50 Years in Musical Theatre – A Celebration – Jeannine Ridha

logoThis 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…

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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.

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Jeannine (right) in the Cloisters with two of her friends from Grimsby

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…

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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.  

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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)

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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….🌹🎶

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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

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1996 .. Semi pro production Octagon Theatre Yeovil, Somerset

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2005 .. With GCAOS Grimsby Auditorium

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2013 … At Riverhead Theatre Louth

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2018 … Curtain Up Productions..Cleethorpes Memorial Hall…

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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…

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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).Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 14.01.31

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!)

 

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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!

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…and a wonderful note from the gorgeous Jodie Prenger…

50’s Year’s from NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association)

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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!

Jeannine 50 Years Messages

Here’s to the next 50 years!

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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..

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Review – Avenue Q – Louth Playgoers and Blaze

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Got back late last night from a fun evening of brilliant entertainment at Louth Riverhead Theatre watching their production with Blaze of Avenue Q.

I hadn’t seen the show before and heard a few things about it;  I heard comments that it’s cheeky, it’s naughty, it’s a bit rude, it’s edgy; my nephew said its like ‘the muppets twisted sister’ or ‘Family Guy to the Simpsons’.  So I had some expectations, but nothing could have prepared me for the lovely, simple story, brilliantly observed comedy, and catchy songs that would stand up completely out of the context of the show.  Yes, it has some of those moments that if you’re not open minded, or up for a bit of naughtiness you might be shocked, but overall it’s a show that would make everyone think about our own morality and the way we all think and react about subjects that are often taboo.

So over to the show itself; imagine we’re back in Sesame Street, where we’re transported to a dingy set, a road in the US with trash cans and ‘for rent’ signs (well done to the set and backstage crew!).  In comes a recent graduate looking for cheap accommodation, no purpose in life, believing his life can’t get any worse, realising that real life isn’t what he expected, and in come the other residents who show him that in fact, most people also have bad things happening in their lives and all is not as good as it appears.

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I’m not going to give too much away of the story because for me, each song and each scene was a wonderful surprise (yes even the naughty bits!), and it wouldn’t do justice explaining the plot or the specific developments.  What I will say though, is that I was made to think, ‘what do I think about that?’, ‘am I really like that?’, ‘do I really behave in that manner?’, ‘is that what I believe?’.

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There was a cast of 9 ‘real people’ who mastered the art of being puppeteers (despite sore shoulders!) in such a way that the audience were constantly drawn to the puppet rather than the puppeteer.  They have perfected the movements, the characterisations (which I didn’t believe was even possible in a puppet!) and the transitions, where sometimes puppets were shared, all completed without the audience hardly even being aware.  And one other thing I didn’t bank on, was the fabulous voices of each individual puppet, no small feat for those managing two puppets, at a few points with one on each hand, having a conversation with themselves – pure genius – congratulations!

We’ve all got friends like ‘Bad Idea Bears’, leading us astray, a few of my friends came to mind, and we all sometime feel that other people are a bit too opinionated, but actually aren’t we all in some way?  Very strangely, there are definitely a few lessons to be learnt watching this show!

The singing was brilliant, as was the small live band supporting under the leadership of the Musical Director Jacqueline Wilson (Director of Blaze), with Alex Frost and Matthew Gidlow.  This is Rob Bishop’s musical directing debut, which he did as well as appearing in this production, with more than one puppet, and one voice to contend with, brilliant!

Cast members, in order of appearance (with their dress rehearsal puppets):

Princeton/Rob Rob Bishop

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BrianJamie Harris

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Kate Monster/Lucy the SlutHayley Wrightam

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Nicky/Trekkie MonsterSteven Greenwood

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Christmas EveHelen Sargent

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Gary Coleman/Mrs ThistletwatNikki Law

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Bad Idea BearsKennedy Gardiner and Adam Barlow

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Newcomer/Narrator/EnsembleDavid Wrightam

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The show runs from Wed 14th to Saturday 17th February, so only a couple of chances left to see this brilliant spectacle.  If you want something completely different, something to make you think, laugh and just have a great time, get your tickets now. Tickets: £12 / Under 18s £6, TheatreCard £11 / Under 18s £5

Telephone: 01507 600350
The Box Office is open for advanced booking every Monday to Saturday from 10.00am – 1.00pm.

