In the entire history of the Little Theatre Company, there probably hasn't been another week quite like the RENT show week last month.
"Tom's Midnight Garden", back in 2006, when the Brewhouse fire meant that we had to relocate at the last minute to the Meadowside Centre, came close, but after Covid enforced the awful, awful break in theatrical performances for such a long time, getting back on the Brewhouse stage was simply unbelievable and made us realise just how important both live theatre, and the LTC in particular, are in our lives.
Social distancing meant that our audiences were massively restricted but they made up for that with their appreciation.
We've collected some thoughts from some of our talented cast members about what this show meant to them and hope you enjoy reading them.
"Being back at the Brewhouse and performing RENT was the most wonderful show week I have ever experienced. The passion felt both from the cast and the audience was phenomenal. We became a true family and had a week of tears, laughter and no drama, other than that on stage of course! There was a truly united moment we all shared after the first musical number on the opening night where the audience's applause filled the auditorium. So many of us came off stage with tears in our eyes because we felt the adrenaline, the thrill, and the simple gratitude to be back doing what we loved. Each night, the buzz from the audience climaxed as we turned our letters to say 'welcome back' on the last note of the bows. Words can't describe that feeling. I will always cherish this week because it genuinely was filled with love and happiness." (Scarlett)
"It felt surreal to be back onstage after so long. I managed to convince myself during all the lockdowns that the show wouldn’t go ahead, so when I finally got back on stage all I felt was “God I’ve missed this”." (Emmie)
"I’ve never been on a stage before. 15 months ago when the show got cancelled I didn’t think I ever would. 12 months later we got the email saying we could start again. At the time, I had my doubts. Frankly I thought that putting on a musical about people dying from an infectious disease after a year of losing people close to us through an infectious disease would be a terrible idea. I loved being wrong! Six shows later and I have never felt anything so surreal. Every night the energy of the crowd felt like lightning: those 70 people came with the energy and cheers of 240." (Richard)
"Being back in the rehearsal room and on stage was a weird experience after so long being away. Even though we were rehearsing and performing a show we started in 2019, it felt like something new. There was a renewed energy and passion, not only for the show but also for each other. We all became closer and better friends during the show run. I'm so grateful to have been a part of it." (Leo)
"The thing I appreciated the most about show week was the amazing feeling we felt as we took our final bow, hearing the audience clap and cheer. You could sense the happiness felt by everyone (both the audience and the cast). It’s a feeling I had missed so much! And being on stage with all these incredibly talented people felt like coming home." (Cammie)
We've had some lovely comments about the show from audience members on Social Media:
"I was so lucky to be in a performance of this in February 2020 just before lockdown. Thank you for re awakening all the passion and beauty of the show. You were quite simply fantastic."
“Well done LTC - loved the show. Everyone was brilliant, but a special mention to Emily Haywood who I thought was outstanding. Looking forward to the next one.”
“Congratulations to everyone for putting on a very professional show. I really enjoyed the experience.”
“Well done all, amazing show and great to be able to come and watch.”
“Well done everyone - great show!”
“Well done everyone. You made me want to get back on stage.”
“Great to see you back on the stage. Can’t wait to see the next one xx”
“Just want to pass on my congratulations to cast, crew and director for a wonderful show. Absolutely amazing. I’m so glad I came up from Wiltshire to see it. The cast were all so talented, so adept and strong in their parts.”
“Amazing cast and talent and wow what a performance Ollie Last. Thoroughly enjoyed the show addressing a very poignant topic of the time x”
“My wife and I enjoyed it very much, the cast worked very hard and showed how much work they have put in rehearsals. That was a nice touch at the end, WELCOME BACK.”
“Fantastic performance by everyone, it was great to get back to the theatre. Let’s hope it’s the start of things getting back to some normality. Well done to everyone involved including back stage.“
RENT - A REVIEW
Local live theatre is back at the Brewhouse Arts Centre thanks to The Little Theatre Company’s Youth Section production of Jonathan Larson’s “RENT”.
With a story based on Puccini’s 19th Century opera “La Boheme”, “Rent” tells the story of young adults struggling to pay their rent in their impoverished neighbourhood. The challenges of whether or not to pursue creative dreams or go with the job that makes the most money, a strong and diverse cast of characters sang about fears, their worries and anxieties during the AIDS crisis.
The cast performed with professionalism, spirit and passion in a production which deals with mature themes.
After a delay of more than 12 months, due to the Covid restrictions, it is thanks to this young company the production still felt energetic and refreshed from start to finish.
