THE DREAM DEALER
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2006
Directed by Carol Metcalfe The Dream Dealer played to full houses for its one-week run at Augustine’s Venue on George IV Bridge. People were turned away on its last 2 performances. (seating 110 people)
With a cast of 18, the title role was played by John Kielty recent winner of The Highland Quest for a New Musical. Of the 16 children, 14 came from Edinburgh and from 13 different schools. Rehearsals took place in Edinburgh in the 2 weeks preceding the Festival.
THE GLASGOW HERALD
“Watching Carol Metcalfe’s production of new teen musical brought to mind Frances McDormand’s dry surmise in Almost Famous: “Adolescence is a marketing tool.” This opinion is shared by the Mephistolean villain of the piece, the eponymous dream dealer, who exploits teenage miseries and insecurities to secure his own immortality. Instead of offering drink or drugs as an escape for lonely teens, he trades in “ice dreams”, lollies that provide the consumer with visions of their deepest desires, all the while draining them of both money and soul. Marita Phillips’s book tackles issues of peer pressure and teen angst head on, confirming what parents have always told their children – that it is not just the nerds and misfits who need dreams. The sporting hero dreams of being brainier, the fashionista wishes she didn’t always have to lead the trends. The youthful ensemble maintains an infectious level of energy throughout and there is much talent on display here – Harriet Petherick’s catchy score contains some tongue-twisting melodies which the kids handle with aplomb. Metcalfe has found a real star in Alex Palmer, who plays the one boy brave enough to refuse the Dream Dealer’s wares – his was a performance showing maturity and pathos. John Kielty’s leatherclad baddie was suitably menacing (at times chillingly so) and special mention must go to Ross Townsend Green for his comic turn as the stuttering ice-dream salesman, Flake.”
THE SCOTSMAN Saturday 12 August 2006
ICE-CREAM contains lots of sugar and fat, but ice dreams are even worse.
The villain of this new musical for 10-14-year-olds is the title character, played panto-villain-style by John Kielty (recent winner of Cameron Mackintosh’s Highland Quest for a new Scottish Musical). Disguised as an ice-cream vendor, this fiend sets the tone for Marita Phillips and Harriet Petherick’s unsubtle but engaging allegory about the danger of drugs.
Alert to the power of peer pressure, Phillips and Petherick have created the show for performance by its target age group. Aside from Kielty and the band, the only adult performer is Jonny Field as inept art teacher Mr Turpentine. The remaining parts are taken by 16 local teenagers.
The action centres on Finn (Alex Palmer) – an outsider who finds comfort from bullying by keeping a pet mouse and saving up for a dog – and Delphi (Maria
Capobianco), the newcomer who befriends him. Socially ostracised Finn is alone in
resisting the Dealer’s temptations, but ultimately he redeems himself and his fellow pupils.
Enthusiasm outweighs skill among the cast, but Kielty and the young leads give winning performances. Add some astute lyrics, some glowing harmonies, and a Dickensian twist, and it amounts to cheerful entertainment with a heartfelt message.”
THREEWEEKS in Edinburgh August 2006
“Dreams anyone? Cheap at the price; all they cost is part of your soul! This children’s musical follows a well tested and guaranteed-to-please formula – lots of dancing, and a thinly disguised moral message – which in this case is basically ‘don’t take drugs and life will turn out rosy’. The show was all the better for having a live band and a talented cast of children/teenagers – only the sinister dream-dealer and the hapless art teacher were played by adults. Things for the grown-ups included the aptly chosen name ‘magic bean’ for one of the dreams (a knowledge of drug slang is useful here) and the glorious scatting by Art teacher ‘Turpentine’ on the last number. A definite crowd pleaser.”
THE STAGE podcast 8 August 2006
I think it would be fair to say that in John Kielty, the Fringe has found the 21st century’s Child Catcher. Playing the titular role as part Faust, part Bela Lugois and part Vincent Price, the Dream Dealer uses his addictive ice-creams to capture the souls of unwary school children looking to escape real life in the world of dreams.
