A gently lovely production of Whistle Down the Wind makes for a tender Christmas treat at the Union Theatre
“He’s not a fella, he’s Jesus”
Do miracles happen in Burnley? You might not have immediately thought so but Whistle Down the Wind begs to differ. Russell Labey and Richard Taylor’s adaptation, as distinct from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s, draws variously on Mary Hayley Bell’s novel, Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse’s screenplay and Richard Attenborough and Bryan Forbes’ film to tell its own version of Jesus appearing once again in a stable, kinda sort of maybe.
Cathy, Nan and Charles are three Lancashire schoolkids who one day find a strange man in their barn. Rumours of a convict on the loose are swirling around their village but Cathy immediately clocks him as our Lord Jesus Christ and swears her siblings to secrecy. Sure enough, word soon spreads around the other local kids but as they all decide to keep the secret too, delighting in the rapturous devotion he, or He, inspires in them.
Ultimately, the show is a rather slight thing but given as tender a production as it is here by Sasha Regan, it has a twinkling grace about it. Led by a stonkingly good professional debut from Sadie Levett as Cathy and supported by the equally effective Tara Lucas and George Hankers, a world of childlike wonder is sensitively evoked without ever seeming icky, their youth played with a real integrity. Juan Miralles also impresses as the man who has enraptured them all.
Taylor’s score proves pleasingly complex, blessed with a lyricism that recalls previous shows such as Flowers for Mrs Harris and The Go-Between as he weaves more of a musical fabric than a set of potential pop hits. Led brilliantly by MD Rosa Lennox, both the band and the adult and children ensembles sound gorgeous, full of rich harmonies and deft countermelodies that enfold you in their charm. Something a little special.