Finding entertainment suitable for very young audiences is tricky. Children may find shows adults expect will delight to actually be frightening. Angelina Ballerina – The Mousical lightly tiptoes around all potential pitfalls to deliver a show that, by the end, has the youngsters dancing in the aisles.
The pupils of The Camembert Academy are delighted by the chance to appear in the television programme Dancing with Mice. But dance captain Angelina (Georgina Carling) is overwhelmed by the responsibility of organising the show single-handed and her fellow pupils fall out over whether the dance should be modern ballet or hip-hop.
The show is not without flaws. On opening night technical problems with the microphones and lights were annoying. The opening scene of both Acts, with Hannah Louise-Wilson’s sparkling TV presenter standing before the curtains egging the audience on, begs for a simple spotlight.
But in the important matter of satisfying the audience - Angelina is a winner. Isla Shaw avoids the alienating effect of full-face animal masks with discrete make up that allows the cast use of their expressive faces. The whole cast has fun with the mouse-tails Shaw provides for their costumes. Carling, as Angelina, skillfully makes clear that the pupils are not actually human with body movements suitable for a timid mouse.
Director Miranda Larson (who also wrote the script based on the book by Katharine Holabird) ensures that the audience is not dropped into unfamiliar territory. The excellent rapport between the cast emphasises the importance of friendship. The script even includes educational elements – while Angelina explains the meaning of ballet terms the cast give a practical demonstration.
Choreographer Matthew Cole follows Larson’s approach by offering dance routines with which the audience is likely to be familiar. The dancers open with a lively ‘clap your hands and sing along’ cheerleader routine as the pupils belt out the virtues of their school. The blending of modern ballet and hip hop moves works surprisingly well and demonstrates the skill of the six dancers.
The main success of the production is the way in which audience involvement is secured. The target audience is of an age when they are accustomed to being told to sit down and keep quiet so have to be gently encouraged to join in. This approach works very well and once the youngsters get the idea there is no stopping them from getting on their feet and clapping along. Besides you have to admire a company that supplements the big dance scene with pupils drawn from the local Flixton Academy of Performing Arts.
Angelina Ballerina – The Mousical may be the first time that some of the audience have been in a theatre and is good enough to make them want to go back again.