Past Productions (2011 - Present)
Sunderland Theatre Company have performed a diverse range of different productions over the years.
Here you can find a few examples of our past performances alongside the reports from NODA and some pictures that were taken at the time.
A Night At The Musicals
Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar needs little introduction, a popular rock opera written in 1970 with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. Sunderland Theatre Company gave a modern interpretation of the musical which at times felt like watching a rock concert: the set was minimal and based on rostra and the production was supported with excellent sound and lighting. The small band was superb and the standard of singing throughout was very good. The ensemble was strong vocally and in performance and provided good support to the principal line up.
Caiaphus and Annas portrayed their disdain for Jesus at every opportunity, good characteristation and both gave excellent vocal performances. Simon led the ensemble in a strong rendition of the Simon Zeolotes number and Peter gave a moving vocal performance in “Could We Start Again”.
Herod’s part in the story is short lived, only one song, but as a caricature of Donald Trump complete with wall, made it memorable and he clearly relished in the opportunity to “Trump up” this energetic lighter moment in the production.
The role of Pilate is complex, a short appearance in act one and then intense scenes in act two during the trial and these were confidently portrayed. A first class portrayal of Mary Magdalene with beautiful vocal performances, especially her rendition of “I don’t know how to love him”.
Tha part of Jesus was a passionate performance and came across as the caring, loving person who won over the hearts of his followers; he also showed great pain and distress in his portrayal of “Gethsemane” and his final scenes giving every part of himself to his performance.
Judas was powerful and gave a commanding performance; his vocals were immense and he made every second of his stage time count, never leaving his character; one of the best individual performances I have watched. I thought that Judas’ death scene worked really well with the “dementor” type characters amplifying his torment, this was great theatre. Congratulations to the entire company and production team.
Jack and the Beanstalk
As the winners of last year’s pantomime performance award for District 4 I was so looking forward to see what this group would do this year and from the sell-out audience reaction and the commitment and talent of this group I was not disappointed. Director Brian Leach assisted by Shauna Lebihan certainly added all of the important ingredients that made this fun filled family pantomime remarkable, I loved the musical number choices and sound effects which were perfect and brought the performance to life, the set looked fantastic, the imaginative props and the magic beanstalk all added to the mystery and overall visual appearance of this production.
The principal line up was impressive, each cast member put their all into their characters. No show is complete without a strong chorus in this case the villagers all of whom supported and ensured that this pantomime was delivered professionally.I loved the full ensemble numbers and I thought there was an excellent finally number. Special mention also must go to the panto song with Dame Trott and Simple Simon this is always a children’s performance pleaser. My favorite number “If I Was Not In Pantomime” had the audience rocking in their chairs well done to everyone, hard work pays off and it’s so good to see that traditional pantomimes are as ever popular great entertainment and well delivered, congratulations to everyone on a superb performance.
Celebrate - 125th Anniversary Concert
It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to join the members of Sunderland Theatre Company celebrate their 125th anniversary. In recognition of this special anniversary the company combined there quasquicentennial anniversary with Armistice Day marking 100 years since the end of the First World War. The production team did a sterling job in ensuring that the whole production had that professional feel, under the direction of Brian Leach he ensured that the programme of music covered the whole era of the company’s existence and I was impressed with the range of songs chosen covering some of the musicals performed by the Company, Brian ensured that the production maintained the quality that has come to be expected of Sunderland Theatre Company and the quality of the production was evident from the opening number. Helen Wilson did an exceptional job as choreographer the movements and routines were well choreographed and it was great to see that every member of the group looked comfortable and confident with the routines regardless of their ability. The quality of singing was outstanding thanks to Suzanne Richardson the Musical Director and it was apparent from the quality of the singing that Suzanne had been working with the group as the harmonies were excellent and well rehearsed and delivery was clear and strong. The production team worked wonders to transform Deptford and Millfield Community Centre into a venue to showcase their concert, the stage looked very classical with the stage and flats dressed in black with silver stars this was complemented with the cast all dressed in black with the use of different accessories for each section of the programme giving a professional visual appearance to the production.
This “Celebrate” concert contained five sections showcasing 47 musical numbers. The sections consisted of Gilbert and Sullivan and music up to 1930’s, the 40’s 50’s and 60’s, and the final section in Act one was dedicated to Roger and Hammerstein.