The Riverhead Theatre
Victoria Road
Louth
LN11 0BX

Email: admin@louthplaygoers.co.uk

The Louth Playgoers Website says:

“Filled with gut-busting humour and a delightfully catchy score, not to mention puppets, Avenue Q is a truly unique show that has quickly become a favourite for audiences everywhere. Although the show addresses humorous adult issues, it is similar to a beloved children’s show; a place where puppets are friends, Monsters are good and life lessons are learned.

THIS PRODUCTION IS NOT SUITABLE FOR AUDIENCES UNDER 14 YEARS

It is safe to say that if you are an adult with a good sense of humour, then AVENUE Q is right up your street.

Is it appropriate for kids? Er, well, this is where it gets a bit fuzzy. If your teenager is mature enough to see a musical about issues such as sex, drinking, and surfing the web for porn, then they’ll probably love AVENUE Q too! Only you can judge. It’s hard to say what exact age is right to see AVENUE Q – parents should use their discretion based on the maturity level of their children. But we promise you this – if you do bring your teenagers to AVENUE Q – they’ll think you’re really cool!

Tickets: £12 / Under 18s £6
TheatreCard £11 / Under 18s £5

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Review – 42nd Street – Curtain Up Productions

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‘COME AND MEET THOSE DANCING FEET’

This glitzy, glamorous production has wowed audiences around the world, including Broadway and the West End and has now come to the Memorial Hall, Cleethorpes for a very limited 5 night run.  The story is set in Broadway, and based on auditions and rehearsals for a musical, Pretty Lady.

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Caroline Wright in the programme says:

“With love entwined throughout, the story may be a little dated but it’s aged to perfection and the fabulous musical numbers will leave you tapping your toes with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.  Musicals just don’t get any better than this!”

She’s not wrong, I had a smile on my face throughout the whole show and if I had time this week I’d certainly be going again and urge you all to get to the coast and have a fabulous night out this week!

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I was persuaded to see 42nd Street in the West End during early 2017 for the first time and I was completely bowled over by the choreography and the whole showbiz style of this massive hit musical. So when I was invited to come to dress rehearsal and take some photographs I was really excited to see how the team that performed the brilliant ‘Anything Goes’ back in November 2016 could bring such a big, spectacular show, with some great dance numbers and well known songs to a relatively small stage in comparison to when I saw it previously in London.

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The tap and other dance routines (choreographed wonderfully by Hayley Wrightam) really showed the talent and skills of all the dancers in the group as they performed together with style and elegance.  The musical numbers (under the musical direction of Keith Weston), including the live band, were exceptional; some of the vocal solo numbers were truly outstanding.

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I was really impressed with the sets, props and lighting and although seemingly simple, the sets were clever and used to good effect with very quick and smooth transitions.

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Scott Smith, as well as playing Billy Lawlor, had sole responsibility for the costumes. They absolutely made the show; I couldn’t believe how many costume changes there were; they were sumptuous, extravagant and definitely brought a lot of sparkling glamour!

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Ruth Blanchard played Peggy Sawyer; she acted and danced with flair and poise and a level of sophistication beyond her 16 years, truly exceptional for a first lead role and I look forward to seeing more of her in future productions.

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All the cast performed brilliantly together under the direction of David Wrightam

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There were some stand out performances and vocals from Barb Dowell (playing Dorothy Brock) in her first principle role with Curtain Up Productions.

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Kirsty Channon (Ann Riley) had some great moments with her personality shining through her characters in this her second time playing ‘Anytime Annie’ in 42nd Street.

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Jeannine Ridha has played the role of Maggie Jones five times now during this, her 50th year performing in musical theatre, starting with Curtain Up Productions (was GCAOS) in 1967 at the Cleethorpes ABC Theatre. Jeannine’s characterisations, facial expressions and vocals were sensational!

