ANDREW Lloyd Webber better watch his heels. A major supporter of the National Youth Music Theatre, he is both altruistic and wise to invest in the musical talent of tomorrow. The only irony is that the same company's Whistle Down the Wind knocks spots off his own Phantom of the Opera playing up the road at the Playhouse.

An amalgam of Mary Hayley Bell's original novel, Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse's screenplay, the film itself and new material by Russell Labey and Richard Taylor (who also provides music and lyrics), this show may have been filtered through an inordinate number of people but it hits the stage with a tremendous clarity of purpose.

The acting is sturdy and rooted, no apologies needed for the tender ages of the large cast of 11 to 19-year-olds, and the singing is of a remarkably high order, suffering neither from the histrionics of the adult musical stage nor the saccharine toothiness of precocious youth.

Instead, perfectly pitched full-voiced performances of a demanding score, especially by the central trio of Amy Nuttall (Cathy), Emily Sills (Nan) and Aberdonian Scott Walker (Charles).

Fine performances too from Jonathan Chesworth, as the escaped convict mistakenly assumed to be Jesus by the children, and Rebecca Trehearn who performs a number called Angels which, along with the divine harmonies of Hymn, is a real showstopper.

The true power of the show, though, is in the simple morality of the narrative.