Tag Archives: Magazine

Guys & Dolls? That should do Nicely-Nicely, thank you.

Coming to Abingdon from Tuesday 29 October to Saturday 2 November 2024.

Guys and Dolls is a classic musical comedy, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The show premiered on Broadway in 1950, where it ran for 1,200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical has had several Broadway and London revivals, as well as a 1955 film adaptation starring Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, and Vivian Blaine.

Packed full of show-stopping musical numbers, it tells a story of low-life gamblers and hustlers in New York City, where finding a safe site for a poker game is the highest priority and a man will bet on anything that moves – including a woman. Even when that woman is a member of the Salvation Army determined to save his soul.

Here’s just a taste of the atmosphere, as Nicely-Nicely attempts to persuade his gambling cronies to stop rocking the boat.

 

You’ve got a Golden Ticket for April 2025.

That’s right, in April 2025 we’ll be debuting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Amey Theatre in Abingdon.  This promises to be a magical week for cast, crew and audience, so make sure you grab your golden ticket when they go on sale later this year.

A Golden Ticket, just for you!!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a musical based on the 1964 children’s novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, with book by David Greig, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman.  As most of us know, it tells the story of Charlie Bucket and his desperate search for the golden ticket that will enable him to enter the secretive Chocolate Factory of Mr Willy Wonka.

The show originally opened at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in June 2013 and almost immediately broke the West End’s record for ticket sales – a record it still holds.  It ran until 2017, when a reworked production moved to Broadway.  It is this Broadway production that was licensed for international touring productions and, later, amateur theatre.

Today, there are professional tours across the US, UK and Australia, but at AOS we have been lucky enough to fit our production between tours, which allows us to create a brand new production for Abingdon.

Learn more about the show’s cast on our Future Productions page here.

Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 is a hit in Abingdon debut.

We worked 9 to 5 to bring a fabulous show to Abingdon in April 2024.

We just wanted to thank our audience for filling the theatre with their enthusiasm and support.  It was so special to see everyone up and dancing along with us each night, enjoying the energy of the music.

Based on the 1980 movie of the same name, that starred Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, 9 to 5: The Musical premiered in Los Angeles in 2008, with all music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. In April 2009 it opened on Broadway, followed by a West End opening in 2012.

9 to 5: The Musical was another of several new productions for AOS in recent years, including All Shook Up and Made In Dagenham9 to 5: The Musical really was tremendous fun, both for the cast and for our audience in the Amey Theatre. Thank you so much for supporting AOS and see you in October for Guys and Dolls.

How we choose our shows – it’s not as easy as you might think

When new members join a musical theatre society, full of wide-eyed enthusiasm and ideas, they often ask the same question.

“Why are we doing Oklahoma! None of my friends have heard of it. Why don’t we do Wicked, or that new production of Frozen – we’d pack the audience in for those.”

At this point, the members of the society’s committee generally sigh and then gently explain the reality of amateur theatre to the innocent new member.

It’s restricted!

First, at any time, the range of shows available to amateurs is limited. If a professional production is being staged, or even being considered, the show will usually be restricted. For Abingdon, the problem is often greater, because we’re considered to be within the gravitational pull of London. This means that, if a professional producer is even heard whistling the overture of a particular show, it’s likely to be restricted. The same show may be available for an amateur production in Yorkshire, but in Abingdon it will be off the table.

Some shows are never released for amateur performance, even when they’re not being performed on the professional stage. These are the crown jewel shows, like Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables, that aren’t generally keen on amateur interpretations. The rights holders will usually laugh scornfully if a society is silly enough to even enquire about them. Oddly, there’s often a children’s version of these shows that will be available for school productions.

A happy chorus

Another important consideration when selecting a show is the range of roles involved and the opportunity for the chorus to be on stage. There may be a great ‘box office’ show available, but if the cast involves four people for most of the show, it would not be a popular choice for the thirty members in the chorus. For a society like AOS, the members’ show fee is a vital part of the show income, so the bigger the cast the better. A show with a cast of four people will cost almost as much to stage as a show with 50 people, and this makes it an unlikely choice.

Will she fly?

Finally, it can be difficult to stage some shows on a budget. For example, Mary Poppins would be a lovely show to perform (if it was available for amateur performance), but the audience would rightly expect to see Mary fly in from the windy clouds and land on the Banks’ doorstep. This moment is truly magical on the West End stage, and even professional touring productions will have the necessary flying equipment, but for an amateur society it would add thousands to the show budget and so rule it out.

