|The National Youth Music Theatre|
The NYMT is a many-headed creature. It works with young people aged 10-19 in many directions and on many different levels but there is one basic characteristic which is common and central to everything it does, namely every young person, regardless of their talent, background or training, can always learn and grow from the ensemble experience which is ‘music theatre', in the broadest sense. Over the years, we have seen countless young people touched by their experience with the company in ways they never expected or knew about. They have discovered things they never knew they could do (and discovered there are things they can't do!). They have grown in confidence and stature and, most valuable of all, have made friends who frequently remain friends for life. [add text.]
Today the NYMT offers opportunities to thousands of young people each year. It mounts major productions in the world's finest and most prestigious theatres; and it develops new work with writers, composers and choreographers through a programme of creative workshop opportunities to any child who wants to participate.
It all started, by accident. In 1976.
The Ballad of Salomon Pavey was a triumphant success at the school where it was performed by a cast of 11-13 year olds in a tent in the grounds.'
We put up another tent in Edinburgh and won a Fringe First award! The show was invited to London in 1977 as part of the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations at The Young Vic. It was official so the press had to come. They did and they loved it. It was televised. It was published. Sam Wanamaker saw it and requested it for the theatre he was yet to build; (it went to Shakespeare's Globe in October 2000!) and The Ballad of Salomon Pavey was the first production by the company that was to become first the Children's Music Theatre, (then, in 1985, the National Youth Music Theatre).
Edinburgh became a regular fixture. In 1979 we took over and ran the George Square Theatre which became the NYMT's home for 17 years. New work, exciting music and brilliant and dangerous young performers were our trademark. Because of the exciting work which emerged and the high production standards which were achieved, fine directors, designers, choreographers, writers and composers were all happy to work with us. This, in turn, encouraged more and more interesting and interested young people to audition for us. It also resulted in invitations from festivals, TV and radio companies and major touring theatres round the world. In 1979 Tin Pan Ali played at The Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End at the invitation of Ray Cooney.
In 1981, Captain Stirrick was invited to the National Theatre's Cottesloe and the next year toured to Hong Kong. Granada TV commissioned two new works from us (The Roman Invasion of Ramsbottom and Witches!) , as did the BBC (Bendigo Boswell and The Ragged Child).
The change of name in 1985 had to happen. The word ‘children' had gone out of fashion (our top age was now up to 18) and we were a national institution. In 1986 Frank Dunlop honoured the company by including The Ragged Child and Let's Make an Opera in his Edinburgh International programme. Both the Royal Opera House and Sadler's Wells wooed the company. HRH The Prince Edward, now The Earl of Wessex, agreed to become our President. Nationwide came on board as chief sponsor. A regular christmas season at Sadler's Wells and a summer season in Edinburgh were enhanced by easter and October trips to major theatre venues like of The Swan at Stratford, the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, Glyndebourne, and tours to New York, Toronto, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taiwan Norway and Greece.
In 1991, when the Nationwide sponsorship drew to a close, Andrew Lloyd-Webber generously took over the reins and gave the company a new lease of life which included an extraordinary short season on Broadway in the 2,600 seat City Center Theater which we packed with The Threepenny Opera and Pendragon - which won Critic's Choice in the New York Times and which also won the coveted HAMADA Edinburgh Festival Award.
Bugsy Malone proved an unexpected hit in 1996, so much so that it transferred to the Queen's Theatre in the West End at Christmas 1997 for an 11 week capacity run, sadly terminated when the author, the only person in the world, it would seem, who didn't enjoy the piece, withdrew the rights! The sadness of Bugsy was, in retrospect, countered by the delight of discovering an important new writing team in the form of Howard Goodall and Charles Hart whose version of ‘She Stoops To Conquer’ (The Kissing Dance) opened the new Linbury Theatre at The Royal Opera House in 1999 and will become a classic and whose latest work for the company, The Dreaming, has recently been recorded on CD. The NYMT in 2000 were the first company to visit the new Glyndebourne Opera House with a new production of The Ragged Child.
Alongside the regular programme of open access Music Theatre Workshop projects which explore the creation of new work and which in 2003 took place in Belfast, Durham, Newcastle, Thetford, Wolverhampton, Sherborne, Barnstaple, Edinburgh, London, Birmingham and Cardiff, most recent work includes a triumphant production of Oklahoma which opened at the Waterfront, Belfast in 2002, moved to the Cardiff International Festival of Musicals in October and was warmly received by the national press when it came to the West End's Peacock Theatre for Easter 2003 and in the summer of 2003, the NYMT was honoured by Sir Alan Ayckbourn who wrote and directed a new work, Orvin, Champion of Champions, for the NYMT which he presented in his own theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough as part of the theatre's summer season.
The following two years saw a quieter period while the company took stock and drew breat. The period included a programme of development workshops in association with The Disney Corporation and Josef Weinberger to develop new musical theatre works, a major new production of The Dreaming for the Tonbridge Arts Festival and was honoured with the responsibility of providing the entertainement for Her Majesty The Queen at her private dinner to celebrate Her 80th birthday in Windsor Castle in April 2006.
Orvin was new production number fifty-nine in the NYMT's long history and brought the tally of newly commissioned works to thirty. The NYMT is currently working on new productions of Whistle Down the Wind for presentation in the summer of 2008. And the brilliant young performers and musicians and technicians and administrators keep on coming…. Long may they be allowed to do so!
Jeremy James Taylor