This weekend marks the end of a very special year in the life of Jeannine Ridha as she has celebrated an incredible 50 years performing in musical theatre. The year was marked in a number of ways, but most specially, by a wonderful celebratory concert that took place on 29th July 2017 at the Riverhead Theatre, Louth. I was fortunate to be part of the planning team for that event, and loved every moment planning and preparing for what turned out to be what can only be described as ‘the show of a lifetime’.
I know Jeannine has done lots this year, but I couldn’t let the year go by without my own special tribute…
To put my friendship with Jeannine in context, we were both cast members of the Lincoln Cathedral production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2015. One day during rehearsal, we started chatting, made a bit of a connection and forged a bond that has developed over the past few years.
Although I saw Jeannine perform in JCS and a couple of other productions, I never really knew the extent of her musical theatre history, or her amazing talent until the first rehearsal for the 50 years in musical theatre celebratory concert where I was blown away by her characterisations. But her professional musical performances in the show that followed on 29th July, portrayed a wonderful variety of characters including her brilliant rendition of ‘Stately as a Galleon’ a Joyce Grenfell classic; it will stand out as one of my favourites of the day!
I can’t imagine the memories Jeannine has made throughout the past 50 years and what the experiences have meant to her, so the words that I’m sharing below were written back on 20th November by Jeannine, and they really say it all…
In Jeannine’s own words…
At 7:15pm Monday 20th November 1967… the curtain opened on my very first musical The White Horse Inn with Grimsby & District Amateur Operatic Society at the ABC Theatre/Ritz Cinema Grimsby Road Cleethorpes in front of 1,450 people….
Tonight at 7:15pm Monday 20th November 2017… I’m having my photo done for the 42nd Street programme… my next musical with same group… now known as Curtain Up Productions, followed by a rehearsal… (in a church hall just few hundred yards from where ABC was… 42nd Street also to be performed on Grimsby Road at Cleethorpes Memorial Hall 8-12 Jan 2018)
To say I’m feeling very emotional is an understatement TBH…. As I look back on those 50 years & all those memories some good some bad, some happy some sad… I’m actually finding it difficult to take in that half a century has passed by…
Many of those friends I worked with who are now sadly just a memory…😥
It makes me realise how lucky I am to still be as passionate about performing at the age of 67… as I was as that 17 year old… Musical Theatre has not been my hobby it’s been my life…
So many highlights including one of my all time favourite roles Calamity Jane 1979…
Also, performing onstage with my own children, Emma & Haitham and now my granddaughters Molly-Mae & Tilly-Grace has been wonderful…
My 50 year celebration show/party at Louth Riverhead Theatre in July was more of a thanksgiving… that through all life’s ups ‘n downs … the one constant thing in my life has been my musical theatre and the forever friends I’ve made because of it …🥂🍾🎶🎭❤️
I feel very, very blessed & for anyone who’s ever played a part in my Musical Theatre journey… from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU & I LOVE YOU…. 😘❤️🎶🎭😘❤️🎶🎭❤️
As a young teenage girl, Jeannine made her debut in 1967 in a production of ‘White Horse Inn’ with Grimsby & Cleethorpes Amateur Operatic Society, now Curtain Up Productions.
Jeannine front left of entire company far right (black trousers) … plait over her left shoulder …. which Jeannine remembers buying in a plastic tube from Woolworths, Freeman Street .. cost her 7/6 …7 shillings and 6 old pence …less than 50p! The actual booking form is above… It’s interesting to look at the price of tickets 10/- (top price) equivalent of 50 pence!!!
The lead roles in her very first show were played by Jeannine’s heroes Mary Adams and Tony Blackmore who she still sees. Mary, now 91 was due to sing at Jeannine’s celebration concert in July 17 but sadly wasn’t very well on the day and so couldn’t perform. The recording below was taken at the rehearsal for the concert a few weeks before… enjoy!
Jeannine did sing a duet from Fiddler with Tony Blackmore (now 81) at her celebration concert in July.
A recording of Jeannine and Tony performing ‘Do you love me?’, which I’m delighted to include a link to below, to which I’ve added some photographs, was produced as a gift for Jeannine’s husband for their silver wedding anniversary… how moving!
