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September 2019

Tickets are now available for our next production, "Scrooge - The Musical". Based on Charles Dickens’ much-loved "A Christmas Carol", this is the perfect festive family treat, taking you and Ebenezer Scrooge on a spellbinding journey through Christmas past, present and yet-to-come…

Meet the miserly Ebenezer, the Cratchit family and a host of Dickens’ most famous characters in this heart-warming story, with a fantastic score that includes the Oscar-nominated hit "Thank You Very Much", "I Hate Christmas", "Happiness" and many more.

This spectacular musical is a wonderful, feel-good story about hope and the kind of happiness that money can’t buy, so come along as we prepare to celebrate the season of goodwill to all… even Scrooge.

We are extremely sad to have to report the passing of our first life patron and founding father, Ronald Henry Whetton, who passed away on 12th July 2019.
Ron was appointed Principal of the Burton upon Trent Municipal School of Speech and Drama in 1956 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1984.
Ron and his Drama School staff were responsible for the formation and dramatic heritage of what we now know as Little Theatre Company who became an independent group when the Drama School effectively closed on Ron’s retirement.
LTC, past and present, was very well represented at Ron’s funeral, along with the Gresley Male Voice Choir and many of the friends and organisations to which he was a well-known and hugely respected figure.
Peter Clemson and Geoff Thompson were asked to say a few words and to read a selection of Ron’s own poems. Here is what they said:
Geoff:  I first saw Ron Whetton when, as a school boy, my mother took me to see a performance of Benjamin Britten`s one act opera "Noyes Fludde" at Saint Paul's Church in Burton. Ron played God and for me that`s how he always remained.
It wasn`t long before my nascent interest in performing lead me to the Burton School of Speech and Drama where, as the omnipotent, benevolent deity and principal, Mr. Whetton held his court.
The annual round of performances, festivals, competitions, Guildhall examinations and speech days surrounded my adolescence but it was not until I started my drama training at University of Keele that I began to fully appreciate what an invaluable, supportive experience and training I had received.

For example I recall, much to my disquiet, that, as a youngster, Ron had made me learn the “interview scene” from "The Importance of Being Ernest" and enter it into the Drama school festival. Ron said “it would be good for me” and that I should apply the discipline to learn it. I did so always did as Mr. Whetton said.  Little did I know then that some years later the final viva voce section of my drama teaching qualification from Keele was to be given 60 minutes to prepare and perform a text supplied on the day by the examiners. Guess what I got …. the “interview scene” from "The Importance of Being Ernest" !!! I was able to give my performance without the script as I could still recall the lines, much, I might say, to the astonishment of my fellow examination candidates. Thank you Ron for insisting I learnt that piece.
 When I came back to the Burton area to teach I joined the repertory company and Ron encouraged me to join the staff of the Saturday morning Speech and Drama classes. Later this also involved the Youth Theatre which included Ron`s initiative for a memorable 3 week visit to the USA in 1976 to perform during their bi-centenial celebrations.  Eventually I became Ron`s deputy and I was and remain very proud to have served him as the school's vice principal. They were unforgettable, happy, wonderful days shared in the company of extraordinary students and friends, volunteers and staff.
Its a simple matter of practicality that all such organisations need a verbal code to be used in emergencies. Ron was emphatic we should use “Walter Plinge is here !”. 
Peter: Walter Plinge – a pseudonym for the actor who wishes to remain anonymous or the actor playing two parts or indeed the role still to be cast. Ron often mentioned Walter much to everyone’s amusement but I don’t think “Mr Whetton” as he was first known to me was ever a Walter Plinge.
I was first aware of Ronald Whetton when my Mother mentioned him as someone she used to act with in the drama group that eventually became the Newhall Players. But it was some years later when, as a relatively shy teenager, I joined the School of Speech and Drama and set about my acting life.
If I’m honest, we were all a bit scared of “Mr Whetton”. He would often descend on us unannounced in the latter stages of rehearsal for our latest play and give us our notes on how we, and the production, should be improved. He would then disappear as quickly as he came leaving us in a Harry Potter-like state as if we had just had a visit from Professor Dumbledore. He was, to all intents and purposes, our headmaster – always to be respected and invariably right in his observations.
In subsequent years he became “Ron” to me and, although always slightly intimidated by him, we grew to have a healthy respect for each other. Ron instilled in me many aspects of stagecraft but mostly the desire to speak clearly and correctly – I don’t always succeed, Mr Whetton,  but I do always try!
When Ron retired in 1984, it fell to a few of us to make the transition from County Council control to independence  -  always determined to keep the name of the Little Theatre alive, not only for the building itself but most especially for Ron. We have continued this up to now and will carry on for as long as we are able.
Ron and Rennie became our original honorary life patrons in 1984 and have seen most of our 100 plus productions since we went it alone – there is an empty seat on Thursday evenings now previously occupied by Mr Whetton – or perhaps I should call him “Walter Plinge”.