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Full cast following dress rehearsal

If you get the opportunity to get a ticket for one of the last few shows, I would highly recommend it; the tap, comedy and glitz make for a show not to be missed.

To buy your tickets for Cleethorpes Memorial Hall follow the link here or directly via Box Office on tel: 01472 323111

Adult Tickets £12, Children 16 and under £9

More information on this and previous/up coming shows from the Curtain Up Production website

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Mad About the Musicals – M A Promotions – Louth Riverhead Theatre

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Billed as ‘Songs from the Greatest Shows of the West End and Broadway’; Mad About the Musicals was certainly a feast of Musical Theatre, with a mixture of well known favourites and lesser known delights.  The show, part of a UK tour, features Michael Courtney, from Lincoln; Jai McDowall, from Scotland and winner of Britain’s Got Talent in 2011; Rosanne Priest from near Sheffield, and Kerry Whiteside from Lancashire.

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The cast were supported by a wonderful live band, and despite only 4 members, Musical Director Michael Lovelock on Keys 1; Marc Hayes on bass guitar (who I believe was also part of the orchestra for the Lincoln Cathedral Production of Jekyll and Hyde in August 2017); Rich Craig on drums and percussion and Josh Weaver on Keys 2.

Some of the early numbers included Don’t Rain on my Parade from Funny Girl, and songs from Little Shop of Horrors and Song and Dance, but one of my favourites from the whole show was ‘This is the Moment’ from Jekyll and Hyde.  Having recently seen the Lincoln production (mentioned above) it was wonderful to hear an alternative live version of the powerful ballad, and Jai’s rendition was beautiful.

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Act 1 ended with songs from Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret, then a medley of a number of musical favourites melded together wonderfully.

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Act 2 started with a lovely medley from Chicago and then some numbers one of my favourite musicals, Evita.  Rosanne Priest gave a stunning performance of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina which was a highlight for me.

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After a feast of other great musical theatre power ballads, including I Know Him So Well from Aspects of Love and Love Changes Everything from Chess, we were delighted with ‘It Sucks to be Me’ from Avenue Q, puppets included!

The whole show was brought together with some brilliant compering from Michael Courtney who linked the numbers with some funny comedy lines; breaking up the music with great banter.  The audience were thrilled with the whole show, and they weren’t left disappointed with the finale of a brilliant Les Miserables medley.

Vocals from all performers were spot on, the sound and mic balance was just right and the lighting effects all added to the professional performance.

There are tickets left for this evening if you are near to Louth and want to take advantage of a wonderful night of song; click here Louth Riverhead Theatre or visit:

Box Office

Telephone: 01507 600350
The Box Office is open for advanced booking every Monday to Saturday from 10.00am – 1.00pm.

The Riverhead Theatre
Victoria Road
Louth
LN11 0BX

Email: admin@louthplaygoers.co.uk

For details of the whole UK Tour visit Mad About the Musicals

 

 

(Photos from Mad About the Musicals Facebook Page)

 

 

 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Louth Playgoers Summer Workshop – 3rd-5th August 2017

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Having seen and reviewed the CAODS production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels back in November 2016, in fact it was my very first show review on this blog, I couldn’t wait to see what Louth Playgoers Youth Theatre would do with the production, especially since it was the outcome of the Youth Theatre and a very limited rehearsal time of a couple of weeks in the school holidays.

Louth Playgoers Says about the show:

“Directed by John Hewer and Musically Directed by Chris Peters once more our talented young people take to the stage for their annual summer workshop production.
This year they have chosen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – the Musical as their challenge for 2017. Almost two weeks of hard work culminates in three impressive performances of this popular musical.
Synopsis: Two con men, a beautiful woman and the elite of the French Riviera collide in this sexy and irreverent farce.
Based on the popular 1988 MGM film, this hysterical comedy features a delightfully jazzy score by David Yazbek (The Full Monty) and was nominated for a staggering 11 Tony Awards”

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The young people did brilliantly well and I was not disappointed for one moment.  The main roles of Lawrence Jameson and Freddy Benson were played by Ed Mapletoft and Jack Lovett; the way they both played their opposite characters worked really well together.  Ed brought the classy, suave sophistication with what looked like with incredible ease whilst Jack produced some hysterically brash, loud and overstated comedy.  A brilliant portrayal by both, especially as Lawrence was trying to teach Freddy how to win women, having his work cut out as Freddy was usually only in it to make a quick few bucks.  Jack as Freddy and especially Ruprect was the highlight of my evening; having seen the previous CAODS production, to be honest I wasn’t sure how he was going to match up, but he absolutely did; every element of Jacks performance was outstanding.

