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Your Midlands and Shropshire am dram guide

By Alison Norton | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

Youth theatre groups often get much better opportunities to perform popular modern shows than their adult counterparts.

Fame The Musical

Shows such as Miss Saigon and Les Misérables are all available for young performers, but we oldies have to wait!

Another show which is proving popular amongst youth theatres of late is Fame.

Fame provides an open look at the New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, where sweat and hard work are the key factors to a successful life as a performer.

The plot follows a group of students across the acting, dancing and music faculties from 1980-1984 as they learn to master their craft and grow up alongside each other, rising to the various challenges that face them.

Of course, there is heartbreak and tears along the way and it really is a candid look at life as a would-be star.

One group who have taken on Fame as their New Year project is Split Mask Theatre Company, who perform at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cannock.

Formed in 2015, the aim of this group is to produce creative, quality theatre and to engage and empower young people in the art of performing.

Spokesperson for the group, Tom Truby, said: “Split Mask Theatre is a local theatre group whose aim is to produce quality theatre in the local community and to engage and inspire our performers to do what they love.

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"Fame will mark the fifth year of productions and our largest cast yet. As ever, we are so grateful for all the support we receive from our ever-growing audience.”

Those of you who remember Fame the TV hit series from the 1980’s will recognise many of the characters in the show, but the songs are different.

The music by Steve Margoshes and lyrics by Jacques Levy includes the numbers Hard Work, Dancin’ on the Sidewalk, Bring on Tomorrow and of course, the title song which we all know and love.

In this production, Jenna Martin takes the role of Serena, with Aaron Shelley as Nick, Kelly Forrester as Carmen and the aptly named TJ Choongh as Tyrone Jackson. Katie Rowley plays teacher, Miss Sherman.

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The show runs from February 13 to 15 with performances at 7.30pm nightly.

For tickets, priced from £12.50, visit http://www.princeofwales.live/ or call 01543 578762. To join the group, visit their Facebook page or email splitmasktheatre@hotmail.com.

At Forest Arts Centre in Walsall from January 30 to February 1, you can catch a production of the ever-popular musical Annie.

This is the perfect vehicle for the resident youth group there and tells the tale of brave young red-head, Annie, who lives a life of misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.

Annie’s luck changes however when she's chosen to spend a fairy tale Christmas with a famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks.

Meanwhile, the spiteful Miss Hannigan, her gangster brother Rooster and his moll, Lilly St. James have other ideas and so they hatch a plan to spoil Annie’s search for her true family and pocket some serious money at the same time.

The score of this best-loved show includes It’s a Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, Tomorrow and Little Girls.

For tickets priced at £15 and £13 for concessions, visit www.walsallarena.com or call 0300 555 2898.

The Fellowship Players based at the Grange Playhouse in Walsall, are presenting a classic thriller from February 6 to 15; Towards Zero.

Although Agatha Christie often takes the credit for this murder mystery, it was in fact penned in collaboration with fellow author, Gerald Verner.

Billed as a nail-biter, the plot probes the psychology of jealousy in the shadow of a savage and brutal murder.

When an elderly widow is murdered at a clifftop seaside house, what is the connection between a failed suicide attempt, a wrongful accusation of theft against a schoolgirl, and the romantic life of a famous tennis player?

To the casual observer, apparently nothing. But when a house party gathers at Gull’s Point, the seaside home of the deceased, earlier events come to a dramatic head.

For tickets priced at £10 each, call 01922 630495 or visit www.fellowship-players.co.uk.

The Invisible Man is of course best-known as a masterpiece by H. G. Wells, but there is now also a brand-new comedy stage adaptation by Derek Webb, which Hall Green Little Theatre will perform from January 31 to February 8 at their own premises in Pemberley Road, Birmingham.

With just three actors playing all the parts, including railway porters, vicars, policemen, a crowd of people and The Invisible Man himself, you won’t want to miss this fast-moving and very funny play.

For tickets, visit www.hglt.co.uk or call 0121 707 1874.

Finally this week, thanks to the generous support of the Heritage Fund and Sir Barry Jackson Trust, the pupils of Birmingham Ormiston Academy will be bringing two new and exciting youth projects to the stage of the Old Rep Theatre in February 2020.

The first is entitled Ghost Light, a production developed entirely by the students and a former BOA student, the writer-supervisor Sam Simkin.

Inspired by the stories of people who lived in the famous Birmingham Back to Back houses, The Ghost Light is the tale of a young man returning to his home after the war.

The second performance is entitled Our Old Rep and is a showcase which two youth groups, aged between 8 to 19, have spent 6 months creating. It’s a brand-new musical-inspired performance, based on the history of The Old Rep.

Take a whistle-stop tour through the theatre’s history, from its first performance, to the role of its workers in the World Wars, to its most recent, exciting, youth-focused productions, The Youth Theatre Showcase will bring the history of The Old Rep to life through the work of young and exciting talent today.

The Ghost Light takes place on February 2 at 2pm and 5pm, and The Old Rep Youth Theatre Showcase takes place on February 15 at 11:30am and 2:30pm. Both are ‘Pay What You Can.’

For further information please contact Sam George on sam.george@oldreptheatre.co.uk or 0121 359 9441.

Well that’s all for this week, please keep those emails and good quality colour photos coming to a.norton@expressandstar.co.uk, call me on 01902 319662 or follow me on Twitter @AlisonNorton or on Facebook.

Break a leg!

Alison Norton

By Alison Norton
@AlisonNorton

Theatre critic and unofficial 'am dram queen' for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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