Ron is pictured above as Major Pollock in Terence Rattigan's "Separate Tables" in 1966. 


We are thrilled to be able to report that Ellie Homes (now Mrs Hunt) has been cast in the brand new staging of "Les Miserables" which will open on December 18th at the newly refurbished Sondheim Theatre, previously known as the Queens Theatre, on Shaftesbury Avenue. Ellie, who performs professionally as Ellie Anne Lowe, will play the Factory Girl - she rips the letter from Fantine's hands, tells everyone about her child Cosette and gets her fired. She will also be second cover for Fantine, the part she played (photo above) in the very first LTC Youth production of Les Mis back in 2009. There were four stages of auditions over two months, with the final audition performing to a panel of no fewer than fifteen people! We're so happy for you Ellie and can't wait to see the show.
We were rather chuffed at this review of our June production "Stepping Out" written by Caroline Kay of the Burton Mail:

"Fancy 'stepping out' and seeing some of Burton’s finest talent?

If it’s a big fat yes, then you’re in for a treat this week as Little Theatre Company’s latest production, "Stepping Out", taps its way onto The Brewhouse Arts Centre stage until Saturday.

The company brings Richard Harris' bittersweet comedy drama to life and is an absolute joy to watch, filling the heart with hope and happiness. Excellently cast (I would expect nothing less from LTC), each and every one of the actors plays their part to sweet perfection.

Heather Gallagher, who has also choreographed the show, plays Mavis, a former professional dancer who teaches tap dance in a dingy North London church hall. Each week she is joined by a group of seven women and one man - all from different backgrounds with very varied and colourful personalities.

Here they spend a couple of hours doing a hot shoe shuffle to Mrs Fraser’s expert piano playing, all working towards a tap dancing finale where everyone gets to strut their stuff.

Heather is joined by Katie Haywood (in the role of germaphobic snob Vera), Scarlett Marchant (the self-deprecating but oh so funny Sylvia), Jodie Swann (the colourful Rose) Olivia Robinson (perfectionist Lynne), Vicky Fryer (mouthy Maxine), Sue McPhee (the put-upon Dorothy), Jodie Whitehead (downtrodden Andy), Bethan Waite (Mavis’s second mum and hilariously 'dry' pianist Mrs Fraser) and Mike Mear (the mild mannered Geoffrey who is secretly in love with Andy).

Harris’ sublime, subtle and very, very funny script offers a thought-provoking story with many layers, getting a glimpse into each of their lives and find out that not all is what it first seems.

It may be a small cast but it’s perfectly formed and you can’t help but warm to each and every one of the deliciously quirky dancers. Again this uber-talented ensemble give outstanding performances - and where they all got their energy from to tap dance throughout the show is beyond me. To be honest I was worn out just watching them.

Heather Gallagher’s choreography is par excellence and her poignant solo tap dance to Adele’s Million Years Ago brought a lump to my throat. She danced it with such emotion it felt as if an electric current was running through the theatre.

Burton is awash with talent and, again, John Bowness’ clever and meticulous direction has brought a little bit of West End magic to the town.

"Stepping Out" has a great feel-good factor and it was impossible not to leave the theatre with a huge smile on my face - and the title tune running through my head.

And in the words of my mum: “It really cheered me up. It was terrific!” I challenge anyone not to agree with her."

(or what it's really like working on a cruise ship!)
Professional actor and former LTC member ("Little Voice" and Eponine in the second "Les Mis" among many other roles) completed her second stint as Lead Production Vocalist onboard the ultra luxury Silver Muse cruise ship earlier this year. Her first voyage was Vancouver to Australia which went via Alaska, Japan, China, Thailand and Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia, while the latest was Rome to Bali going via Europe, Egypt, India, Asia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. Wow!

