John Slim reports from the world of amateur theatre...
Coincidence has ensured that Redditch's Palace Theatre, which has been closed for massive refurbishment, will have pretty significant circumstances to follow its reopening.
The first major amateur musical to be staged there after the theatre is back in business will be My Fair Lady, now celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original stage production, and it will be presented by Studley Operatic Society - as its centenary show.
Kevin Hirons directs, with Keith Parish playing Professor Higgins, Alyson Adams as Eliza Doolittle and Julian Bissell as dustman Doolittle.
The show will run from May 9-13. Studley, you may remember, is the company whose name was splashed across the world when Redditch Council banned its 2000 production of Show Boat from the Palace Theatre because members proposed to black up. In the event, it was staged at the Norbury Theatre in neighbouring Droitwich.
Members have had their fair share of chuckles over the years. A production of Iolanthe in 1950 was bedevilled by the inability of the Peers to kneel at the same time. The producer and prompt was the late Len Parkes, the man who was a local legend in his own lifetime, and he assured them that he would give them the signal on the first night.
He was true to his word. The first few rows of the audience watched the Peers kneel as one - immediately after hearing an unexpected message from the wings: "Down, yuh buggers!" n The world of amateur theatre can be very demanding. Take Alan and Madeline Hackett, leading lights of BMOS Musical Theatre Company, of which Alan is chairman and Madeline choreographer.
Alan is also secretary of BMOS Youtheatre and he is directing its production of Les Miserables (Schools Edition), which will be at the Old Rep from May 17-20, and will also be taking the helm for its Beauty and the Beast in November and Anything Goes in May next year.
Madeline will choreograph BMOS in Me and My Girl at the Old Rep (September) and she and Alan will team up for Peterbrook Players' Singin' in the Rain (March next year), for which rehearsals begin in September.
Alan explains that Madeline is not involved with the Youtheatre. Understandably - and I say that because we old chauvinists must stick together - he asks, "How would the house get cleaned and the garden be kept tidy?"
For Les Miserables, a set is being made by a company in County Durham to fit the space at the Old Rep. It will include a revolve and a smaller version of the barricade. n Not for the first time, I have emerged from a Stage 2 production rocked to my roots. This vibrant Birmingham youth group, directed by Liz Light, constantly tackles the highly unlikely and inevitably comes up with another triumph.
Its latest venture, which ended on Saturday, was Adult Child/Dead Child, an introspective piece that started life as a monologue by Claire Dowie, the playwright who has become Stage 2's patron. Liz Light has transformed it into a thing in which the words now share their stage with intermittent scenes of calculated chaos featuring up to 80 black-clad youngsters.
It's all in the cause of helping us to follow the reasons for a child's mental breakdown - brought about in her own mind by her overbearing parents and the misbehaviour of her imaginary friend. The original concept is clever; its Brum-based blossoming is remarkable.
In July, Stage 2 will present its own take on Cider with Rosie, then in December, it will tackle Willy Russell's Daughters of Albion. At Easter next year, it will be Much Ado About Nothing that gets the trademark huge-company treatment.
If you haven't caught up with these remarkable young people yet, please look out for news of their next commitment - and take a look for yourself. n What does an actor have to do when he knows his lines perfectly but is supposed to be giving a lecture - for which most people rely on notes?
Does he keep glancing at some sheets of paper and risk people suspecting him of needing a bit of prompting, or does he go ahead with nothing in his hand and risk their saying that there aren't many lecturers who could do that?
Dave Hill, playing C S Lewis, creator of The Narnia Chronicles, chose the latter course as he began his demanding role in the Crescent Theatre production of Shadow-lands. And he didn't put a foot wrong, either in his lecture or in the rest of his first-night performance.