I also wanted to mention Beth Adams who played Murial Eubanks, and Matthew Claypole who played Andre (with a brilliant French accent!).  They both played great parts, and the little cameo by Joel Coward (who also played the Hotel Manager and the Policeman) was pure genius – never before have I experienced such a random way of keeping the audience amused during scene changes!

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Well done to the whole ensemble and the other cast members, you all did brilliantly, remembering all the words, dance moves and keeping the audience very well entertained.  I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of you in future LPG productions!

It was great to see and hear a live band which were a lovely addition to the show; Musical Director and Keys 1 – Christopher Peters, Key 2 and Violin – Amy Baker, Reeds – Mike Wood, Trumpet – Andrew Taylor, Trombone – Mark Tong, Bass Guitar – Chris Smith, Percussion and Drums – Stuart Spendlow.

The Director was John Hewer and Choreographer was Rebecca Miles.  Sound Design – Christopher Peters, Lighting Design and Operator – Jamie Harris, Sound Operator – John Hewer and Chloe Jackson, Follow-Spot Operators – Robbie and Holly Mapletoft, Set Design – Jean Bradshaw and Malvina Willis, Costumes – Fern Garland, Christine Cliffe and Barbara Vickers.

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Cast (in alphabetical order)

Beth Adams – Muriel Eubanks

George Adams – Bellboy, Sailor & Ensemble

Emilia Berriman – Woman (solo) & Ensemble

Charlotte Bushell – Jolene Oakes

Matthew Claypole – Andre

Jade Fraser – Maid & Ensemble

Joel Howard – Hotel Manager, Policeman & Ensemble

Jemima Jefferies – Woman (solo), Violinist & Ensemble

Carrie-Ann Leahy – Conductor, Nun & Ensemble

Saskia Lewis – Desk Clerk, Dancer & Ensemble

Jack Lovett – Freddy Benson

George Maher – Porter, Sailor & Ensemble

Ed Mapletoft – Lawrence Jameson

William Mapletoft – Bellboy, Sailor & Ensemble

Beth Raithby – Renee & Ensemble

Erin Ramsay – Sophia, Nun & Ensemble

Lydia Reeves – Lenore, Nun & Ensemble

Erica Slonskyj – Christine Colgate

Jade Smith – Usherette & Ensemble

Mollie Tunnicliffe – Waitress, Croupier & Ensemble

 

Well done to everyone – congratulations!

Rehearsal Photographs courtesy of Andy Evans (and Facebook!)

 

Musical Mayhem – Stardust – Thursday 3rd August – Walesby Village Hall

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I really had no idea that the concert I was invited to attend by my good friend Dawn Wilson was anything other than an evening of songs from the musicals until I arrived and realised that the youngsters taking part all had a common interest – Stardust

James, Alice, Emily, Emily, Martha, Rosy and Stephenson were the performers and did a fantastic job of entertaining the sell out audience with their renditions of songs from popular musicals and shows, a lot of the songs I recognised and loved, while others were less well known but equally enjoyable.  I recognised at least one of the team, Stephenson, who had performed in a show I’d seen previously, The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe – Lincoln Minster School.

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The group had obviously worked hard on the programme, choosing a great variety of music, showing comedy, romance as well as showcasing all their individual talents, they obviously all had a great time performing, as much as the audience, and I, loved their performances.

 

The pianist did a fabulous job with some of the accompaniment, and also a lovely solo piece, and Charles Cooper behind the curtain manning the music and backing tracks also did a great job, thankfully he got his chance to join the team on stage at the end for his well earned bow!