It’s not that there aren’t shows available. Amateur societies are constantly being contacted by rights holders offering amazing deals on shows that no one has ever heard about. Then it’s our turn to laugh scornfully. But in general, it’s the rule of supply and demand, with all the power in the hands of the rights holders.

Now, put on your cowboy hat and let’s get on with rehearsing Oklahoma!

AOS gallery now reaches all the way back to 1958

Archives can be dusty, dreary places and that’s certainly been true of the AOS photo archive. For years, shelves full of photo albums from decades of our show history have been gathering dust on a kind member’s spare bedroom wall. And the saddest part of this archive is that no one ever got to look at it.

Our first show, Iolanthe from 1958

So, in recent months, we’ve gradually been working through this archive digitalising as much as we can.  So far, we’ve managed to scan paper photos and 35mm slides from every show we’ve been able to find.  For some shows we’ve found very little, but for others there have been fifty or more images to capture.

Oklahoma 1991
Our production of Oklahoma! from 1991.

All this content is now hosted on the Flickr web site, and is also held in a secure cloud storage area.  You can visit the show archive here.

The work isn’t completed yet.  There are still years worth of programmes to scan and cast lists to include, but we hope to eventually have all this captured so that the passage of time can’t damage it further.

Hired Man 2003
Performing Howard Goodall’s The Hired Man in 2003.

So if you have a few minutes to spare, why not take a trip down memory lane with us.

Top 5 audition tips to help you get that part!

So the audition dates have been published and you’re thinking of going for a principal role. Perhaps you always succeed and play every leading part, or perhaps you’ve never managed to win the role you think you were born to play? Whichever camp you’d place yourself in, here are our top tips for getting through the audition and winning that role.

  1. Be honest with yourself (but dreaming’s good too)

Listen to the director’s description of the character and read the lib carefully. If the director’s looking for an eighteen year old soprano and you’re a fifty year old alto, it’s probably not the right role for you. Similarly, if the part is a tap-dancing leading man and you have two left feet and an in-growing toenail, you might want to think twice. But if you can picture yourself adding something to the character, then give it everything you’ve got.  So, don’t be too hard on yourself – just be realistic.

Auditions1

2. Be prepared

If you really want a role, it’s a good idea to try to learn the audition pieces and practice the songs. You need to sell it to the audition panel and doing this while looking at your lib or forgetting the song is not ideal. Learning the lines shows the panel that you want the part enough to have put in some effort. You should also have a good sense of the character you’re auditioning for. Read the whole lib and look for clues about the person you’re portraying, and listen carefully to the director’s description too.

3. Don’t focus on the wrong things

Using props, costume or wigs in an audition is almost always a mistake. When you’re nervous and on the spot, it’s so easy for props to get you mixed up or confused, and costumes and wigs aren’t what the audition panel are looking for. Put your effort into inhabiting the character without distractions. Focus on the acting and singing and the panel will fill in the missing bits.

Auditions2

4. Nerves can be your best friend

Most people find auditions more nerve-wracking than an opening night. There’s something about being so obviously judged that reduces the most experienced performer to a quivering jelly. So, since you can’t avoid the nerves, use them instead. Plan for them in advance and think about how you can use them to express emotion and depth in the audition pieces. This approach can work for acting and singing, but you need to have thought about how your nerves will affect you and how and where you will use this. When you need power or emotion, your nerves can be the fuel that makes your performance electric.

5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

If there are two parts that you can reasonably audition for, go for both – even if you really, really want only one of them. It never does any harm to show an audition panel what you can do. Auditioning for a second part shows more of your acting ability and more of your voice. It gives you longer to shine. And of course, if you don’t get the part you have your heart set on, you may get the other part. You’ll be disappointed for a time, but at least you have a part in the show.

Those are our top five tips, but if you fail despite these words of wisdom, there’s bound to be a place for you in the chorus. No show is a great show without a great chorus. Even when the principals are excellent, a poor chorus performance can ruin the atmosphere. So be a part of that well-oiled machine that is a great musical production – you’ll still have a wonderful time.

Hand to Mouth: the financial tightrope of musical theatre

In the far off olden days, before on-demand TV, boxed sets, Netflix and hundreds of freeview channels, families would often go to the theatre for entertainment. Of course, the cinema was also popular, but live theatre attracted huge audiences and thriving amateur theatrical societies were to be found in most small towns.

Today, many of those societies have disappeared or are struggling to survive. Audiences have shrunk, members (especially men) are harder to recruit, and production costs have gone through the roof.

