Thursday, April 3, 2014
Young men were heading off to fight for their country 100 years ago.
CSODs centenary musical Oliver! is at Cromer Pier from May 24-31.
Show time and ticket information via the box office on 01263 512495 or www.cromer-pier.com
The society is keen to hear from anyone with old pictures, reviews and programmes from shows for its centenary archive. Contact Andrew Payne on 01603 262632 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
But amid the overtures for the First World War, other folk in Cromer were preparing for a happier event – and the birth of a society which has entertained generations of people ever since.
In May 1914 the Cromer Operatic and Dramatic Society staged a self-penned production called Margery Dene in the town hall.
The theme has been lost in the mists of time, but it set the scene for a vibrant society which began staging Gilbert and Sullivan light operettas, but is now best known for its signature spring musical on Cromer Pier, along with dramas staged at its other home, Sheringham Little Theatre.
The group survived two world wars – with short breaks while battles were fought – and two serious batterings of the pier by the 1953 flood and a runaway rig 40 years later.
It also changed names to the Cromer and Sheringham Players in 1923, the Cromer and Sheringham Amateur Operatic Society in 1949 and it recently dropped the amateur tag.
Chairman Andrew Payne said some early minutes from the 1930s showed concerns over covering show costs amounting to £50 – while today’s slick musicals had a price tag of about £45,000.
“People don’t realise that a small- scale am dram show costs so much – from royalties to theatre, costume and orchestra fees.”
Mr Payne, who has done 34 years with the society, said the key to its enduring success was the family atmosphere, teamwork and people being prepared to help behind the scenes even if they were not performing on stage.
Long-serving member Janet Nightingale, who joined in 1965 and went on to be secretary for 13 years and chairman for 10, said “It was not so sophisticated in those days. We only had a few mics on the front of the stage, so we had to project our voices.
“But it was great fun – with friendships made for life, parties on the stage at the end of the show and we went home with the milkman.”
Both are involved with the centenary year music Oliver! currently in rehearsal – Janet as a housekeeper, Andrew as stage manager.
The show was chosen for the big year because it was box office smash – and was also helping the society build up its funds after some leaner times just a few years ago, added Mr Payne.
The centenary was “a nice opportunity to look back” for the society which has won a string of awards over the years, but also a chance to get people involved for the future.”
There were 40 children involved in Oliver! – which was also vital to getting new generations of members to push the society towards its second centenary, he said.
Amateur societies were finding it difficult to find “do-able” new musicals – to make a change from the tried and tested favourites – as many of the current professional shows involved high technology.
“Flying cars are a bit of challenge for groups like us, so we are waiting for shows like Blood Brothers which are more straightforward without technical wizardry,” said Mr Payne.