Over the 50 years Jeannine has performed in many productions with various amateur and professional companies. (list below courtesy of Haitham Ridha, who edited the programme for Jeannine’s 50 year celebration in July)
The photo below was one of the early shots, taken on the stairs at the ABC Theatre, Grimsby… during the break at dress rehearsal for My Fair Lady in Nov 1968. Her first ever lines in Musical Theatre. Jeannine was the flower girl… and is on left on this picture. Jeannine’s Dad took this shot….🌹🎶
Amazingly, among all the shows Jeannine has been part of over the 50 years, she has played the role of Maggie Jones in 42nd street 5 times!
To mark the end of her 50th year, Jeannine played Maggie again with Curtain Up Productions in Cleethorpes, with opening night 8th January 2018.
On that day Jeannine said…
I cannot believe that tonight .. 8th January 2018 I’m opening as Maggie Jones in 42nd Street for the 5th time … 24 years since I first played this role in 1994… Omg omg …where has that time gone??? 😳😳🎶🎭🎶🎭
1994… With GCAOS at Grimsby Icehouse
1996 .. Semi pro production Octagon Theatre Yeovil, Somerset
2005 .. With GCAOS Grimsby Auditorium
2013 … At Riverhead Theatre Louth
2018 … Curtain Up Productions..Cleethorpes Memorial Hall…
So I’m in another programme of one of my favourite roles …I guess being 2 years of 70 this might be last time I play Miss Maggie Jones….🤔🤔🤔
Am I nervous? I most certainly am… Opening Nights never get any easier
So now to the celebration show on 29th July… What a performance, what an experience, certainly one I will never forget.
Jeannine and Haitham put together a wonderful programme, and you’ll see some excerpts of it throughout this post; I couldn’t say it any better so in Jeannine’s own words – again – from the programme…
As Jeannine said above, most of the friends and family in the audience actually performed on stage at some point throughout the show; (as previously noted, unfortunately Mary Adams couldn’t perform on the day but still appeared in the programme).
Jeannine opened the show in style, as can be expected… Here’s a recording of the opening number, ‘As if we never said goodbye’ from Sunset Boulevard; (apologies for the over exposure at the start but you get the idea!)
Some selected photos from Act 1
First picture is Jeannine with daughter Emma singing their special song from when she was 3 and Jeannine played lead in Calamity Jane 1979… ‘Secret Love’
And Act 2
And some fun moments from pre and post show where friends and family met the 2D Jeannine
And the icing on the cake were I’m sure the wonderful messages Jeannine received from all her family and friends, and a few very special people. I put all of the messages in a special book for Jeannine, to remind her of this wonderful celebration, and I’m sure, pride of place in the book is this message… and Jeannine receiving it!
…and a wonderful note from the gorgeous Jodie Prenger…
50’s Year’s from NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association)
So thank you everyone for taking part, and to Jeannine for allowing me to be part of this absolutely incredible celebration in your 50th year…
… and just in case you forget, or other people don’t know how much you are thought of in the musical theatre world, here’s some of the messages people sent to you!
Here’s to the next 50 years!
Photos and video courtesy of Lewis Harry, Daniel and Eira Hammond and Luke Harry
(and the next time you can see Jeannine will be at Riverhead theatre again on 29th March in her one woman show, ‘Sing Happy’…
Jeannine says about the show…
Hello friends ….. as most of you know I’ve been performing in Musical Theatre since 1967 …. However, on Thursday March 29th I’m coming out of my comfort zone and I’m doing a ‘one woman’ show at Louth Riverhead Theatre … I was approached a few months ago and at first (for various reasons) I said no … Eventually I said I would it…. I’m currently getting the show together and would be thrilled to see some familiar faces in the audience ❤️❤️ I’ve called the show SING HAPPY… I have two 40 minute sets to do …and then there’s a 30 minute interval for a free cuppa… I’m singing songs from musicals. Might even have some surprise guests😉😀Show starts 2:30pm…Tickets £5
Link to theatre below..