Society brings Christmas show back to the Regal

THIS time last year, Stowmarket Operatic and Dramatic Society had a show but nowhere to stage it.

It’s a very different - and much happier - story now though, as members bring Sleeping Beauty to the town’s refurbished Regal.

The company’s last Christmas show - the musical Mr Cinders, based around the Cinderella theme - had to be postponed after the theatre was ravaged by fire.

It was one of 20 live shows and hundreds of movie screenings affected when a blaze outside spread to the main building in September of last year.

“I’d just become chairman of the society then days later got a phone call saying ‘have you heard the news, there’s been a fire at the Regal’. I got in contact with David Marsh, the manager and he kept me updated. It was quite an horrendous phone call to receive,” says Jo Chadwick, who plays the narrator the Minstrel in this year’s pantomime.

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“It’s usually when we sell the most seats for our shows, but obviously the theatre had to be shut all over the Christmas period which was such a shame. I know a lot of the people who have supported us for a number of years were really disappointed.”

Having got so far with rehearsals, the society tried to find another venue when it became clear the theatre wasn’t reopening anytime soon. Being so near to Christmas nowhere was available, leading them to consider cancelling it altogether.

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Instead they postponed it until May, a month after the theatre reopened following a major rebuild of the stage and back area.

“Because we’d chosen Mr Cinders to be on at Christmas it didn’t have the same impact in May. We definitely didn’t sell as many tickets as we would’ve done.

“We got some money back on our insurance to cover the cost of rehearsal rooms and some of the staging we’d already hired..

“We lost a couple of members of the cast because we had to do it at a different time and they couldn’t do it at that time so we had to recast and virtually start rehearsals from scratch.”

Keen to find a positive from the mess, Jo says the theatre is now like new and even better to perform at than before.

“We’re definitely happy to be back, able to do our pantomime. It’s a relief, we’re familiar with the surroundings and all our sets fit the stage.

“We had to change all our electrical plugs and things because the theatre had a complete refit of all the electrics, so some of the older stuff we had that used to work on the older electrics systems had to be upgraded in line with their new systems.

“Things like that have had a knock-on effect, but in a good way I suppose because things were quite old - but it’s all added cost.”

Directed by Pauline Taylor, choreographed by Keely Taylor and with Alan Humphries rejoining the company as musical director, Sleeping Beauty invites you to cheer the dashing prince, boo the evil fairy and enjoy a good old sing-a-long.

A bad fairy curses Beauty after not being invited to her christening. Despite her goody counterpart’s enchanted efforts, when Beauty pricks her finger on a spinning wheel aged 18 she falls into a 100-year sleep.

True love conquers all in the form of a dashing prince, but determined to make the poor girl’s life a misery the bad fairy turns her into a dove before everybody gets to live happily ever after.

“We’re using some sort of magic trick because we’re not allowed to use flashes and pyrotechnics because of the theatre’s insurance,” Jo says wistfully.

The 25-30 strong cast, ranging in age from eight to 50 plus, have been rehearsing for the family show since September.

In keeping with the traditional format, the prince and narrator are played by women and the dame by a man.

“We’ve got upbeat popular songs like Reach by S-Club-7. There’s an audience participation song, we’re doing Wiggly Woo so everybody gets to sing along. There’s a toy ballet the children are doing and a rap song which we thought was quite in at the moment,” she promises.

Sleeping Beauty, by Stowmarket Operatic and Dramatic Society runs from December 27-January 3.

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