We asked her to spill the beans about what is is REALLY like behind the scenes.

How did you get selected?
I was selected via auditions in London a couple of years ago and then kindly got asked back after my 1st cruise with them....

How did you manage rehearsals, both before and during the cruises?
We rehearsed for 3 weeks in London before heading onto the ship. Once on the ship we had our managers and production team on board guiding us through more rehearsals during the first voyage. Once they left after a week or so we were left to our own devices 🙂

What were your duties? Can I assume not just performing?
We have other ‘duties’ on board but to me they were fun. The main duty would be to socialise with the guests and get to know them, which to me was a great way to meet new people.

What was a typical day on board?
Typical day on board would be socialising with the guests and honestly chilling out and seeing the sights of the world... then from early evening onwards it would be into the costumes and on with the show! 

What was your accommodation like, ie sleeping, food etc?
We had cabins which I shared with another girl. We got on so well and she is one of my best friends now. The food, was great always! Especially when you got to eat in the restaurants - very yum!! 

Presumably you didn’t have much space so how did you manage with all your costumes, including getting them laundered?
The cabins aren't the biggest in the world but you make it work and make them your own. We had our own way of laundering etc so we would do all our costumes and stuff when we could. 

How did you cope living alongside your audiences for months on end? Presumably some would approach you and want to talk to you?
Regarding the people around you for months.... it can be tough but you also create amazing relationships. I made so many friends that I still talk to now who were guests on the ships. 🙂

What were the best/worst bits!??
The worst bit was probably when it would get rough as i did suffer from the odd sea sickness. But the ship and job itself.... I loved it and still love it. The best bit was getting to see the world... and getting paid for it 🙂

AWKWARD ONE!!!! (you may not want to answer) What did you get paid? Presumably all your off-ship expenses were your own so did you come away with any money in your hand?
I don’t want to say how much I got paid because it’s different for all ships.. Everything onboard was included and everything on land was at my own expense. And yes, I did!

A new, hopefully regular, item in the LTC newsletter is what our members and supporters think of shows they've seen in the professional theatre. As regular West End (and provincial) theatregoers, Peter Clemson and John Bowness were asked to review their latest outings....
EQUUS by Peter Shaffer at the Trafalgar Studios, London

This was a special play for us as it brought back vivid memories of our own LTC production back in 1996. Although slightly taken aback by the lack of horses heads (we hired ours from Bristol Old Vic), the equine actors were extremely convincing and complemented Ethan Kai’s compelling performance as the horse-blinding, Alan Strang. Less convincing to us was Zubin Varla’s psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, who gave what we thought was quite a “grey” performance which left us thinking that he seemed rather disinterested in his latest case.
That said, the production, strong in the sound and lighting department, was very watchable and, despite Peter Shaffer’s sometimes over-indulgent dialogue, we reached the story’s distressing denouement the better for having seen this excellent production. We award a

COME FROM AWAY by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
at the Phoenix Theatre, London
A lot of hype and recommendations preceded our visit to this multi-award winning musical so expectations were high.

The show opened and we were immediately hit between the eyeballs by the warmth, enthusiasm and sheer energy of this ensemble-driven piece. OK, it took a while to acclimatise to the accents and understand everything that was being sung or spoken. That said, the pace never dropped and the invention of the production was relentless.

This was where we fell into different feelings towards this uplifting show...

PETER was very enthusiastic, laughed out loud and had a tear in the eye at certain moments and at the conclusion leapt to his feet (almost cheering but refraining as he is British after all). In fact the seemingly compulsory standing ovations nowadays (I blame America) is almost as distasteful to Peter as taking drinks into the auditorium but stand he did and gave his verdict as “thrilling”.

JOHN, on the other hand, was less convinced and simply said “it was not his sort of thing” citing as reasons, over-simplified settings and props, never-ending ensemble numbers and changing around of characters and the sheer exhaustion of watching a Canadian folk-style “River Dance” non-stop for an hour and three quarters. That said, he did stand at the end but I think that was the effects of the interval-free sitting challenge (“audiences need an interval and there was no good reason for not having one”). He did enjoy it though.
Peter awards:

John awards:

(Tim & Olivia Robinson and Bethan Waite have all recently seen this show too, thought it absolutely wonderful and agree with Peter! You still have plenty of time to catch this show - now booking until February 2020.)

