Far Far Away Theatre’s The Rainbow Fish Musical – 5 May 2024, George Street Theatre

Review by Claire Taranaski.

Although I have been reviewing the wonderful family friendly Far Far Away Theatre company since their first show in 2018, and they only get better and better with each show, The Rainbow Fish is the first time I have introduced my four year old daughter (and my husband) to them and when I asked her what her favourite part of the show was she immediately declared “everything”.

I have described Far Far Away’s shows in the past as the perfect introduction to children to theatre but they have out done themselves with this show, which is not only that but the perfect introduction to musical theatre for children, with everything you want from a wonderful musical, great songs, choreography, characters, cast and ensemble, whilst using the plot of a well loved children’s book to make it easy to follow. I will admit that it was not a book we know as a family but my daughter delightfully discussed in the interval what was going to happen and how the characters felt, making it also a lovely theatrical introduction to themes of vanity, fame and the importance of friendship).

My daughter’s favourite character was Little Fish, performed by Franchesca Fearn, who might be small but was already a perfectly formed cast member with wonderful stage presence and chemistry with the other cast members and who is the perfect role model fish for any young audience member watching.

For myself though the stars of the show were Michael Crump as Rainbow Fish and Jenna Dabbs (whose many roles in this show include director, choreography and wardrobe and she is superb in all of them) as Starfish, whose performances were both perfect, having excellent stage presence, charisma and wonderful accents but also confirmed with their singing voices and delivery that they would not be out of place as leads in a musical (though what would be musical theatre’s gain would sadly be family theatre’s loss so don’t leave yet). Their duet of “Go Ask An Octopus” is one of my new favourite musical theatre numbers.

Other cast members who deserve a special mention include Steve Wainwright as Mr Clownfish (and his stunt double) and Matthew Dabbs as Octopus (providing another important lesson that you should never judge an Octopus by his voice or pirate costume), both of whom would not be out of place as characters in a children’s television show or pantomime) and Samantha Tennick as Regal Blue and Peter Holliday as Hermit Crab who would make a great comic double act.

However Far Far Away has always been about the ensemble (their regular audience members will recognise main names on the cast list) and their was not a voice or step out of place and all were at their finest when on stage together, especially in the school room scene with the clever desk choreography and song about friendship.

It’s not just the cast that make a show though, and the costumes, make up and set (audience members were immersed in the underwater theme as soon as we came into the venue and no child will ever be able to resist a sticker) were of high quality and looked made for the show. Far Far Away Theatre has always had a distinct look to their shows, which makes them welcoming to the eyes of children and their families and draws you in and this was no different.

Sadly today was your last chance to see this perfectly fishy show but it makes myself and my daughter look forward to whatever Far Far Away Theatre does next and in the meantime we have a lovely photo of her surrounded by the cast and our own sparkly rainbow scale bracelet to remind us of our underwater theatrical journey.

P.S. I realised I missed out the stand-out visual of the whole show. Rainbow Fish’s suit (possibly the most glittery thing I have ever seen) and hair and make up. The look and Michael’s performance would not be out of place on a David Bowie tribute show and I only hope someone does not have to re-sew on all those scales after every performance. The look make the Rainbow Fish one of a kind and maybe my favourite theatre outfit of all time.

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