed with a seamless introductory sequence. And despite a few niggling technical problems, the hugely talented cast hardly put a foot wrong throughout the three-hour song and dance extravaganza.
Introduced to each new decade by a tongue-in-cheek newsreel summing up the biggest news, sport and music stories of the period, the audience sat mesmerised as wave after wave of young performers hit the stage in a whirlwind of impeccably-choreographed routines and spectacular costumes.
From the adorable suit-wearing tots jumping and jiving to Chuck Berry to the accomplished adults pulling off gravity-defying Michael Jackson routines, the show struck the perfect balance between the cute and the jaw-droppingly acrobatic.
Affectionate pastiches of Saturday Night Fever (complete with a hip-thrusting, medallion-wearing John Travolta-alike) and YMCA provided flashes of laugh-out-loud humour, while inventive routines for It’s Raining Men, Legs and Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger stirred the imagination.
There was space for real elegance, too, with ballet students given their chance to shine in the gentler moments, but it wasn’t all about movement. The group continually reminded the audience they are more than just a dance school with pitch-perfect vocal performances from confident soloists of all ages.
The live band also deserves special mention, playing non-stop medleys for up to half-an-hour at a time and joining the dots between the decades with a huge repertoire of rock ’n’ roll, funk, soul, disco and pop hits.
It wasn’t just the school’s obvious flair for showmanship that shone through. The smiles on the faces of the performers told their own story – one of a committed group of youngsters comfortable in their own ability and grateful for the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of an audience of hundreds.
And judging by this outstanding performance, they fully deserved their time in the limelight.
In four separate shows over 120 youngsters set out to capture the excitement and spirit of this special time of year – and they certainly did with a highly professional performance!
I joined the sell-out audience for the Sunday afternoon performance at Potter Street Community Centre which had been beautifully transformed into a Christmas-themed stage complete with colour-changing presents.
A wonderful afternoon’s entertainment, there was something for everyone to enjoy in the wide variety of song and dance, which was at such a high standard it was hard to believe I was at a local performance and not a West End show!
Performers aged from four years upwards put their heart and soul into the varied programme, which included strong Hip Hop numbers and a breathtaking rendition of Jar Of Hearts sung by five talented young girls.
A nicely choreographed routine to The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year then showcased the talents of the school’s male performers, who danced and lifted their partners around the stage like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Aside from the excellent choreography and superb musical arrangements, congratulations must also go to the hidden team of volunteers behind the scenes who helped keep things running smoothly.
The whole production was a credit to school head Margaret Wright and her staff – it certainly captured the Magic Of Christmas!
The festive season got off to a wonderful start with a magical show from Harlow based performing arts school Makin’ Steps
It was a typical Makin’ Steps production – a slick and professional show with singing from all age ranges of performers and beautifully choreographed dance numbers in disciplines which included, ballet, tap, modern and Street Dance.
As soon as the lights came up for the opening number – Take That’s Rule The World, audience members knew we were in for something special, and they weren’t disappointed. From the ceiling high Christmas tree in the centre of the stage bursting in to life with multi-coloured Christmas balls, to the “snow” covered stage complete with colour changing presents the scene was set for what was to come, starting with a packed stage of young dancers performing a foot perfect routine to Rita Ola’s – “How We Party”.
Other stand out numbers included –“I Can’t Make You Love Me”, sung beautifully by Maisie Humphreys and complemented perfectly with a powerful lyrical piece by some of the school s older dancers. There was an emotive partnership piece to “Wherever You Will Go”, danced hypnotically by Bronty Levior and Sam Freeman with vocals by an extremely talented Abbie Middleton Evans. While a ballet choreographed to Adele’s Skyfall, and sung by Charlotte Rudin also made an impression on the audience.
But It was not just the older singers who shone; there was a heart-warming rendition of “When Christmas Comes to Town” sung by the youngest of the shows singers and a well-polished musical number to Naughty from the hit musical Matilda.
There was, as always with these shows a chance for every performer to shine and shine they did with everything from the hard hitting street dance routine by the schools Formation dancers right down to the positively cute little ones dancing to “We Are Family”.
The show finished with the cast of 120 plus dancers and singers coming on stage to sing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” – the perfect way to put everyone in the Spirit of Christmas.