Act 2 opened with the theme music from 1970’s and onwards. The final section brought the cast together in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of World War 1, the stage was transformed with the back cloth of the union Jack which was followed by the bugle playing “The Last Post” this was followed by a minutes silence and cascading poppies gave a sentimental effect, very moving. This section brought a lump to my throat as the audience waved their flags and joined in reflecting the pride of Britain.
This was an action packed concert with an extremely thought out programme, there were some beautiful tones and harmonies delivered by some very talent performers well done to everyone at Sunderland Theatre Company on your quasquicentennial anniversary and thank you for the hospitality from your front of house Staff.
From the moment I walked into the Royalty Theatre, Sunderland I could feel the excitement from the audience who were excitingly waiting to take their seats to see Sunderland Theatre Company perform their latest performance “Fame the Musical”. This high energy show set at the New York City High School for the performing Arts follows the story of a group of talented students as they embark on their training in the performing arts industry. Under the Direction of Brian Leach who has built up a reputation and an eye for detail and vision produced a show stopping performance demonstrating his experience and talent as he drew great performances by arguably some of the North East’s best talented individuals. In terms of the choreography I could have written a full report on this alone there were some excellent high energy imaginative and impressive routines and choreographed individual performances created and designed by Helen Wilson, and it was obvious from the cast’s performance and delivery that an enormous amount of work had been put in from the production team to deliver this standard of work, which to me were good enough in my estimation for any professional stage. Music was in the capable hands of the musical director Jonny Winter and his chosen band, cleverly concealed at the back of the stage these talented musicians delivered. a solid sound ensuring the principals and chorus were well supported. Lighting was excellent which I come to expect from Sunderland Theatre Company, Brian has a passion to create different moods through lighting and in this show there were some clever use of lighting to create the different atmospheres. Whilst this was an easy show to costume, the choice of clothing was appropriate and added to the individual characters. The set was minimal and well designed to make use of the limited space and I particularly liked the taxi designed by Angela Crooks and the projection at the start of the show which I thought was outstanding and set the scene for the rest of the performance.
This vibrant cast brought energy to the production and I felt exhausted watching the thirteen minute opening number “Hard Work” which introduced the individual characters.
Sunderland Theatre Company chose Aladdin to showcase their first pantomime, performed in Deptford and Millfield Community Centre under the Direction of the group’s resident Director Brian Leach. This traditional pantomime included every ingredient that is expected in a pantomime and Aladdin certainly had its special moments. The use of pyrotechnics for the scenes with the Genie and the spirit of the Ring and the ultra violet lighting was visually excellent to simulate the flying carpet. The audience pleaser was when wishee washee went into the washing machine and Little Wishee appeared - its these details for me that makes Sunderland Theatre Company’s shows visually great to review. The range of musical numbers which supported the story, these were well chosen, modern and perfectly suited to a pantomime and the delivery was excellent. There were also some excellent pieces of choreography created by Brian and Megan Crooks, particularly Megan’s interpretation and dance routine to the musical number “Jai Ho”. Visually this was well delivered, and colourful and the audience certainly appreciated it. Praise must also go to the production team, good quality sound and lighting and the costumes certainly enhanced the production and were to a high standard. The set looked fantastic and Angela Crooks gave her support to the group with scenery items and costumes which certainly enhanced the whole production. The principals were all well cast and took the audience on a wonderful and magical journey. The chorus were all fundamental to the production and supported the principals and delivered some great vocals to the musical numbers. There was also comedy at its best. Overall an enjoyable performance excellent standard of acting good interacting with the audience, everyone is to be congratulated for presenting a highly entertaining and enjoyable production from the beginning to end. Well done to everyone involved and congratulations on you first pantomime and I am looking forward to seeing you next venture.
