All of us at the Little Theatre Company hope you've had a Happy Easter weekend and were able to enjoy the sunshine, before winter re-appeared!
It's hard to believe that it's over a year since we had to stop rehearsals and abandon all of our plans for 2020.
However, there does now seem to be light at the end of the tunnel, and we're thrilled to be able to announce that the Brewhouse is allowing us to resume rehearsals there from late April. We have everything crossed that we'll be able to go ahead with our LTC show "Rent" in June.
"Rent" is an exhilarating, landmark musical telling the thrilling story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive in New York City’s East Village in the thriving late 1980's days of Bohemian excess.
Inspired by Puccini’s classic opera "La Bohème", "RENT" features unforgettable music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson including the much-loved songs Seasons of Love, Take Me or Leave Me and La Vie Bohème. Winner of four Tony® Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and the hugely prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it ran on Broadway for an astonishing 12 years.
It is our intention to go ahead with our production of "RENT" between Tuesday 22nd and Saturday 26th June. We realise it is a tall order and that we will no doubt have to play to limited capacity audiences but we feel a duty to our company of young actors to give them the opportunity to present the show they have spent so many months rehearsing from late 2019 up to March 2020.
As regards tickets for this production, here are a few points which we hope may help:-
If you have an existing booking via Peter/LTC, then please wait a little longer for us to contact you to see if you still wish to keep your booking.
If you have an existing booking which you made via the Brewhouse, again, they will be in touch with you to confirm your booking. If you need to contact them, please call 01283 508100 after 26th April.
New bookings will all have to be made via the Brewhouse box office as they will be the only ones who will hold the restricted seating plan. Of course, we will help where we can with bookings and it is our intention to create a small team of helpers to assist with any enquiries you may have.
We will send out more ticket information as it becomes available to us.
After a break of over 18 months, this is going to be such an emotional production. We have an extremely talented cast who can't wait to perform for you and we hope you'll be there to support them if you possibly can.
TWO NEW STARS ARE BORN!
Well, if these gorgeous little ladies inherit their parents' musical and acting talents, that is an absolute certainty!
How wonderful in these dark COVID times to be able to share some good news and welcome the latest LTC babies.
On the left is Margot Ada Robinson, born on 4th March weighing 7lbs 3oz. Huge congratulations to parents Olivia and Tim. Margot was born at the Royal Derby Hospital "through the sunroof" as the midwives sweetly described it!
Meanwhile, Jodie and Stephen Whitehead are celebrating the arrival - by emergency section - of Daisy Marie. Daisy was born on 2nd April weighing 7lb 13oz. Her parents and big brother Jacob are over the moon and we're so happy for them.
Our star guest this time is Vicky Fryer, pictured here in "Fur Coat and No Knickers", one of dozens of wonderful parts in which she's graced the Brewhouse stage. Her daughter Beth was also an LTC member for many years. She is now a year 6 primary school teacher in Lancaster.
What’s special about the LTC?
I love being part of LTC for a lot reasons: the great friendship amongst all of the members, the many different genres of plays and musicals I get a chance to be part of and just what great fun we have together.
What’s been your favourite LTC production and why?
I've got a few that I've loved for different reasons but if I had to pick one it would probably be "Calendar Girls". The whole experience of the calendar and the show was amazing and a great bonding time for us all.
What was your favourite LTC role and why?
Again, difficult to chose one but I would say my favourite was Hermia in "Midsummer Night's Dream". It was the first time I had a chance to do Shakespeare and I loved the challenge. Elaine and I had such a laugh doing the fight scene and it was the first time I got to do a show with Beth.
Do you have a special LTC moment? And what was it?
I was lucky enough to play Pandora the first time we performed "Adrian Mole". It was so lovely that several years later, when we did the show again, I played Adrian's mum. The joke is that if we do it again I'll probably be old enough to play his Grandma!
What was it like working on LTC shows with your daughter Beth?
I loved it so much! Doing something that I love so much with my daughter, who I love so much, is a precious time together.
Is there a particular show you’d like the LTC to do in the future – assuming absolutely everything was available?
My husband would kill me if I picked a musical! He's not a fan! So I'll choose a play. We performed "Steel Magnolias" many years ago but I would like to do it again. It's a wonderful play about friendships with great characters and plenty of smiles and tears along the way.
What’s been your favourite production you’ve seen in the theatre?
"The Book of Mormon". Very funny, very rude and performed at such a pace you wonder how they do it!
And your favourite film/movie?