Soaring costs

This last issue, the cost of putting on a show, is a critical one, as smaller audiences mean lower ticket sales and reduced income. The danger is that eventually ticket sales don’t cover the costs, and the society is forced to cut back on performances, which makes it even harder to find new members. It’s a spiral that many never recover from.

In Spring 2017, AOS staged the musical Annie for six performances, running Tuesday to Saturday evening, with an additional matinee performance on Saturday afternoon. The rights to stage the show for those six performances, plus the hire of the theatre, cost us £12,500. At an average audience ticket price of £14.50, this means that we needed to sell over 850 tickets just to cover those initial costs.

Hire of the musical scores cost over £1,000, while costumes, lighting, sound and scenery cost another £7,000. In total, and after being extremely careful with every penny spent, Annie cost just under £28,000 to stage. This means that we needed to sell over 1,900 tickets just to break even on the show. That’s a tall order for a small market town in rural England in the twenty-first century.

Selling out

If every performance was completely sold out, our seating capacity of over 2,500 for the week would mean we’d be in profit for the show, but that’s very hard to achieve these days. This means that any loss on a show has to be borne by the members, which means increasing the show fees we have to charge the cast, and that makes it harder to recruit the new members we need.

This is the tightrope we walk today – trying to manage costs, while filling the theatre, and attracting new members. And we do this for two major shows each year. It can be stressful, to say the least, and it’s only something we do as a hobby, so it’s a good thing that we love musical theatre enough to keep balancing along that tightrope for year after year, determined to keep musical theatre alive in Abingdon. Just don’t look down!

Thank you for helping Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to fly!

October 2023 will live long in the memories of AOS members.  We performed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to sold out audiences all week and got a fantastic reception from each.

All of the cast, stage crew and front of house team would like to thank everyone who came to see us during the week.  The atmosphere you created was magical and the cheers and applause was a great reward for all the hours of rehearsal, set building and setup.

Chitty was a very expensive show to put on in Abingdon, but with the wonderful support we received from our audience, we’re hopeful that we may not only have broken even on the week, but might have made back some of the funds we lost during the Covid lockdowns, when we were unable to perform.

So, a huge thanks to everyone who came out to support live musical theatre in Abingdon.  Now, on with the next show!!

 

STAND UP!! AOS win victory in April 2022

 

Tuesday 19 April – Saturday 23 April 2022

What a fantastic week!!  Thank you, from all of us to all of you.  Here are just a few of the comments we’ve received:

  • “Honestly we were blown away! The vocal talent was just as good as any West End production and I was moved to tears thanks to a powerful story and some beautifully poignant acting. Was expecting a good bit of ‘am dram’ but this was truly professional…5 stars!”
  • “An excellent production – definitely deserved the standing ovation!”
  • “A brilliant show and a very talented cast – well done everyone!”
  • “Such a great show – West End quality and length, with humour, pathos, action and dancing, effective props and simple staging. The story was easy to follow!”
  • “Was a brilliant show as always – loved it!”
  • “Fantastic production of Made in Dagenham tonight. What a huge amount of talent on one stage! We thoroughly enjoyed it!”
  • “This is indeed a West End quality production, and in music, vocal and harmony terms, arguably better. Outstanding!”
  • “Superb in every way! Wow! Who needs to go to the West End?”
  • “Wonderful evening, brilliant show, thoroughly enjoyed it.”
  • “The acting and singing was brilliant, the band was very tight, the general movement and choreography was fabulous. But most of all, the set was SPECTACULAR!”

 

All Shook Up – a big THANK YOU from us all!

We were all extremely anxious in the lead up to October’s All Shook Up.  We knew that our audience would be much smaller than normal, as we’d decided to implement social-distancing in our ticket sales.  But we really didn’t know whether our audience would be ready to return to the theatre as the long tail of this pandemic drags on.  And we didn’t know whether a much smaller audience would create the wonderful atmosphere that we all love in the Amey Theatre.

All Shook Up

So, this post is just to say an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who came along to see the show, for clapping and cheering, for joining us in the finale dance, and just for being your wonderful selves.  All Shook Up was a sell out.  By Thursday of show week there wasn’t a ticket to be had.  We even had to start a waiting list for any cancellations.  You were the stars of the week.

So, now we move on with a little more confidence toward Made In Dagenham in the Spring of 2022.  We’ll always look back on 2020 as the year we lost – the first time in over 60 years that AOS didn’t entertain Abingdon.  But now we’re back, and with an audience like this, we can’t wait for the curtain to go up again.