A Night at The Movies
A Night at the Movies was the title of Sunderland Theatre Company’s 2017 concert, and this friendly company of talented people certainly know how to put on a show, the Deptford and Millfield Community Centre may not be the most glamorous of environments but what this company can do with a few lights and some black material, certainly showed how they can use their magical inspiration and turn any environment into a respectful venue to showcase their hard work from both existing and new members. Director Brian Leach ensured that there was something for everyone in the interesting programme and choices of songs; and it was clearly obvious from the quality of the singing that Suzanne Richardson the musical director had been working with the group as the harmonies were outstanding and clearly appreciated by the audience. Choreography was provided by Megan Crooks and the standard was very good. Whilst there is very limited space Megan ensured that each choreographed dance and movement enhanced each performance. The concert brought together a selection of songs, movement and instrumental pieces and with five clearly identified compilations of music it was clear that there was something for everyone. This was an action packed concert with a well thought out programme, there were some beautiful tones and harmonies delivered by some very talent performers well done to everyone at Sunderland Theatre Company and thank you for the hospitality from your front of house Staff.
STCo promised to take the audience back to the disco days of the 1970’s, and this company of talented performers certainly did not disappoint their audience as they performed hit after hit of disco classics. STCo is never afraid of tackling something different and following on from their success with Sunshine on Leith, Boogie Nights was an excellent choice for this company. Under confident direction Brian Leach brought this juke box musical to life with the collaboration of some strong acting performances, powerful singing and a wonderful set which enhanced this slick, fast paced energetic show. Choreography was in the capable hands of Megan Crooks who delivered some well-rehearsed dance sequences and routines which both challenged the cast, brought the songs to life and pleased the audience. Principle cast members delivered a sterling performance with great characterisation and some amazing comic timing, fantastic presence on stage and great vocals to accompany their personalities.No show is complete without the ensemble and these individual members were fundamental in the overall production of this show, their enthusiasm, singing and acting was infectious and as a member of the audience it was hard to take everything in - the colour, costumes and movement were well coordinated and brought the show to life.The dance team were also very much at the forefront of the show and provided us with some terrific numbers of pace, performance, energy and choreographic quality. The overall production was well received by the audience, an excellent evening’s entertainment from start to finish well done to everyone at Sunderland Theatre Company for another fantastic performance.
Journey Through Oz
Sunderland Theatre Group provided an excellent mix of familiar numbers from MGM Wizard of Oz, The Wiz and Wicked together with songs from obscure musicals and soundtracks not previously performed in this country but all connected to the stories of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Hours of research and work sourcing the music must have gone into pulling together such a diverse and interesting programme and it paid off. The opening set the tone with a delightful rendition of Rainbow Connections from The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005) followed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of Over the Rainbow, both were very well performed. The children sang and danced numbers from the original Wizard of Oz (written by L. Frank Baum in 1902!), Rainbow Road to Oz (a 1956 never finished movie), Tin Man (a 2007 Sci Fi mini-series) and Oz the Great and Powerful (2013 movie); a varied and unknown mix of numbers which they took in their stride.
The soloists and small group performances showcased a wealth of talent within the company. The company numbers were without exception well performed, I particularly enjoyed No One Mourns the Wicked (Wicked), Home (The Wiz) and Already Home (Lloyd Webbers Wizard of OZ), harmonies were good and the overall presentation was slick.
Sunshine On Leith
As a show which moves through various locations it gives the director a challenge and this challenge was ably met. Following a powerful opening, the story looks at the friendship of Davy and Ally who attempt to rebuild their lives after leaving the Army. Their girlfriends Yvonne, and Liz, are strong characters and were well played. There were some lovely moments in particular during “Make My heart Fly” and the later scenes where decisions about their future have to be made. Davy’s mother and father, Rab and Jean, are great characters and the actors relished in their portrayal. There were some good scenes of domestic unrest as well as tenderness between the two characters. The company were featured in the ensemble numbers. I particularly enjoyed “Let’s Get Married” and “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)” which had the audience singing along.
