March 11 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
A Norfolk theatre company has vowed to make its latest production a heartfelt tribute to an inspiring young cast member who died the day the show was due to open.
Twenty-three-year-old Gary Higgs was due to be in Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society’s show Anything Goes at Norwich Theatre Royal this week, alongside his new wife Stephanie Moore, who he married On Friday.
But instead the production of the Cole Porter musical has became a tribute to Mr Higgs, who had lived with cystic fibrosis and who died on Monday, the day the show opened.
David Pulling, NNOS chairman, said Anything Goes would be dedicated to Mr Higgs, and collections would be made for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust after each performance.
“It is going to be the strongest show we have done for years, to show the love that everybody had in the society for this young lad,” he said.
Mr Higgs, who was from Holt and living in Norwich, had been due to play the part of John and it would have been his third NNOS production. His new wife Stephanie, who he got engaged to in Disneyland Paris in February last year, was also due to play Erma.
Mr Pulling said: “I first met Gary four years ago when he was in a production of Half a Sixpence with Cromer and Sheringham Operatic and Dramatic Society.
“As a result of seeing him there we invited him to audition for Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society.
“In 2012 he joined us in the role of Barnaby in Hello, Dolly! and as a result of his performance of Barnaby we supported him through summer school (Ripon Operatic Summer School).”
Mr Pulling said: “He had natural talent when it came to acting. He was a pleasure to work with and an inspiration.”
He added: “He is an inspiration to all in his dedication. He never once complained about his illness. He was constantly dedicated and committed to the roles that he took on and he never once failed us...everybody could see how theatre was a huge part of his life.”
Mr Pulling said that Mr Higgs had been coping well with rehearsals for Anything Goes until shortly after Christmas.
He said: “We kept the part open for him, hoping and praying that he would recover and would be able to perform. However, a couple of weeks ago we learned that he probably would not be strong enough.”
Members of NNOS were told Mr Higgs had passed away shortly before the show opened on Monday, and Mr Pulling said the cast had been determined to make the opening night one of their strongest performances ever in Mr Higgs’ memory.
Last night at the end of the show Andrea Ferguson, who plays the role of Reno Sweeney, told the audience: “Tonight’s performance is being dedicated to Gary Higgs a member of the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society who passed away earlier this week.
“Gary and his wife Stephanie were due to join us on stage as part of the cast of Anything Goes.
“With the permission of his family we are taking a collection in aid of the Norfolk branch of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. As you leave this evening you will see the stewards on the doors holding buckets, please give generously to this worthwhile charity.”
Earlier yesterday Peter Wilson, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “Everyone at the theatre is very sad to hear of Gary’s death. On behalf of my colleagues, I send our condolences to Gary’s family and friends.”
• Anything Goes at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday. Visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
• Anybody who would like to make a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in memory of Mr Higgs can contact Mr Pulling via www.nnos.co.uk