It depends on what mood I'm in but an all time favourite is "Dirty Dancing". it brings back memories of watching it at Burton Odeon cinema when I was 17/18 and holiday romances. Plus it's got Patrick Swayze!
Favourite shows on TV?
I've been hooked on "Bridgerton" so now I'm reading all the books. I'm also addicted to cooking shows.
Favourite Actor? Tom Hardy
Favourite Actress? Emma Thompson
From the world of film and theatre, now and in the past, who are the six people you’d invite round for dinner?
Henry Cavill, Chris Hemsworth, Doris Day, Julie Walters, Robin Williams and Samuel L Jackson.
THE BREWHOUSE IS 30!
Here's a report from Brewhouse Technical Manager Matt Bancroft, a long standing LTC member, who works really hard for the Company both on- and off-stage:
"The Brewhouse is currently celebrating its 30th year. Sadly though, due to the pandemic, these celebrations have largely had to be put on hold, like so much else. However, one of the things I decided I could do was to share 30 memories from my time at the Brewhouse on my Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/matt.bancroft. I’ve currently done 22 and I have 8 to go. However the shortlist I drew up for myself when I started has kept growing and is currently nearer 50! Thanks to everyone who has left a like, or written a comment, or shared a memory of their own. It’s been particularly nice to hear from some former LTC Youth members.
We remain hopeful that we will be able to stage some special events to properly mark this anniversary later in the year, when we can welcome back all our friends and audiences into the Brewhouse once again. I don’t want to give any spoilers away at this stage but I do know of at least one 30th anniversary project that will be seeking the involvement of a few individuals from LTC’s membership.
If anyone would like to share a special memory or two that they have about the Brewhouse, maybe even a photo or video, then please do let me know. We would love for as many people as possible to get involved in celebrating 30 years of the Brewhouse. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org"
Mike Mear has kindly contributed this short history of our beloved Brewhouse:
"Burton & District Arts Council spent several years in the late 1980's searching for premises to house an Arts Centre. Finally Bass offered one of their buildings and fundraising and promotion on the part of local people, organisations and businesses began.
In January 1991 the Brewhouse opened its doors to the public. It was officially opened by the Duke Of Gloucester nine months later. The first two years were a huge learning curve and, although it unfortunately lost a vast amount of money, ESBC offered a loan to cover the loss, and a change in leadership brought new life to the centre. Professional artists and productions were programmed plus the well supported local musical and theatrical companies.
I worked initially as a part-time Box Office volunteer, but in 1996 my application for the position of General Manager was successful. The new Director, Maureen Milgram, successfully applied to the Lottery for a grant, which enabled the Brewhouse to install gas fired central heating, some sound proofing, a new dance floor, new entrance, CCTV security and to re-site the Box Office. The next five years saw an upsurge of usage and 50% of the Council loan was paid back.
However later years saw funding cuts by the Arts Council of England which would have a significant effect on The Brewhouse. At a meeting with The Arts Council to discuss the reduction in funding we were told this had to happen because ‘The Brewhouse was not of regional significance’. When I challenged this as to “ Where Arts Organisations in and around the area could go to continue with their arts activities?”, the reply came ‘Oh there is no chance of the building closing’.
After a few stable years, 2002 saw mounting costs, poor professional programming (though it was the local societies which kept the audiences attending) and no increases in funding by the Arts Council or ESBC. The Brewhouse was forced to go into liquidation. This came, ironically, one month after a visit of Her Majesty the Queen.
Local arts organisations together with BADAC, under the Chairmanship of Geoff Thompson, met with Town Hall staff to find a way forward. September 2002, after about a month’s closure (although events were happening in the background) saw the re-opening of the Brewhouse under the ownership of the Borough Council.
I was kept as General Manager and asked to employ a small band of staff to keep the Brewhouse open and running. Volunteer auditorium stewards were recruited again, something that continues to this day, while BADAC provided volunteers to efficiently run and maintain the Bar.
Gradually under the directorship of Rachel Walker, Head of Arts for ESBC, the Brewhouse gained momentum, but was dealt a cruel blow when, in 2006, a fire broke out in the Box Office. I was called out at 3.45 am on the morning of Sunday, May 28th by the Fire Brigade, and arrived to find 4 Fire Engines tackling the smoke which was pouring out of the roof. The firemen had broken in behind the bar but could not get through due to the shutters. I had keys so was escorted into the dark smoke-filled building to open various doors for them.
Six months later, after restoration, the Phoenix rose from the ashes. The Box Office and cafe were completely revamped. Smoke damaged areas were re-decorated and maintained, changes were made to the auditorium and the Dance Studio floor was re-layed. To commemorate the re-opening Prince Edward came to officially re-open and tour the Brewhouse.
