Get on board while you can

Stop The Train, Charter Theatre, Preston. More To Life/Ribcaged Productions

The train stopped at Preston station for one night only. But what a journey it was!

This rollercoaster musical offered both the shock of the new and the kind of memorable production numbers which had the audience clamouring for more.

There was fear and joy, laughter and tension, unexpected plot twists and turns and much musical variety, as well as delightful dance in this often captivating, always entertaining production.

A showcase for the talent of its creators and an energetic and accomplished cast, this is a thought-provoking plea for better person to person communication in our age of IT and social media.

Opening anthem There must be more to life than this set the scene for the unravelling of the life stories and hopes of a disparate group of commuters trapped in a rail carriage.

Numbers such as 10 Steps To Being Famous and In My Country brought laughter, while The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back had more of a Three-penny Opera feel.

Keith Flood commanded centre stage as aggravating and aggravated Eric Molton, a memorable performance as he skilfully micro-managed the commuters’ most unexpected day.

Love interest came in many guises, with Megan Pearl Spencer a manipulative Chloe and Jack Bradley her selfish ex. Katy Oliver too gave a memorable in your face interpretation of her role as a beautician in search of a different life.

Each of the 14-strong cast brought different blessings to the show. Dancers Laura Frost, Milly Wardle, Lucie Palfreyman and Alice Flegg also featured in powerful backdrop videos which were evocative and scene stealing.

Amy Forrest delivered wonderful lines and words of wisdom as Ilya Amenkina whilst John F. Doull as Bartholomew Kingston certainly had secrets to share.

Robbie Southworth as Rhodri Griffiths fought his demons and came up smiling and on song. There was even room for repeated cameo appearances of a station announcer – none other than stargazer Russell Grant.

Applause also greeted the walk-on finale role of PNE footballer Josh Brownhill.

Perhaps most satisfying for a Lancastrian audience is the fact this new musical is such a home-grown creation.

Written by Rick Guard and Phil Rice, (Runshaw College alumni both), directed by Owen Phillips, (founding director of Clitheroe-based company Ribcaged), the production is now on its own journey as it accelerates towards a West End booking.

Rick and Phil, originally from Chorley and Leyland, have a track record as both performers and platinum selling songwriters.

A musical is, of course, the sum of many talents. Additional musical arrangement comes from Alan Gregson, with choreography by Lindsay Pollard and costume design by Haldis Stephenson and Roxanne Halenko.

The Charter Theatre audience was handsomely entertained and thrilled by exuberance and vitality.

I would like to have seen the show run for a week.

But there are chances to see it at Thwaites Empire, Blackburn (Oct 17), Oswaldtwisle Civic Theatre & Arts Centre (Nov 13) and Todmorden Hippodrome on (Dec 12). Catch it while you can.

Fiona Finch