The setting was versatile and built with various levels which allows actors to play with height.
Though each cast member shines in their own way the voices blended together to produce a sound which made numbers like “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme” so powerful.
Oliver Last as Mark Cohen, who narrates throughout, together with Ben Winson, Scarlett Marchant, Ben Hodgkinson, Emily Haywood, Emmie Doyle, Jim Haywood all stood out in their own songs.
The production deserved a larger audience but due to restrictions this was not possible. However I am sure they appreciated the production was able to go ahead and particularly the curtain call message.
RSW, LTC Supporter
THE BREWHOUSE IS BACK IN BUSINESS
LTC member and the Brewhouse's Technical Manager, Matt Bancroft writes about what it's been like to re-open....
"Writing this I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since that thrilling opening night of RENT, when our talented youth members' long wait to perform on the Brewhouse stage in front of an audience was finally at an end. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it was a very emotional week for everyone involved. More than anything for me, it was just SO GOOD to be back doing what we’d been unable to do for the last 16 months - putting on a show. As John kept saying during the week, “THIS is Normal!”.
RENT was the second of just two live shows we have hosted so far since restrictions were eased enough to allow socially distanced performances to go ahead and the only one which was for an entire week’s run. Even with restrictions due to be lifted further in a couple of weeks' time, it’s still going to be a while before we return to pre-pandemic levels of community use of the Brewhouse. The LTC's "Wind in the Willows" in November is the only other production by any of the local societies due to be staged this year.
We will, though, be welcoming back many of our local stage and dance schools for their performances, some filmed, some with audiences and we do have an autumn programme of professional events all ready to go, as well as some Christmas shows in the pipeline. It’s also still the Brewhouse’s 30th anniversary year and we’ve not entirely given up hope that we may yet be able to organise some sort of celebration concert, even if it ends up being part of next year's events programme.
I’ve been doing this job long enough to expect that there may well be a few more twists and turns to negotiate for theatres in the coming months, maybe even year, but the theatre industry is also one of the most resourceful, innovative and creative when it comes to solving problems. I think we’ve got this. It’s good to be back!
LITTLE THEATRE COMPANY - OUR NEXT PRODUCTION
We're thrilled to be performing the amazing musical "The Wind in the Willows" next November.
Based on Kenneth Grahame’s best-selling classic of children’s literature, and with a book by Oscar-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, and songs by Olivier Award-winning composers and lyricists George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, "The Wind in the Willows" is a wild, thrill-seeking tale.
This riotous comedy follows Mole, Rat, Badger, and the impulsive Mr.Toad, whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious trouble. With his beloved home under threat from the notorious Chief Weasel and his gang of sinister Wild Wooders, Toad must attempt a daring escape leading to a series of misadventures and a heroic battle to recapture Toad Hall. Full of humour, wit, a gorgeous, soaring score, and heartwarming lessons of friendship, "The Wind in the Willows" is the perfect fit for family audiences everywhere.
We are sure that you're going to love this show.
Tickets will be available in due course!
John and Peter have finally revealed the next LTC Youth show, which will be performed between the 19th and 23rd April 2022 and we're already getting very excited.
'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' comes from an Oscar-winning team with a lushly scored retelling of Victor Hugo’s epic story of love, acceptance, and what it means to be a hero.
Based on the Victor Hugo novel and songs from the Disney animated feature, 'Hunchback' showcases the film’s Academy Award-nominated score, as well as new songs by Menken and Schwartz. Peter Parnell’s new book embraces story theatre and features verbatim passages from Hugo’s gothic novel.
The musical begins as the bells of Notre Dame sound through the famed cathedral in fifteenth-century Paris. Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer who longs to be "Out There," observes all of Paris revelling in the Feast of Fools. Held captive by his devious caretaker, the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, he escapes for the day and joins the boisterous crowd, only to be treated cruelly by all but the beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda. Quasimodo isn’t the only one captivated by her free spirit, though – the handsome Captain Phoebus and Frollo are equally enthralled. As the three vie for her attention, Frollo embarks on a mission to destroy the gypsies – and it’s up to Quasimodo to save them all.
A sweeping score and powerful story make 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' an instant classic. Audiences will be swept away by the magic of this truly unforgettable musical.
In this Newsletter we are featuring our very own Little Theatre Company Doctor (now retired) - Phil Robinson. Phil has performed so many amazing roles over the years. Who could forget him as Professor Marcus in "The Ladykillers" and as Danny in "Brassed Off" as featured in the photos below?