For the adults in the audience, the metaphor is easily recognised, but the cast (aged between 10-14, John Kielty and Jonny Field being the only adults) carry this musical with enthusiasm and passion. Seeing the troop thoroughly enjoying themselves is as much a part of the Fringe as the stand-ups travelling up from London. Particular mention goes out to our hero, Finn (Alex Palmer), who manages the solo songs with aplomb, and carries the emotions and frustrations as he watches his school mates, who start out as the all-singing all dancing troupe that you’d expect, slowly become enthralled and addicted to the Dream Dealer’s Iced Dreams.
But you go away thinking that for all the musical numbers, for all the strong messages, for all the upbeat cheery numbers, it is the evil of John Kielty
scaring an entire audience as he descends from the stage into the aisles that will stay with you and haunt you in the mornings.
Recommend for ages 9 to 14 for message, and all ages for the spectacle.”
ONE4REVIEW August 2006
Forget drugs and alcohol ‘The Dream Dealer’ is more dangerous than either, with the wrong dreams he could lead you to both and worse!
Finn is a loner, he lost his mum in early life and his dad won’t talk about it. The gang at school pick on him, but all of them hide insecurities and dreams of their own. Suddenly one day Mr Turpentine, the ineffective art teacher, introduces Delphi a new girl from Australia. Why is it she seems to like Finn, why does Turpentine wear a wig and more important that that who is the Dream Dealer and what does he want?
Written by Marita Phillips and Harriet Petherick this is a show specifically written for children between the ages of 10 and 14, ideal for schools and youth theatres with a cast of anything from 11 to 40. Both Marita and Harriet are involved with this production.
The opening number for me was quite chaotic and I didn’t think I would be able to enjoy it, but it settled down and became very interesting. The storyline is more than just basic and I sussed one of the twists just before it was revealed. Despite its short run it deserves to do well as it is a nice piece of musical theatre.
Edinburgh Guide 12 August 2006
After a shaky start, and twenty minutes later than advertised, the young cast of The Dream Dealer soon found their feet and threw themselves wholeheartedly into the musical. A cautionary tale about being yourself and resisting peer pressure, complete with a thinly-veiled "don't do drugs" metaphor, it's excellent pre-teen/young-teen fare.
The children are all at the very least passable singers, and some, in particular the lead female, show the potential to become very good indeed. The two adult cast members, a teacher and the eponymous villan, set a solid standard without overshadowing their young co-stars. John Keilty's Dream Dealer had more than a hint of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's child-catcher about him, and his black leather coat and pale complexion made for a brilliant contrast to the colourful but no less sinister ice-'dream' van.
The musical itself delivers catchy, pleasing melodies, and (often funny) lyrics that only occasionally stray into condescension and moralising. The message came across loud and clear, with a cheering sincerity and enthusiasm from the youngsters. While by no means flawless, this is a show where the thought most definitely counts.
Responses from the public.
“I can confirm that kids get the metaphor too, no problem. I asked my nine and twelve-year olds what they thought this was about, and both chorused “drugs” without hesitation.
We enjoyed ourselves, and as a GP working in the drugs-ridden western fringes of this city, I can say that the show is a clever way to communicate something which we struggle to get across, day to day – clever because it manages to say something without being too preachy.” Marte Raymond
“The show was vibrant and exciting with wit and humour in the story. Very suitable for children over 8 years of age and should be performed more often. The music is very good and the children obviously enjoyed themselves. First class.” Barry Simpson
“Saw it with my 9 and 10 year old and had some great discussions afterwards. Really well staged and great performances from all.” Joanna Bircher
“Its inspiring vitality, music and dialogue [devoid of mawkish sentiment] were wonderfully evidenced by the total involvement and amazing performances of the children.” Richard Nathanson