Review by Martin Gray
A wee mite in a dressing gown wanders through a packed Usher Hall auditorium, singing Where Is Christmas? The answer is right here, courtesy of a festive flock of budding thesps.
A couple of hundred of ‘em … the student body of MGA Academy of Performing Arts ranges from junior kids to full-timers and every last one looked to have turned up for this Barnardo’s Scotland fundraiser.
With so many players involved, getting the groups for each number on and off-stage was a performance in itself, but none of the 1600-strong audience seemed to mind – Christmas goodwill and all that.
Mixing show tunes, carols, traditional song, pop hits and even a spot of contemporary dance, A Christmas Wish was never boring. Highlights included a spirited All I Want For Christmas, a beautifully precise Carol of the Bells and a hypnotic dance to Vivaldi’s Winter.
Then there was the sweet My Grown-Up Christmas List, and poignant Christmas Cliches, rendered by a trio of strong-voiced femmes in shiny-as-Quality-Street gowns.
My favourite sequence saw a bunch of the full-time lads sell Nobody Cares About Santa – from the stage version of Elf – with massive gusto and good humour. Or was it the wittily tweaked Be a Santa, incorporating such famous destinations as Avenue Q, the Paris of Les Mis, and even Oz.
Actually, it’s tough to say what the best moment of the show was. The quality of singing, the sharp choreography, the brilliant arrangements … it all made for a memorable evening’s entertainment. They weren’t on stage, but director Murray Grant, musical director Marcella Macdonald and arranger Simon Hanson should have taken a bow alongside their protégés.
The only headscratcher was a brief burst of the not especially festive 9-5, but what the heck, people toil at Christmas too. And the work put in by the cast and crew of this one-off show made for a Christmas cracker worth celebrating.
MGA Academy of Performing Arts website: www.themgaacademy.com