Special show celebrates 100th anniversary of Woodbridge’s Riverside Theatre

The Riverside 100 show. Photos: Charmian S Berry

The Riverside 100 show. Photos: Charmian S Berry - Credit: Archant

Familiar faces from The Riverside’s history are returning to celebrate the Woodbridge theatre’s 100th birthday. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage spoke to Mike Warden, helming the special anniversary show

The Riverside 100 show. Photos: Charmian S Berry

The Riverside 100 show. Photos: Charmian S Berry - Credit: Archant

So many people wanted to be part of this celebration, Mike has had to hire special containers to serve as changing rooms in the car park. That’s how big the show is.

“We had about 160 people (interested) but some can’t make it so we’ve a cast of approximately 130. The youngest is about three, the oldest are in their early 70s; it’s fantastic. The idea for this very special production was to bring back people, and memories, associated with The Riverside. It’s not an easy thing to keep venues like this going.

“There are tremendous emotions tied into this show. We’ve had people who haven’t done anything on the stage for a while and they’ve come back and learned new tap dancing routines. There’s already been a few tears to be honest, people getting emotional and excited over some of the stuff we’re doing.”

Riverside 100 runs at the theatre from September 4-6. Drawing on a century’s worth of song, dance and music, the show also includes performances from The Company of Four, The Coral Stebbings School of Dance and guests from the world of professional theatre and entertainment.

“(Everybody involved) has performed at The Riverside. We’ve put together a variety show, a compilation of favourites through the ages. There are new costumes, new designs, new routines (too),” says Mike, an original member of the Company of Four who has directed and produced many shows at the theatre in the past.

Staging a show of this size hasn’t been easy, luckily Mike’s had help in the shape of daughter Samantha and son Martin, both of whom have appeared at the theatre and went on to appear in London’s West End; niece Lorraine, Riverside stalwarts June Allum and Kay Goddard plus tremendous support from Woodbridge’s businesses.

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“I’ve also got my dear friends Don Spall and Geoffrey Jacobs involved. This really goes way, way back to the late 1950s-1960s when we were in the Woodbridge Youth Club; that’s where all this stage stuff started. We were encouraged by the youth leader of the day, a gentleman called Harry Reeve. The first stage was built in The Riverside over the seats in 1960 by the youth club. (This show is) a one-off, it’s special because The Riverside means a lot to (all of) us.”

Numbers during the show include appearances from Micky and Minnie Mouse, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and lots more. The Company of Four have their own section, performing routines dating back to the 1960s.

“We want people to remember this, to form a legacy so people can look back at what we’ve done and say ‘I was there for The Riverside 100 show’.”

Click here for the full anniversary programme.

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