Maureen Sullivan is a regular contributor to Island Echo’s coverage of the Arts on the Isle of Wight. Maureen has been actively involved in the Island’s amateur dramatics scene for several years, appearing in many different roles and guises with several theatre companies. In her free time, Maureen also writes and reviews at

Catch Maureen’s column each month for the latest theatre and art happenings...

Thelikesofus3What’s this? A musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber that I have never heard of? That may be because The Likes of Us is their earliest collaboration and sadly at the time wasn’t the huge hit the others have been. Yet the music and lyrics bear all the hallmarks familiar to those of us who have so enjoyed Evita, Phantom, Cats and the rest of the famous duo’s work.

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Like Evita, The Likes of Us takes its inspiration from history – in this case firmly rooted in London’s East End and centring on the life and work of Thomas Barnado, and the first great decision in this production was to cast Andy Kay in the main role. As anyone who has seen his past performances will expect – and I have been lucky enough to work with him a couple of times – Andy has made the role his own: his Barnado is engaging and sympathetic, capturing perfectly his early lack of purpose; gradually developing confidence and final maturing into a successful businessman who still has his essential humanity and wish to do good for the city’s poor. And that’s without mentioning his soaring vocals which imbue the songs with emotion.

Lizzie Giakoumelos is also perfectly cast as Syrie, a local evangelist who shares Barnado’s aim of freeing the poverty-stricken East Enders from their gin palace and improving their lives. Lizzie skilfully develops her character as she befriends, helps and supports and finally marries Barnardo, and again her beautiful voice complements Andy’s and stands alone wonderfully in her solos.

The young couple Johnny and Jenny are captured beautifully by Simon Apsey and Kate Chandler, two very talented young actors with amazing voices: their first tender scene together is a highlight. Set against their innocent love we have the brassy Rose and Mabel, leading the fight to keep the gin palace. Jess Felis is brilliantly extrovert as Rose: her performance of the opening song, Twice In Love Every Day, really set the tone for the palace scenes. Aimee-Rose Howard as her sidekick Mabel equalled her both in singing and – talking of kicks – some great dance moves.

Also in wonderful voice – and movement – were Nicholas Newson and Millie Smith, playing two of Barnardo’s rescued children and singing Man of the World, showing their aspiration to be like their mentor when they grow up. I really enjoyed the performances of the children’s chorus, especially in numbers such as You Can Never Make It Alone.


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Martyn Stanley and Duncan Greaves performed the smaller roles of the Prime Minister and the Auctioneer with verve and again displayed fine singing voices, as indeed did the ensemble, including vocal solos from David Stradling, Shirley Denne and David D Ballard.

The ensemble must have been very quick on their feet as they appeared in succssive scenes as Cockneys, the Prime Minister’s guests, dinner party guests and so on, and were again called upon to dance as well as sing – a mention must be made here of choreographer Sophie Everson.

The glue holding it all together were the narrators, Daphne Brown and Lexi Skeldon-Downer, the latter of whom also contributed to the ensemble singing and dancing. Seated comfortably in their Victorian drawing room they took us through the history of Barnardo’s life, linking the songs together.

Also bringing the Victorian era to life were the lovely costumes and sets, complete with lamp post. Lighting and sound worked well and the live orchestra perfectly complemented the voices onstage.

Huge congratulations to Luke Mulhern who has directed, produced and – as he put it – lived and breathed this show for months. With a cast of nearly 40, it is a challenging undertaking but Luke and CAODS have pulled it off successfully.

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