LTC Vice Chairman Leon Ratcliffe is now a very proud grandfather. Daughter Georga, who has appeared in many of our productions, gave birth to baby Logan Harrison on the 11th July weighing 8lb 7oz. Mummy, Daddy (Adam) and baby Logan are doing amazingly well. They have also recently moved house so it has all been very hectic. Congratulations to all - especially to Georga who did all the hard work!
Classical Baritone Ed Robinson has had a busy and highly successful summer.

He was recently awarded the "Robin Kay Memorial Prize" by the Royal Northern College of Music. The award is given annually to the student they deem to have the most promising career in the field of opera. He was also awarded the Brigitte Fassbaender Award for Lieder by the College, and the Audience Prize for his performance in the final of the Dean and Chadlington Singing Competition, 2019.

In April he performed the role of Pilgrim in Vaughan Williams’ opera "The Pilgrim’s Progress". He says it was by far his most demanding role to date, being on stage for the entire opera as the character faced the challenges of his journey with each new act. His performance won him many outstanding reviews, including:

"The enormous cast was led by Edward Robinson as a vocally secure, dramatically convincing and sensitively drawn Pilgrim... his effortless sense of line and exemplary diction suggest an impressive future" - Reviewer, Nigel Simeone, Opera Magazine.

"Particular mention must go to Edward Robinson as the Pilgrim, who gave a beautifully sung, true, intense and moving account of the role" - Reviewer David Parry - Conductor. (Parry is a renowned conductor, said to know "the British opera world like the back of his hand")

Ed then began​ working with seven schools across Derbyshire on an outreach opera for Buxton International Festival playing Silas the storyteller in "The Orphans of Koombu." The work culminated in seven performances in the Opera House during the festival.

August saw him playing Don Pedro in Stanford’s opera of Shakespeare’s "Much Ado About Nothing" with Northern Opera Group for Leeds Opera Festival.

Ed is pictured above as the Pilgrim, top and right, and as Don Pedro in "Much Ado" left.

You can't imagine the LTC without the Haywoods, so this time we thought we's ask all three of them - Katie, Jim and Emily - to answer our questions!
(They're pictured below in their favourite roles - so far! Jim as Tobias, Emily as The Narrator and Katie as Joyce.)
What’s been your all time favourite LTC show – and why?
K:Toss up between "Scrooge" 2005, "Secret Garden" (I was back stage for both), "Oliver!" – and all of the 3 "Les Miserables", and "Beauty and the Beast"…….! I Can't choose sorry! 
J:"Les Mis" 2nd time because I really wanted to be Gavroche and I was!
E:My favourite LTC show would have to be "Into The Woods". I have always loved the film and the music in the show. I think it was such a challenging show but we all worked extremely hard and it ending up being awesome!! I also love and will always love doing "Les Mis" as it has a wonderful emotional story and is always so great to take part in.
What’s been your favourite (on-stage) LTC role – and why? 
K:I loved being, Nancy, Mrs Anna, Piaf, and loved Joyce in "Betty" because I think there is a little bit of each of them in me
J:Tobias in "Sweeney" because it was the biggest part I'd had and it was fun!
E:My favourite on stage LTC role was the Narrator from "Into The Woods" as it was such a great and fun show and an amazing part to play. It was also my first big part and I enjoyed every second of it.
Have you had an “OMG” (ideally scary) moment in an LTC show? What was it and what happened?
K:When I lost Emmie Doyle's blue Christine dress back stage in "Phantom". There were 2 the same and I picked up the wrong one and hung up the other! 
J:When Tom Kounas broke his shoulder just before the final performance of JCS. Sam Pearson stood in for him and nailed it!
E:I have never really had a scary or "OMG" moment in an LTC show however in "Jesus Christ Superstar" I was backstage with my friend watching one of the songs (on show night) and I spotted a pretty huge spider on stage. It made its way all the way across the stage scaring and shocking some of the people on stage. It made it to halfway through Act One until someone squished it. 
What’s it like acting on stage with your two family members?
K:It's brilliant. I consider myself very lucky that they love it as much as I do.
J:It's all I've ever known so it's just the same as being at home!
E:I think acting on stage with two of my family members is great as I know that they will always be there for me. I also find it a lot of fun sharing stories and jokes of LTC together. I love it when any of us get a part in a show we congratulate each other and help each other on how to make the best out of what we've got.
Do you have a dream part you’d love to play? What is it?
K:Gracie Fields if there was a play about her life
J:Any of the male leads in "Les Mis" as it's my favourite show
E:I have quite a few dream roles that I would love to play. I have always, since I was little, wanted to play Eponine in "Les Mis". I also would love to play Mary Magdalene in "Jesus Christ Superstar". I love her role and her beautiful songs and I would love to play her character. And the role of Nellie from "South Pacific" would always be a dream for me. I absolutely love her and her great personality. I would also love to play Penny or Amber from "Hairspray" as they are amazing parts. 
Who’s your favourite actor and actress?
K:I have a few; Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Hugh Jackman......there's so many more!
J:Tom Hanks & Megan Fox (but not because she is good actress!)
E:My favourite actor and actress are probably James Corden and Emily Blunt and I love it when they are together in a film or a musical like "Into The Woods".
Favourite Movie?
K:Too many to choose so I'm going to choose one I've seen recently, "The Hundred Foot Journey" .....and "JAWS"!
J:"Baby Driver"
E:I like lots of movies but don't really have a favourite.
Favourite TV show?
K:I don't really watch telly, but I do love "Bake Off" (though I cannot all!)
J:"Sex Education"
E:My favourite TV is definitely "Friends"!! All the way! I have watched it almost 5 times over and over again. I am obsessed. Also I have recently been watching "Glee" which I absolutely love millions!!! 
Favourite Song?
K:ARGHHHH I HAVE SO MANY!!! This Is The Moment (from "Jekyll and Hyde") On The Street Where You Live ("My Fair Lady") I Have Dreamed ("King and I" – which was also the song I walked down the aisle to when I got married) And just by chance, Leon has sung all of these! 
J:Come What May from "Moulin Rouge"
E:Like my favourite movie, I don't really have a favourite song. I love a lot of songs and I love singing all sorts of them. I do however love the artist Jason Mraz and his song 'Lucky' makes me very happy.

