A Weymouth theatre group which produces some of the West End's brightest new stars is celebrating 35 years of entertaining the town. JOANNA DAVIS finds out more about what gives these young talented performers the WOW factor.
A MUSICAL theatre group is marking a very special anniversary this weekend.
WOW Youth Musical Theatre was set up in Weymouth 35 years ago and is marking the milestone with The Wow Show at Weymouth Pavilion tonight and tomorrow.
This scintillating showcase of song and dance features numbers from a diverse range of musicals as well as popular music to suit all tastes. It includes newer musicals raved about on Broadway like Disney’s Newsies and Hamilton, which doesn’t open in London until November.
There will be a Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang medley and a selection of numbers from Rent, which the older members have really enjoyed rehearsing.
A firm favourite is the Pajama Game, which leads into the finale of Act 1, a fast moving Rock ‘n’ Roll section
Opening Act 2 is the very popular, hip-hop influenced, Broadway musical Hamilton. It draws on many musical styles and its remarkable use of the rhythm of rap to tell a dramatic tale is something new for WOW. The rest of the programme is taken from 70 years of musicals and includes items from shows such as Thoroughly Modern Millie,'Mack and Mabel, School of Rock, Half a Sixpence, Hair, The Sound of Music, Carousel and finally 42nd Street.
The final performance of The Wow Show tomorrow evening will mark 35 years to the day since the group was started on April 22 1982.
The WOW show is directed and choreographed by Martine Burt, who won a prestigious National Operatic And Dramatic Association award for outstanding choreography for the 2013 WOW Show.
Her 2015 compilation show also won the Best Youth Production in the whole of the south west area.
WOW president and co-founder Janet Stockley said: “This is quite an achievement and gives us all something to rise to!”
Commenting on the 42nd Street finale, Janet Stockley also remarked how thrilled she was that former WOW member, Charlotte Steen, and Leah Harris from Weymouth were in the new production of this show, opening shortly in Drury Lane.
Musical director, Heather Reed, has been rehearsing the cast since November and will be leading the quintet of professional musicians that makes up the band.
WOW has a very proud history of its 'graduates' going on to experience success in musical theatre.
Its members range in age from 10 to 18.
Several former members are training in musical theatre at London colleges and many have gone on to perform in West End shows such as Chicago, Legally Blonde, Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, Miss Saigon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz to name a few.
Janet says the success of WOW 'amazes' her.
She added: "It makes me realise how lucky we are to have all this talent on our doorstep. ”
Asked to pick one from all her memorable moments, Janet said: “I would have to say when WOW performed in a national showcase at the London Palladium. We have some wonderful memories from that trip and I will never forget walking onto the Palladium stage to conduct a 30-piece orchestra!”
Over the years WOW’s productions have picked up many awards from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA). Most recently, the 2015 WOW Show, directed and choreographed by Martine Burt won two awards, including for Best Youth Production in the South West region.
WOW Youth Musical Theatre is an educational charity that develops the confidence, teamwork and talent of 10-18 year olds by performing high quality musical theatre. A professional creative team sets each production to the highest standards culminating in a ‘show week’ that gives members the thrilling experience of performing to large theatre audiences with professional musicians, sound and lighting.
Annual auditions are massively oversubscribed with around 10 places available.
Chairman Alan McKechan says he is 'very proud' to be chairman of a group that has achieved so much
He added: "I would like to thank all those who come to our shows, work with and support us. We are always on the lookout for new volunteers so please don't hesitate to contact us if you are interested in helping."
WOW relies on ticket sales and the loyal support of audiences for the vast majority of its income. A committee of unpaid volunteers give freely of their time to run WOW.
*The Wow Show is at Weymouth Pavilion tonight and tomorrow evening with an extra matinee performance tomorrow. Call the box office for tickets.
(22nd April) Co-founded by Janet Stockley and Pauline Wooten for children who took part in Weymouth Operatic Society’s (WOS) production of Oliver! and who ‘Wanted more’. Janet is still active as the group’s President.
1984 WOW Committee formed to run group separately from WOS.
1987 Started performing at Weymouth Pavilion with professional directors after sell-out shows at local schools and colleges.
1997 15th anniversary - Me and My Girl directed by Thelma Parish. Twenty years on, this show will be the November 2017 production.
1999 WOW performed at the London Palladium as part of a showcase celebrating the centenary of the NODA, receiving a special award for their performance.
2002 Heather Reed becomes Musical Director
2003 Moved into own premises after a strong fund raising committee, under the chairmanship of the late Peter Cotton, raised the deposit.
2003 - 2017 Staged 42nd Street with 14-year-old Charlotte Anne Steen in the cast. Fourteen years later Charlotte is in the West End production, which opened this April!
2007 25th anniversary production - Les Miserables at Weymouth Pavilion.
2008 Open air performances of Les Miserables at the Nothe Fort, some of which had to be curtailed due to heavy rain, much to the disappointment of the cast who wanted to continue!
2010 Martine Burt becomes the first former member to direct and choreograph a WOW production – a song and dance showcase.
April 20-22 35th Anniversary production – The WOW Show – a scintillating song and dance showcase, directed by Martine Burt.