Since its first opening back in January 1991, The Brewhouse has developed in so many ways and must continue to evolve in order to survive. Some say that change is not always for the good, but like art itself, it gets people talking.
Over the past 30 years, so many people (too numerous to mention) have worked tirelessly to support the Brewhouse, many of them on a voluntary basis, ensuring that the Centre is still here with us today. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude.
I retired in 2011 but still perform on stage, meet up with the staff for a chat and generally ‘keep my eye on them’. They won’t get rid of me that easily!"
You can help the Brewhouse celebrate by taking part in their 30 in 30 CHALLENGE!
As long as it’s creative, fun and ‘30 in 30’ then they want to you to share it with them! It could be writing 30 poems in 30 days or completing 30 drawings in 30 minutes or even 30 pirouettes in 30 seconds Or even better: 30 memories of the Brewhouse in 30 photos or words. The sky's the limit... well, 30's the limit.
Brewhouse staff will be sharing their 30 in 30 challenges over the coming weeks and months…and they'll be setting some specific 30 in 30 activities for everyone to get involved in throughout the year!
If you set yourself a 30 in 30 challenge, they would love for you to share it with them via social media. Please tag them in your social media post and use the hashtag #30in30Challenge
STAGESCREEN UPDATE FROM HEATHER
Students of the StageScreen performing arts school are looking forward to a blend of online classes and teaching in person from Saturday April 17. You can see them performing together virtually in this lovely video:https://youtu.be/q6grYN087PA
The school, founded and run by LTC member Heather Gallagher, has been operating successfully online since the first lockdown, apart from a brief return to classroom teaching when it was allowed last year, within social distancing guidelines of course!
But Heather has organised lots of inspiring activities on Zoom for students including workshops with West End and Broadway performers. The latest of these was a Harry Potter workshop with Jack North from the West End cast of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."
Heather also devised and ran the Centre Stage Door Performing Arts Competition, an online event with professional adjudicators, which attracted entries from Australia, Italy, Singapore, America, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong, Dubai and Cyprus as well as England, Scotland and Wales.
Two rounds of competitions led to a World Championships Final, which will take place on April 10 and 11 online. Two Burton students who have appeared on stage with LTC, Emily Haywood and Anna Milne, (pictured below) made the finals of two vocal categories: Musical Theatre (senior) and CCM (contemporary commercial music)/pop vocal. We wish them the best of luck.
Following a successful campaign on Crowdfunder, Heather’s StageScreen students will be filming their production of "Sister Act Jr." at The Brewhouse in July without an audience and it will be streamed online later. Look out for more information on StageScreen’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/stagescreenuk and its website http://stagescreen.co.uk
IT'S A SECRET!
Making Trails, the team behind last year’s Burton Swans trail, led by Tilley Bancroft, are working on another trail in Burton for Summer 2022. The new trail is set to be bigger and better than the last, with more sculptures planned and using a brand new material, ‘Ekoply’ which is made from reformed recycled plastic (if tests go well!!)
Last year’s trail raised over £11,500 for Burton YMCA, attracted over 11,000 visitors and put more than £40,000 back into the local economy. This year we won’t be seeing swans, but something else entirely! The prototype is being painted at the Brewhouse this week onwards where Tilley will be wielding the paintbrush before photographing it around Burton towards the end of the month.
Everything is still under wraps until mid May when the team will reveal the new theme and new sculpture design which took inspiration from a lesser known aspect of local heritage. If you know any artists who would like to get involved, get them to follow Making Trails on Facebook (@MakingTrailsEvents), Twitter (@MakingArtTrails) and Instagram (@MakingTrailsEvents)
They’ll be asking for submissions towards the end of the year and successful artists will be awarded a £500 honorarium for each sculpture painted. The sculptures will be sponsored by local businesses and they hope even more will get onboard with this community art project.
You can play a part in the trail by helping the team spread the word, being active on their social media channels and bringing Tilley lots of coffee at the Brewhouse.
NEWS FROM OUR YOUTH MEMBERS
Roberto Storey, pictured here in "Scrooge" (can you believe it was our last production?) has won a place at the Emil Dale Performing Arts Academy.
Connor Core, who's playing Angel in "RENT" has been accepted into Bath University to study Fashion Business Marketing and Management.
Scarlett Marchant has been accepted to become a volunteer Vaccinator with Saint John’s Ambulance! She's had to complete online training modules and a face to face training day, and is now able to administer the Covid-19 vaccines (both Pfizer and AstraZeneca).