Musical Theatre Exam Success for LTC Youth Students.

Congratulations to Harry Dawber for passing his Grade 4 LCM Musical Theatre with a brilliant Merit score, and to Cora Nield who gained a Distinction and 96% in Popular Music Vocals. Also huge congratulations to Anna Milne for passing Grade 6 LCM Musical Theatre with a Distinction and an unheard of 100%!

StageScreen Musical Theatre Associates Showcase Success

StageScreen MTA have just completed their first Showcase, at the Brewhouse, to wonderful acclaim. A very successful evening showcasing some of the best of the local musical theatre talent. An excerpt from their Billy Elliot section, featuring George Radley, Grace Swingler and Charlotte Searcey can be seen HERE.

The Associates have just completed their Summer auditions and will be starting the new season with an almost completely full team! We will keep you posted on further events where you can see them in action.

Enrol at StageScreen in September and be on stage in 'Annie Jnr' at the Brewhouse in December!

Do you know any students aged 6-18 looking to follow their drama passion and join StageScreen training on Saturdays? StageScreen is a drama school that trains in musical theatre, comedy and drama acting and film and tv on Saturday mornings at Burton Albion Community Hub (10am-1pm).Their next production is "Annie", and in 2020 there is the opportunity to take Trinity exams in Acting. Click HERE to contact Heather for more information.

Peter and John were up in Edinburgh recently together with Jack Hawkins to catch some of this year's Fringe. They packed eight shows into three days, including an adaptation of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" featuring the very talented Ewan Bourne as Napoleon. Click HERE to hear Ewan perform one of the show's songs and to see some rehearsal photos.
We were extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the recent passing of former LTC member, Steve Farmer. Steve was not with us long but certainly made his mark in several productions between 2008 and 2011, notably as Bruce Ismay in "Titanic" (pictured above, front row far right).
Our deepest sympathies go to his friends and family.

Just in case you thought that LTC members' creativity lay solely in acting and singing, here's an amazing cake produced by Karen Hailstone for her son's and daughter's (LTC Musical Director Katie Hailstone's) birthdays recently. Everything below the skull is hand-made and edible!

Harley (Pantall) has been going out with Jonathan for almost 13  years. Having got engaged 2½ years ago, they have finally named the date - August 2020. Why so soon guys?
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Little Theatre Company · 377 Rosliston Road · Burton Upon Trent, Staffordshire DE15 9RJ · United Kingdom

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