The Palace Theatre, Southend on Sea
21-24 October 2015
The Palace Theatre, Southend on Sea
21-24 October 2015
INTRODUCING LEIGH OPERATIC & DRAMATIC SOCIETY'S UNSUNG STARS!
LODS' next production will be Ghost the Musical coming to The Palace Theatre on 21st October. I went along to one of their rehearsals to see how things were coming along and took some time to chat to the members of the Society who are usually behind the scenes, doing the jobs that audience members never get to see or hear about and yet are no less important than those of the principal actors performing on stage.
The backstage crew of LODS are a pretty impressive bunch, to say the least. They cover all departments including costume, props, design, wardrobe, carpentry, stage management and production management. In fact, whilst the rest of the Society is on stage and singing their hearts out for the audience, the backstage crew literally become LODS’ ‘unsung’ heroes!
Pauline Webber, 72, has probably been around the longest having been a member of the group for at least 20 years dealing chiefly in wardrobe and props. Pauline introduced Pam Woodhouse, 73, to the Society and she has been a member for 6 years and also helps with props.
Mo Coulter, 72, joined the group in 1976 because at the time, she confides, “It made a change from being a busy mum. I really enjoyed music and choirs and my husband said we should both have a hobby with a possible choice of it involving politics or music - so we both joined LODS!” she reminisces with a smile.
Chatterbox, Joan Felgate, 68, has been involved in the group for around 12 years. She used to be a professional designer and illustrator of books as well as being a professional dancer and so joining an amateur musical group seemed to be a natural hobby to follow.
Chesca Smith, 26, who works during the day as a Community Centre Administrator at Leigh Town Council, joined the group when they produced Footloose last year has been in charge of Wardrobe for the last 2 shows. I ask her what has been her biggest challenge so far and she informs me, “Doing the Morticia dress for The Addams Family was probably the hardest thing I had to do. I spent hours and hours working on it. Also, having to make and find costumes for the ensemble covering so many different eras - and all in white - was almost impossible!” She says, “The costumes for Ghost aren’t too complicated, to be honest, but we do have a lot of very quick changes - so that will be interesting!” she grins.
Gemma Crofts is an integral part of the team, making props that are needed in the group. She made the dummy for the production of Tommy and after doing a prop making course has forged some good connections in helping to find lots of other props for the group.
Elaine Woolner, 58, got involved with the group around 11 years ago as her sons, Stuart and Adrian were both members at the time. She helped backstage and also with props. Elaine’s son Stuart is now appearing as Sam in the current production of Ghost, with her other son, Matthew, 24, also helping out backstage. For the Woolner’s, it really is a family affair as Stuart and his wife, Sarah, both met through the Society.
Keeping things in the family seems to be quite commonplace in this Society - Joan’s husband, Mick, is performing on stage and Pauline’s son, Nick, who has been visiting from his home Australia for two months, will also be seen on stage in Ghost. Likewise with Chairwoman and Deputy Stage Manager for Ghost, Hilary Williams, whose daughter Tori is also member.
Dave King, 67, calls himself the odd job man and chippy and is proud to say that he has been involved in 25 shows for LODS. “I’ve also been a monster under the bed in the Addams Family, I was hidden in the carousel to turn the motor round in Carousel and I’ve also been a dead body and a waiter!” he laughs. Clearly a man of many talents! For Ghost, however, he will be Stage Manager, which he tells me, is his favourite thing.
Trevor Harp is another member with family ties; his son Luke helps backstage and his nephew, Lawrence is appearing in Ghost as well.
Colin Strange, 69, has been involved with am dram since he was 17 years old and living in Southampton. He is the production manager for the group and co-ordinates everything from the scenery to the sound design. His daughter, Emma, introduced him to the group when they did a production of Jeckyll & Hyde and not wanting to miss out on the family connection stories, he tells me that Emma is married to Dave King’s son, Brian.
I was talking recently to a friend of mine who had done some filming work with tv star and comedian, Ricky Gervais. He was telling me that on the first day of filming, Ricky made a point of telling everyone involved - from the runners to the stars of the show, including himself - that they were all part of a team and that he considered no one person to be more important than the other; “If you’re queuing up for lunch and I come along” he told them, “don’t let me push in front, we’re all here as a team to get a job done, I don’t want any hierarchy.”
And in a way that’s the same kind of feeling I get with these guys. Just as Mr Gervais’s tv show became a huge success, LODS too seem to have adapted a similar team attitude allowing them to create such fabulous productions, which essentially is all down to teamwork.
Moving on, I'm pretty sure that if time permitted, this lot could tell me a few tales gleaned from their years of backstage experiences. However, with the thought that if I hang around too much longer, I could end up related to one of it’s members, (oops - too late) I decide to say my goodbyes and look forward to seeing all of their good work being put to fabulous use during show week.
You can see Ghost the Musical at The Palace Theatre, Westcliff on Sea on 21-24 October
Box Office 01702 351135 www.southendtheatres.org.uk