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REVIEW: Disney’s Moana JR. - KSP Theatre

The vibrant talent flourishing in community theatre is showcased in Disney's Moana JR., a junior stage adaptation of the popular 2016 animated movie. Directed by Paula-Mary Camilleri and Teagan Fudge, this production at KSP Theatre in Burpengary enchants viewers with its touching narrative, impressive performances, and authentic cultural representation.

Moana is a tale set in ancient Polynesia, where the ocean selects the determined daughter of a village chief to restore a sacred object to the goddess Te Fiti. In a time of crisis for her island, Moana sets off to locate the legendary demigod Maui and save her community. This 60-minute musical includes all the beloved songs from the film. Music director Eli Ball ensures a proficient performance of the complex harmonies and lyrics in their native language.

Sienna Randall gives a remarkable performance in the role of Moana. Her rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” showcases her powerful vocal abilities and genuine acting talent. Her belt in "Know Who You Are" was effortless, especially the divine "I Am Moana!" moment. Watch out, folks! This young lady is destined for greatness, probably as a Disney princess at the happiest place on Earth.

In her standout portrayal as the not-so-humble demigod Maui, Tylah-Jay Foster captivates the audience with a blend of innate humour, impressive vocal delivery, and character depiction that is pleasantly distinct from the movie. With a lively and energetic vibe, she confidently delivers the iconic song "You're Welcome," which is enhanced by the spirited Maui fan club dancers. Randall and Foster have wonderfully authentic interactions and I hope to see them both on the stage again soon!

Chief Tui, played by Jeremy Hales, brings enough energy to light up the whole island. Gramma Tala, played by Neve Isles, adds a touch of heartstring-tugging emotion to the production. And Theo Hunt steals the spotlight in the second act as Tamatoa the crab, with “Shiny” transforming into a full-ensemble spectacle bursting with sparkle and energy. The narrators, aka the chief ancestors Quin Michaels, Ruby Marriott, and Adelle Adlington, provide pleasant vocals, though with a bit more confidence, their performances could reach new heights.

In addition to the stellar lead performances, the ensemble cast of Moana JR. deserves high praise. Each member of the cast, no matter their age or role, contributes significantly to improving the overall show, so make sure to always perform with full expression! If you show your joy, we will feel it too. The choreography, also by Eli Ball, is strong and polished, complemented by the incredible music. The dancers, led by Dance Captain Chloe Kerr, create a tsunami of visual delight, particularly when portraying the ocean, with the youngest stars using fans to simulate waves.

By committing themselves to accurately portraying Pacific Island customs, pronunciation, and movement, the cast and crew have enriched the narrative with cultural authenticity. This not only enhances the audience's experience but also makes the show both entertaining and educational. The directors Teagan Fudge and Paula-Mary Camilleri deserves praise for her wonderful ability to manage and bring out the best from this sizeable cast. Her vision is clearly reflected in every aspect of the production, from the fluid choreography to the seamless integration of cultural elements. The thoughtful and thorough direction ensures that each scene transitions smoothly, maintaining the audience's engagement throughout the performance.

The set and props are kept simple, allowing for free movement across the stage, while the costumes are good quality and thoughtfully designed. When it comes to the nitty-gritty tech, this production is handled well. The lighting effectively elevates the atmosphere and backdrop of each scene, while the pristine audio quality guarantees clear delivery, even though some performers need to work on their projection and articulation skills. But alas, they are still young!

This production was a delightful celebration of bravery, self-discovery, and cultural heritage. The youthful actors' talent and passion, along with the team's dedication, were clearly evident. KSP Theatre has set a shining example of the possibilities of junior community theatre, with its sold-out season leaving audiences anticipating what is to come next. Congratulations to the team for successfully bringing this lively and heartwarming story to the stage.


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