How did you come to join the LTC and what does it mean to you?
As in several things, through the boys! This time, Ed’s involvement in "Oliver!" in 2004
As a practising GP (then) did patients ever comment on your on-stage persona?
Often! It seemed to be a source of great amusement to them, to have seen their GP on stage. The more outlandish the part (and costume!), the better. It significantly lengthened my surgeries in and around show weeks. Growing a beard for "Fiddler" led to the most comments (not always complimentary, but it really advertised the show well!).
What’s been your favourite LTC production and why? (Note from Editor: obviously "The Ladykillers"?)
Yes, Bethan: "The Ladykillers", obviously.
Also: "Dad’s Army", "'Allo, ‘Allo", "Hi-de-Hi", "Brassed Off"
All of them so much fun rehearsing: great company, lots of laughs together.
… and the favourite LTC shows I’ve watched from the audience:
"Les Miserables" (numbers 1 and 2)
"Beauty and the Beast"
"The History Boys"
Do you have a special LTC moment?
"Brassed Off" is the only production in which the whole Robinson family has appeared together on stage. A special moment was conducting Cath and all the boys (plus our Brass Band friends) in ‘Rodrigo’s Concerto de Orangejuice’
Other significant moments/memories:
Breaking a rib in "Brassed Off"!
Breaking another rib in "The Ladykillers" (not the same one!)
Not breaking anything else (despite a steep flight of stairs and a 10’ scarf) in "The Ladykillers".
Getting to do Laurel and Hardy’s 'Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia’ routine in "HI-de-Hi".
Watching how Mike’s many cameos would ‘develop’ during show week.
Matt’s wig (ze vig - ‘Allo, Allo’)
Serenading a Pig
Morris Dancing - "Dad’s Army" - lethal!
Costumes, as we know, can be problematic. In my case, particularly, quick changes, togas ("Up Pompeii") and negotiating the dressing room door in Captain Bertorelli’s big feathered hat (“What a mistaka to makea!”).
And stick-on moustaches which defeat any amount of glue when you smile!
Is there a particular show you’d like the LTC to do in the future – assuming absolutely everything was available?!
"Noises Off" (Michael Frayne)
Maybe one of Alan Ackbourne’s many plays (such as "A Chorus of Disapproval’" - about a local drama company…)
What have been your favourite productions you’ve seen in the theatre?
"Riverdance" (1995, Apollo Hammersmith) - exhilarating.
"Les Miserables" (13th March,1996) - I sat for a long time after it had ended...
"Sweeney Todd" (2012, Michael Ball, Imelda Staunton)
"Warhorse" (2011, some breath-stopping moments)
"Lady in the Van" (2000, Maggie Smith)
"Noises Off" (2012, Celia Imrie, Philip Glenister)
"The Woman in Black" (1994, Fortune Theatre - goosebumps; great storytelling)
"Waiting for Godot" (2010, the mesmerising Ian McKellen)
"Misery" (1993, Bill Paterson, Sharon Gless)
And your favourite films?
"The Untouchables" (Kevin Costner, Sean Connery),
Peter Jackson’s "Lord of the Rings" trilogy
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
…. and two big favourites in our family over the years:
"Wind in the Willows" (the Terry Jones, Steve Coogan, Eric Idle version);
"Stardust" (Charlie Cox, Claire Danes)
Favourite shows on TV?
"Fawlty Towers" (genius!): best line: “I’m a doctor and I want my sausages”
"The Big Bang Theory" (consistently great writing and acting)
"As Time Goes By" (ditto)
"Dad’s Army" (always makes me smile)
"Thunderbirds" (1965-66) : (magic!)
Sean Bean, Matt Damon, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hardy, Bill Nighy, Mike Mear.
With all the above, it’s something about the way they let you see what they’re thinking.
Except Mike, who has always kept us guessing.
From the world of film and theatre, now and in the past, who are the six people you’d invite round for dinner?
It’s said ‘Never meet your heroes, they’re sure to disappoint you’.
And although that’s not the case with Mike Mear or Mark Pearson, it does make me wary.
However, with this lot, I should be able to just sit back and enjoy an entertaining, informative, hilarious (and long!) evening!
PS Ideally with some background piano music provided by Maestro Les Dawson.
ED PERFORMS AT GARSINGTON OPERA
Garsington Opera is a highly prestigious, annual, summer opera festival founded in 1989 by the late Leonard Ingrams and his wife Rosalind at Garsington Manor, near Oxford and now held at the Wormsley Estate, home of the Getty family.