The whole show was professional and its fabulous to see such great talent in our local community.  I for one, can’t wait to see where these young people end up – I’m sure we’ll be watching some of them performing on much bigger stages in the years that come.  Well done to all!

Here’s their full names to watch out for them…  Alice Joyce, Emily Bland, Emily Zehetmayr, Martha Stewart, Rosy Smith, Stephenson Catney and James Sprague

I believe across both the matinee and evening performance raised a fabulous £1,010 and an NCS coffee morning the day after in Louth raised £460. There was also a sponsor for the event, NFH Consultancy Ltd so now have £2,165 and are able to offer all 15 students selected a fully funded place this term!

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For those that may not have heard of Stardust before, here’s some background information:

More than 11 million people in the UK are classified as disabled; figures made up primarily of adults over the age of 65, but also including children and young adults, who for one reason or another, face more day to day obstacles than the average person. While suitable education and extracurricular groups are often accessible for under 19’s with additional needs, choices are limited for young adults. Sara Sprague, a Lincolnshire mother, certainly found this to be the case when her daughter, Brianna, recently left school to begin her adult life in the community. In this unique story, you will see how Sara, Brianna and her family challenged the odds, and their relentless determination has shown that they are far more than just a statistic.

Following her first performance in “Peter Pan” Brianna became an active member of the Lincoln theatre group New Youth Theatre from the age of six, where she had the freedom to express herself through song and dance, despite being non-verbal for many years. A brain injury at just three days old limited Brianna’s development, and although she was just months behind her peers hitting milestones as an infant, the gap soon began to show. Access to equine therapy allowed Brianna to walk at two and a half, but when she began to fall behind her peers significantly, her parents discovered ‘FISDAC Academy’ which enabled her to continue with her love of musicals, whilst also being able to accommodate Brianna’s additional needs.

Unfortunately, the effects of puberty caused Brianna to suffer up to fifteen epileptic seizures each day, but by the age of sixteen they had increased to over 100. The inability to socialize or even achieve an enjoyable quality of life could later have become detrimental to her mental health, had Sara not begun to look for alternatives. The organisation “Chicken Shed”, a ‘fully inclusive’ theatre group looked ideal but was based in London, while the only similar, existing groups in Lincolnshire ran only as evening classes, and so were inaccessible to Brianna, as her epilepsy limits her to just a few hours of activity each day.

In 2014, Brianna joined St Francis School in Lincoln, which was equipped to cope with her additional needs in a safe environment, allowing her to reach her full potential. Through the school Brianna was able to participate in more theatre productions, even taking on main roles as her confidence grew, but in 2016 concerns were raised about how the young people could continue their passion for drama upon leaving school. Discussions with parents, Rachel Pavitt and Jo Slack, around the issue inspired Sara to formulate plans for a unique theatre group in Lincolnshire, specifically for young people ages 18-25, with additional needs, enabling Brianna and her peers to maintain their love for musicals and performing.

Quickly, the idea began to become a reality, and with fund raising events organised, and huge support from the Lincolnshire charity “Every-one”, the goal for STARDUST was to start sessions in September 2017. The unique organisation will be able to provide for up to 15 students per term, running from 9:50am-12:15pm on Thursday mornings, at St Francis school, with the sessions delivered by ‘New Youth Theatre’. STARDUST is built on the ethos of ‘Inclusion, Creativity, Positivity, Choice’, but funding is still desperately needed in order to deliver these sessions, as well as providing similar classes on weekends and in other areas of the country in the future.

On top of basic care needs, extra-curricular groups like STARDUST are a vital resource for these young people, as well as their carers. A local NCS group are currently working to raise awareness of the social issues around young adults in this instance, as well as raising funds for the new drama group. Organisations like STARDUST provide an essential and valuable safe haven for young adults like Brianna; in an environment where they can meet and make friends, while enjoying a shared passion for singing, dancing and performing, as well as the sense of achievement that comes with it. If you would like to be a part of making this dream a reality, contact stardust@every-one.org.uk

The group have found their song which epitomises their ethic and really tells the story of what they’re all about – they ended the performance with this rousing rendition!

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