Charlotte Davis - here playing Little Red Riding Hood in "Into the Woods" - is expecting a baby girl in June with fiancé Josh Beckett. Congratulations both!
THEATRE REVIEWS - A VIEW FROM THE STALLS SOFA
A REPORT FROM PETER & JOHN
The last year or so has been a hugely difficult time for the leisure industry up and down the country with theatres being particularly badly affected and finding themselves, as usual, at the bottom of the pile. However, the one thing theatricals have going for them is their resourcefulness and, in the true spirit of “Art Is Work”, many renowned venues have taken to online performances to help those of us who feel starved of the theatre experience and to try and, at least, garner some income from these terribly challenging times.
In pre-pandemic days, we had quite enjoyed the odd jaunt to the cinema to watch a few London shows and so, streamed productions seemed to be the way to go in order to give us our theatrical fix.
Being particularly fond of Leicester Curve (seen many wonderful productions there), we decided on their online productions of “Sunset Boulevard” and “The Color Purple” to do our bit. Booking was easy as was the TV set-up (an access code is sent to you shortly before the screening starts so you can test it all works before curtain-up).
Here’s what we thought of "Sunset Boulevard":
"Probably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most theatrical show, "Sunset Boulevard" is very familiar to us. With book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, we have seen a number of productions over the years including the Norma Desmonds of both Patti LuPone and Glenn Close so were greatly looking forward to this event.
As always, Nicolai Foster (resident Curve director) pulls out all the stops – he really is a superb director who always has an eye for theatrical effect and dramatic impact.
The most interesting aspect of this production is that Foster uses the whole auditorium as his setting – the seating, the aisles, backstage areas plus, of course, the stage. There are times when you can see everyone; the cast, the crew, the orchestra, the camera people and this all-inclusive feeling seems to add even more to the filmic quality which, of course, is essential to the piece.
Sunset has a lush, cinematic score which transports you back to the era of great Hollywood movies and, of course, has some standout musical set pieces (the title song, As If We Never Said Goodbye, With One Look, The Perfect Year and so on).
Danny Mac made an excellent Joe Gillis – an actor who can sing (much the better way round) – accidentally tumbling into the life of the former silent movie star and eventually paying the ultimate price. His love interest, Betty Schaefer, was beautifully played by Molly Lynch. There was a knockout performance by Adam Pearce (a Curve regular) who gave us his tortured but fiercely loyal servant, Max Von Mayerling.
And then there was Norma Desmond herself, the delusional star of the silent era who truly believed that she could turn an audience’s emotions with one look and who convinced herself that her career was about to be revived. Ria Jones was charged with living up to our memory of previous Normas and, although doing nothing wrong, did not quite have the sparkle and star quality that we think the role requires.
But it is the production that shines above everything else and here, once again, Nikolai Foster triumphs giving us a film noir look to this ultimately tragic story. Our rating:
And our views on "The Color Purple":
This was the first time I had seen any version of "The Color Purple". I am reliably informed that the musical (by Marsha Norman, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray) draws on both the book (by Alice Walker) and the film. The show has twice played on Broadway.
I am sure this lack of familiarity did not help me when trying to follow the story and familiarize myself with the characters. This, combined with a score that did not blow me away, made for an enjoyable watch rather than a spellbinding one.
Having said that Tinuke Craig does an excellent job in keeping the production visually stimulating and exciting to watch.
In the main role of Celie, T’Shan Williams gave a stunning and really quite moving performance – her “I’m Here” being a particularly powerful moment as she finally realises her own strength.
Playing Shug Avery (who captivates Celie and everyone around her), Carly Mercedes Dyer (a mesmerizing Anita in Curve’s brilliant West Side Story last year) gave another polished and compelling performance. In fact, the women in this production seemed far stronger on the whole than the men – which was great to see and very much in keeping with the storyline.
I think I need to give this show another try – despite the ordeals Celie has to endure, ultimately the production carries a very powerful message. Our rating:
While our theatres are still dark, please do consider these streamed productions. I am sure you will not be disappointed.
In view of the fact that we have been unable to present any productions for almost 18 months now, we took the decision at our Annual General Meeting in January to defer our usual request for financial support from our Patrons. We felt it was the honourable thing to do given the wonderful support our patrons have given us over the years. We do hope you'll continue to support us when normal life resumes!
As it's such a long time since we were able to get together, you might have forgotten what your LTC friends look like - so here are a few proudly displaying their vaccination status! Can you name them all?
(Yes, I know it's a bit daft but for some reason we're a bit short of news right now!)