The festival presents a programme of four operas each year during a seven-week summer period, often including a Mozart opera, and also champions less-known works.
Garsington Opera is committed to promoting excellence and engaging the very best performers from around the world, as well as championing talent from within the UK who are just beginning to make their names on the worldwide opera stage. Singers are given the opportunity to work with directors and conductors of distinction.
It was therefore a great honour for former LTC Youth's baritone Edward Robinson to be selected to perform this year in Richard Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier" which has been awarded 5 star reviews from The Independent, The Daily Mail and The Stage.
Ed is pictured second from the left as a musician, complete with Teddy boy wig! He said that it had been great to get back to performing although rehearsing in masks and socially distanced staging took a little bit of getting used to!
Ed is next off to Leeds where he's playing Bardolf in Holst’s rarely performed opera “At the Boars Head” for Leeds Opera Festival. He's also recently taken on the position of Photographer in Residence at Clonter Opera House in Cheshire, so when not performing himself he'll be photographing all their productions and concerts for the next 12 months.
Those of us with longish memories will all agree that Mitch Corner was and absolutely is an exceptional vocal talent. His performances as a member of LTC Youth as Marius in the very first LTC "Les Mis", the Beast in LTC's "Beauty & the Beast" and as Jesus Christ in our first "Jesus Christ Superstar" showcased his exceptional talent.
Now Mitch is playing the role of Gary Barlow in the "Take That Experience" - a tribute band which is currently touring the UK. We wish him every success. It should be fun! Check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/takethatexperience
Congratulations to Leo Harvey, who recently played Benny in "RENT", for graduating with BA honours - First Class no less - from Staffordshire University in Contemporary Creative Practice: Dance & Theatre Arts.
After taking on a number of professional roles and having the amazing opportunity of travelling the world as a cruise ship entertainer, the lovely Sophie Towns in back in Towns! (Well Derby actually.)
With the Covid situation, she's decided to take some time off and is now living and working locally. Hopefully she'll be able to come back to the LTC for our autumn musical "Wind in the Willows".
Our very own Ellie Anne Lowe, whom we all knew as Ellie Holmes when she played Fantine in our original LTC Youth "Les Miserables" back in 2009, is due to start rehearsals next month for the next West End production of "Les Mis". Back in 2019 she was cast as Factory Girl and second cover Fantine (pictured here on her big moment on 6th March 2019 when she appeared performing that role with less than 2 hours' notice!) before Lockdown cruelly robbed of her of that opportunity. I was lucky enough to see her in that show and she was brilliant. Ellie - we have everything crossed for you this time!
EMMA ROSE AT ETSY
Some of you will remember Emma performing in LTC productions including 'Once a Catholic' and 'Fiddler on the Roof' - see photos below.
Emma had to leave the LTC to look after her two young boys but after completing an MA in Ceramic Design, set up her own ceramics business. Now she's added a new, separate business: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Emslasernest based on solving a problem which many parents with young children will recognise. Here's her story:
"I love my children! From the moment that they could grip a crayon, I wanted to savour & keep forever every mark they made on every single piece of paper. But as they drew more and more, my fridge became overwhelmed with pictures and would quite regularly encourage magnets to slip from their position and throw paper all over my kitchen floor. I am a hoarder by nature and I needed to find, and justify, a way of keeping all of these doodles without them taking over our house, for my husband’s sanity!
Cue my introduction to a wonderful machine, the laser cutter, which I encountered whilst studying at Staffordshire University. I found that I could convert my boys' drawings into a digital format and engrave them into pretty much anything that I wanted to. And so the journey began and I created ‘Em’s Laser Nest’ for all my laser etched and personalised giftware.
The designs which you can see in the photos above, which are available from my Etsy shop, are based on my own or my boys' doodles, but I can create bespoke products for you enabling you to savour little moments and memories from your own life and story.
You'll have objects about your home that spark a special memory. They don't have to be a child's picture or writing. It could be something you've made yourself: maybe you want to preserve a loved one's handwriting, or perhaps you want to personalise a gift or put a commemorative date on a plaque.
If this is something that intrigues you, do get in touch with me and I will gladly take you through the options for your piece."
(Editor's note: I bought three of the fairy light bottles for family members to light up their al fresco dining and they all loved them. A great little present with free P&P!)
Congratulations to Charlotte Davis and partner on the birth last month of their baby girl Alexandria Rose Beckett, and to Cammie Sharp and partner Damien who are expecting their first baby next January. Here's hoping they inherit their mums' talents and become future LTC members!