Your Midlands and Shropshire am dram guide: Don't be a scrooge, Christmas is coming!
There is definitely a festive feel to the land of am dram at the moment, with the start of the pantomime season and Christmas offerings just around the corner.
Dickens’ iconic tale, A Christmas Carol, must surely be one of the most inventive stories of its time and has seen many, many movie versions, stage adaptations and musicals based on the original book.
It is a wonderful story and one which although is a little morbid in parts, certainly makes you really stop and think about the true spirit of Christmas and how we should all endeavour to live our lives.
Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society is performing A Christmas Carol at the Birmingham Alexandra Theatre from November 26-30.
My Am Dram Stars of the Week are the two boys who share the role of Tiny Tim in the show.
Nine-year-old Joey Unitt told me: “I loved The Wizard of Oz when I was little and this made me want to sing, dance and act so I joined a part time stage school when I was five.
"I first became involved in am dram in 2017 when I played Harry Finfer in Miracle on 34th Street with BMOS. I was also in the children’s ensemble for Half a Sixpence this summer and have just finished playing an Oakmoor Student in Nativity! The Musical at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre."
Joey clearly loves his role: “I like him very much because he is a kind, honest boy who is content with what he has and he loves everyone; and he loves Christmas, just like me!” he said.
He continued: “My dream role would be to play Michael Banks in Mary Poppins The Musical and so - I’m going to keep working hard and doing what I love.”
Eleven-year-old Connor Dodds shares the role with Joey.
Connor said: “I first got into theatre after watching My Fair Lady along with my twin sister Caitlin. After hearing us singing, a member of the BMOS committee approached our parents and recommended we audition for the next show which was Miracle on 34th Street.”
Connor continued: “Tiny Tim loves his family very much as they look after him so well as he is quite a poorly boy. They don't have much money, but they are just happy being together and that's why I love playing the role.”
Wise words from the youngster.
Connor is keen to continue to work alongside his sister.
“My dream roles would be anything in Bugsy Malone or Jeremy in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with my twin sister Caitlin playing Jemima,” he told me.
The children will no doubt steal the show, but of course it is the role of Scrooge which is coveted amongst male character actors. In this production, Alistair Jolliffe plays the miser.
“I've been involved with musical theatre for the last thirty years; starting at university and then getting involved in local theatre groups depending on where I was living at the time,” said Alistair.
He continued, “The infamous character of Ebenezer Scrooge, his miserly way of life and then his ultimate redemption and forgiveness through understanding the error of his ways, is a message that still resonates with people today.
"I like the fact that if someone as miserable as Scrooge can rediscover his love of life, then there is hope for us all, which I guess explains its enduring popularity.”
Scrooge is a difficult role to play, so I asked Alistair what has been the most challenging aspect for him?
“Avoiding the temptation to portray Scrooge as a caricature or panto baddie and instead, trying to show his human side; the truth behind his isolation and loneliness and the gradual realisation of what he needs to do to change.
"The audience will then be able to empathise with the character and the emotional journey he goes through,” he said.
It must surely be a dream role for a character actor. Here is what Alistair had to say.
“I've already been lucky enough to have performed my top bucket list roles over the years - Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady and Fagin in Oliver! and now the part of Scrooge which was definitely up there as a dream role too.”
Treat your family to this wonderful festive favourite this Yuletide.
Over in Shropshire, Whitchurch Operatic and Dramatic Society is rehearsing for their latest production, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical, The Sound of Music, to celebrate their 95th anniversary.
Julie Andrews of course famously played the role of Maria in the film version of the story, the tomboyish postulant at an Austrian abbey who becomes a governess in the home of a widowed naval captain with seven children and brings a new love of life and music into the home.
With additional songs not used in the 1965 film and a slightly different placement of well-known songs the stage production remains true to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s vision.
Despite a few differences, the stage production offers the instantly recognisable characters that we have all come to loved and cherish wrapped up in beautiful music and lyrics.
Recently, visitors to the Whitchurch Blackberry Fair were treated to a sneak peak of songs from the show, performed by members of the group. WAODS is reliant on local support and sponsorship to continue to promote theatre and the arts in the town and so they in turn always help by support local events.
It’s a wonderful, uplifting show based on a true story and is guaranteed to become one of your Favourite Things!
Catch The Sound of Music from November 19-23 at the Whitchurch Civic Centre. Tickets are available from Whitchurch Civic Centre Community Hub online via www.waods.net
That’s all for this week. Break a leg!