NHS, We Thank You

The “Chess” cast in rehearsal
The “Chess” cast in rehearsal

Durham Musical Theatre Company will remember the ‘Ides of March’ with as much portent as did Julius Caesar, for 15th March 2020 was the day of their final floor rehearsal for their upcoming production of “Chess”, before lockdown intervened and threw a spanner in the works. This was only 9 weeks before the show was due to be staged. So much work had already gone into the production, that made DMTC feel that cancelling the show was out of the question.

2019 saw the company performing in Durham’s wonderful GALA Theatre, the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic musical “Evita”. This show was a huge hit with audiences and was a complete sell-out before opening night. Great reviews followed the performances and the company was rewarded by being given two National Operatic and Dramatic Association Awards for the show, the first for ‘Best Musical Production’ and the second for ‘Best Individual Performance’ in a musical, which went to Shireen Gale for her outstanding assumption of Eva Perón.

Poster for “Chess”

The ABBA musical “Chess” was chosen as a follow-up to “Evita”, to be staged in May 2020. When lockdown prevented that from happening, DMTC postponed the show until March 2021, thinking that everything would be back to normal a year later. How wrong we were! Further lockdown measures prevented rehearsals from taking place and it soon became evident that another postponement was the order of the day. Reluctantly, therefore, the show was postponed again until March 2022. This means it will be three years since our previous production.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

In the meantime, DMTC had been given the performing rights to the fantastic Disney musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Originally this was to have been performed in March 2021, but because of the new dates for “Chess”, this show was also postponed, firstly to March 2022 and then to March 2023. The rightsholders (Music Theatre International) were initially not too happy to allow this, but they understood our predicament and eventually gave the go-ahead, for which we are extremely grateful.

When covid-19 struck, DMTC wanted to do something to show our gratitude to all the health professionals and carers who have given so much to ensure our safety and we came up with an idea of raising money for these amazing people. We decided to present a “We Thank You” Concert, specifically to raise money for the NHS staff.

Our Director – Fred Wharton, Musical Director – Malcolm Moffat and our Choreographer – Kathleen Knox all jumped at the opportunity and together have devised a staged concert of the great songs from the American musicals. Singing rehearsals are still not permitted, but as soon as we are able, DMTC will be preparing to stage this event, hopefully in the GALA Theatre. As the theatre has not yet decided when it is going to re-open, they have not been able to offer us a specific date, but with lockdown measures relaxing now, that hopefully will not be a long time away. We are eagerly awaiting their decision. A special song, called “We Thank You”, has also been composed for the concerts to raise awareness of the huge debt we owe to these wonderful people.

When theatres open again, DMTC hopes that their loyal audiences will continue supporting them and enjoy some more excellent performances in the GALA Theatre. Everyone needs to experience live story telling and DMTC is patiently waiting at the starting gate for the whistle to be blown that will allow them to get back in the saddle and produce high quality musical theatre performances once more for the people of Durham.