The programme for “Harmonise” contained a wide range of numbers from musical theatre as well as popular music, and the company were well supported by the Kathleen Knox Dancers; there was something to suit most musical tastes. Everyone looked smart, and the colour themes reflected in the costume, stage dressing, and lighting plot complemented the programme. The performance flowed very well and moved seamlessly from one number to another. There were many very good performances and, as the title indicated, “harmonies”, but some of the stand-out numbers for me were “Colour My World” (the Company), “Blue Suede Shoes” (Derek Crookes and the dancers), “We’ll Gather Lilacs” (Barbara Simpson), “Bring Him Home” (the Company), “Agony” (Daniel Dryden & Sean Smith) “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (Cara Fowler, Gemma Fowler & Shauna Lebihan), and “Mama” (Brian Leach, Graeme Smith, Jason Waldock & Daniel Dryden). The Kathleen Knox dancers performed some excellent routines including a Great Gatsby selection, Lady Gaga Medley, You Can’t Stop the Beat, and Top Hat Medley, and there was also a terrific tap solo by Rhiane Finley to “Fabulous Feet”.
This was a very enjoyable evening and the cabaret style formula of entertainment, food and the provision of a bar were well received by an appreciative audience.
A Christmas Carol
The timeless story of A Christmas Carol is the perfect entertainment for a December evening, and with 29 named characters it is also perfect material for companies who want to give as many members as possible the opportunity to shine. The stage was quite small but the set had been thought out to make good use of the space and gave the impression of the various locations throughout the story. Peter Oliver, as Dickens, introduced the story to the audience with a prologue, and then continued to steer us through the story. We were taken to a busy street in London for the opening scene, and introduced to the cast of Vendors and children. Taking on the mammoth role of Scrooge was Andy Oliver. Andy captured the transition from miserly skinflint to a beaming benefactor well, and he maintained his energy and character throughout. The Cratchit family, headed up by Jason Waldock as Bob Cratchit, worked well together, and I particularly enjoyed their rendition of “Do as the Cratchits Do” and a special mention must be made of Charlie Lamb, as Tiny Tim, who stole hearts with his “God Bless”. The visiting spirits (Brian Leach, Gemma Fowler, Sean Smith, Kelly Monahan) were all well played, and “Link by Link” with Marley and the tortured souls was particularly good. I would also commend Kelly, as the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come, for performing on stilts. Derek Crooks and Louise Wiegand as the Fezzywigs gave an energetic, big hearted and warm portrayal of these characters, and Cara Fowler, as Belle, gave a lovely rendition of “Heart of Gold”. Her suitor, the young Ebenezer, played by Daniel Dryden, together with Scrooge, gave a poignant performance of the duet “Remember”. The entire cast including the children looked like they were enjoying being part of the production, and this was particularly noticeable in the rousing finale number complete with snow!
From entering the venue it was apparent that a real effort had been made to create the feeling of a cabaret bar/club with appropriate stage dressing, table setting and lighting, and the cast all well dressed and co-ordinated using matching coloured accessories.
The programme was simply staged, and included a selection of over 30 songs from both musicals and Las Vegas style cabaret standards, interspersed with performances of appropriate feature dance numbers by the Kathleen Knox Dancers, and instrumental performances from the Vivo Swing Orchestra. Both the dancers and the orchestra were featured guests of the Company.
The ensemble and solo singing performances were all very good and were superbly accompanied by the orchestra. Sunderland Theatre Company has some excellent solo performers, and this was the perfect showcase for them. With so many numbers it is difficult to single out performances in this type of production.
Congratulations to everyone involved for a very enjoyable evenings entertainment.
A Class Nativity
On the first “official” day of the Christmas season what better way to start the celebrations than to see a Nativity and hear traditional Christmas music.
A Class Nativity (the story of an ass, a lass and the rest of the class) had been written by members. It was evident that those taking part were really enjoying themselves, and it gave the audience many laugh-out-loud moments. The traditional Nativity story was told by adults playing children who then played the Holy family, angels, shepherds, kings and of course the animals. It highlighted the many hilarious goings on which you have no doubt witnessed at some point if you have ever attended a children’s play, with appropriate and some unusual music throughout; Herod singing “I’m Bad” was very funny as was Joseph singing an Elvis number! There was jealousy over casting, waving at the audience, dodgy props, a “toilet” incident and a donkey who upstaged the entire cast!
The “Festive Finale” consisted of the cast changing into their “adult” attire and singing a selection of Christmas music.
The afternoon’s entertainment was certainly full of Christmas spirit and sent the audience on their way with smiles on their faces.
120 Years Of Entertainment
Predating NODA itself, Sunderland AOS celebrated their 120th anniversary with a one night production at their spiritual home the Sunderland Empire Theatre. Show compere was local Radio Sun-FM presenter Simon Grundy as he gave the audience a ‘history lesson’ of the group from its origins to modern times, often with humorous anecdotes.
Given the popular genre of music in the late 19th century (and indeed now) it was fitting that the group performed from a selection of G&S classics including their first major production of “HMS Pinafore”. Also included in the show content was an ‘upbeat’ medley of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics, many of which the society had performed in previous years. Fetching the audience into more recent times was a series of solos from recent productions and timeless classics, including a haunting rendition of ‘Vilia’ from the “The Merry Widow” with accompanying dance routine.
A similar format was followed in the second act, providing a rounded production with something for everyone. The ‘next generation’ were represented by the inclusion of two school choirs. Also providing entertainment in the form of dance were the excellently drilled steps of Kathleen Knox dancers.
For a society 120 years old the finale of “Music Was My First Love” seemed somehow richly appropriate.
In recognition of the society’s longevity, the society was presented with a special certificate from NODA. Well done SAOS.
The Good Old Days
This is a genre of concerts whose popularity waxes and wanes with the years, and I hadn’t seen an Old Time Music Hall concert for some time - It was worth the wait. There was colour, humour and liveliness from the very opening numbers.
There were several sections, each with a separate theme including war time, cockney, regional songs and monologues as well as out and out music hall songs - each section affording ample opportunity for soloists and duets. Costumes were appropriate to each different theme, and changes between scenes were in general covered by a juvenile troupe of dancers from the Kathleen Knox dance school. These dances were well performed and indeed well appreciated by the audience.
The pace of the concert rarely faltered with most songs blending into the next – mainly down to the excellent accompaniment on piano.
The Master of Ceremonies was full of scripted, but nevertheless subtle humour, and the inevitable baffling vocabulary. It was him who had the unenviable task of being ‘narrator’ of the Victorian Melodrama with ten characters, which involved telling the story in the most cringe-worthy of verse with contrived rhymes.
Sound and Lighting were good and the venue lent itself admirably to a concert such as this, both in style and size.
The afternoon ended with the MC thanking all ‘but chiefly yourselves’ as it closed on the most traditional of finales “Old Bull and Bush”
A most splendiferous performance by all concerned
This ‘One Night Show’ was performed by the society at the Sunderland Empire. Once again they used what seems to be a winning combination of including local junior schoolchildren as well as the Kathleen Knox School of Dance to create a more ‘rounded’ spectacle of entertainment. ‘Winter Warmers’ had a content more rich and varied than the festive title would have had you believe, with some fifty musical numbers and fifteen shows covered.
The two schools involved, comprised a total of over 130 eight to eleven year olds. Each had a section in which to perform during each half, and both schools took the opportunity to impress the audience. Their ability to hold a tune and enunciate clearly with confidence bodes well for the future of performing arts in the region.
The Kathleen Knox school of dance once again showed their versatility and talent throughout their performances which were up to the exacting standards that Kathleen requires. The most enjoyable and ambitious in my opinion was the potted version of that most seasonal of ballets, “The Nutcracker Suite” which was truly outstanding.
SAOS members themselves impressed throughout the show with some splendid choral singing and also ‘looked the part’. A fine night’s entertainment - well done SAOS.
The Diamond Years
Subtitled “A musical extravaganza to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee” the production endeavoured to live up to this description. This ‘One Night Only’ show was a showcase of the talent of the city and not just Sunderland AOS. Opened with the appropriate “Diamonds are Forever” and a specially rearranged version of “One Night Only” to fit in with the Jubilee celebrations, the tone was set for the next two and a half hours. A chronological look back at the music and history of the last sixty years took in many old favourites in song and dance; each section introduced with humour.
Dance was provided through the talented male and female youngsters of the Kathleen Knox Dancers which added a sophisticated interpretation to many medleys of music and genres of dance style – especially in the poignant James Horner "Titanic" medley.
Three choirs of local schools (appropriately dressed in the national colours) added almost 120 primary school children to the stage each with a section of their own choice. Each choir was talented in its own right.
A fine night’s entertainment culminating in a good old singalong in a ‘Last Night of the Proms’ finale.