Last week was bursting with activity at Lyceum Theatre's Ambassador Lounge as YMT produced the first rehearsed reading of A Teenage Opera to an invited audience. This ground-breaking work began its life in Abbey Road Studios in 1967, when composer Mark Wirtz penned what was to become the first rock opera concept album.
YMT's Associate Producer, Matthew Johnson, talks to us about how it all went down
I packed the keyboard, music stands and amp into the back of an Uber.
“Where are we going?” asked my driver.
“To the Lyceum Theatre!”
This had been our office for the last week as we prepared our rehearsed reading. Our 20-strong cast had been given only four days to get a brand new musical off the page and in front of an invited audience of producers, agents and friends. The show is A Teenage Opera and it has been nearly 50-years in the making.
Michael Bradley, fresh from dilivering the musical direction for The Busted Musical: What I Go To School For, took the mixed cast of YMT Alumni and young people through a speedy vocal warm-up. Meanwhile, Writer/Director, Pete Gallagher, made a few last-minute adaptations to his inspired new script.
Barely a few months earlier, Pete had come to YMT with a vision for transforming the world’s first rock opera from a concept album to a fully-staged piece of music theatre ahead of its 50th Anniversary in 2017. Today, this new production was going to be heard for the first time.
Standing quietly next to the action was the man himself, Mark Wirtz – creator and composer of A Teenage Opera at the Abbey Road Studios back in 1967. He and his wife, Amanda, had flown all the way over from Atlanta, USA, to assist the massive transition from album to performance.
It wasn’t too long before the room filled with anticipation from an excited audience. Mark was joined by Keith West and the ‘Corona Kids’ – a well-overdue reunion of the voices from the original album. The lights dimmed, music blared, and the story of Grocer Jack in A Teenage Opera finally began.
YMT's 2016 Summer Season of New Music Theatre has now finished! Our Executive Producer, Jon Bromwich, reflects on the last few weeks.
I love the last bank holiday weekend of August: the culminating weekend of the YMT season. It’s a chance to look back on a wonderfully intense, inventive and imaginative collection of new music theatre. This year, down in Plymouth, there was a real Bank Holiday pearl in the form of The Legend of White Bear Lake, a beautifully lyrical work set in the forests of North America. Somehow it seemed fitting that the approach of the autumn, the new school term, would be marked by a work celebrating the seasons and the ever changing patterns of human and animal life.
Before that we had some our best ever reviews for The Dark Tower at the Bussey Building in Peckham:
This is probably the biggest musical theatre event of the year…It is exhilarating. It is startling. It is also the boldest, most original score you will hear this summer, apart from Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s 1970, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. This incredibly wonderful work deserves the close admiration and encouragement of all arts organizations who want to support and be a part of the most exciting development in musical theatre in this country in years. We need to try and catch up with the awesome pace that YMT is setting. Read the full review.
That ‘awesome pace’ included the new Busted musical What I Go to School For at the Theatre Royal Brighton featuring some truly breathtaking performances – watch this space for the next generation of BRIT award and Olivier winners. The show is already optioned for professional development and we expect to see it on the West End stage at some point in the future...
In Trojan Women we tackled asylum stories, women escaping war and abuse, and took Theresa May to task for her attitudes to immigration. Also exploring serious matters, we looked at how female boxing can become an outlet and catharsis for the frustrations and energies of damaged youth in Fight Like A Girl - perhaps not the usual fare of musicals - but important nonetheless and an antidote to the vacuity of much commercial musical theatre. Fight Like A Girl, which was performed at the textile factory Sunny Bank Mills, also garnered five-star reviews.
In MAELSTROM we explored - through a devised rehearsal period - the deep bonds between Scottish and Norwegian legend and music while in The Frenzy of Sweeney we modernized an ancient Ulster legend transforming it into a drama on the streets of Belfast.
Every year we ask Trinity College London to assess our work under their Musical Theatre in Performance certification and this year was no exception to the rule that every YMT production received a Distinction at Grade 8 – the highest available before BA or Diploma qualifications. Indeed, one examiner commented that the production she saw displayed a group of mostly 14-19 year olds working at Diploma and Post graduate level. Most astonishingly, our production of The Great Gatsby received a remarkable score of 99/100 – just part of that ’awesome pace’ that the YMT Company is setting.
And the Trinity assessments are mirrored on our Summer Skills Courses where Distinctions at Grade 6 are the norm. Over 200 young people took these courses in 2016 and, along with our After School Clubs, it’s an area of growth and innovation for YMT.
Each year we ask 300 young people to set the bar high and achieve the (almost) impossible – the highest quality productions rehearsed in ten-hour days with a creative intensity unparalleled elsewhere in the world of theatre training. We ask our young people to take part in a process of making new theatre with the best practitioners in a way that no other organisation can match.
There are too many people, places and things to thank individually here but this summer we asked over 150 creative, technical and pastoral staff to join us and make the YMT 2016 Summer Season of New Music Theatre happen. Thanks to all of them and also to those who came to watch any part of our great creative festival. We are continually amazed by the support and dedication from parents, carers, teachers, families and friends and we are so grateful for all your efforts in making the summer possible.
Thank you and we look forward to working with you all again next year!
What are Summer Skills Courses and why should I take part?
If you love being creative and exploring new ideas as well as acting, singing, dancing and generally being silly then YMT is the place for you!
YMT is the UK's most active organisation offering music theatre opportunities to young people aged 11-21. On our Summer Skill Courses - which are basically like summer camps - you'll work with leading theatre professionals (people who have worked on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, American Idiot, In the Heights, Cats, The Diary of Adrian Mole and so much more) to create something that is TOTALLY NEW! This is what's unique about our Summer Skills Courses: nowhere else can you work on something that's completely new and completely yours! PLUS, you'll get a Grade 6 Certificate from Trinity College London - a testament to the high quality of our work!
Aaron, 17 – ‘The experience was incredible. I’ve learned so much. The course gave me so much more confidence.'
You will have the opportunity to meet like-minded people and be at the centre of the creative process. We have participants from all over the world at different experience levels - and that's great! You'll learn so much not just from our professionals but also from each other. The exciting thing is meeting someone who loves musicals and theatre just as much as you! So many other companies do Annie or Oliver, Spring Awakening or West Side Story - and that's fine - but now's your chance to be part of something different. You'll have the chance to shape and develop a new piece, offering ideas for movement, direction and lyrics.
Courses are intense, but they're also incredibly fun and informal. You'll also be staying in some really amazing places too - like Fettes College, rumoured to be JK Rowling's inspiration for Hogwarts or beautiful boarding schools like Rugby School, Lockers Park and Warminster School.
Ayesha, 20 – ‘I can’t recommend these courses enough. I had so much fun working with an amazing team and meeting so many lovely people.'
We're running seven Summer Skills Courses in 2016 - all across the UK - and each course will take inspiration from a different theme. This year's themes cover classics like Shakespeare's The Tempest and Arthur Miller's The Crucible. We'll also be exploring Wes Anderson's zany comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel, which won four Oscars back in 2014. Other themes include vampires, suffragettes, protesters, the Jazz Age and FANDOMS like Harry Potter, Pokémon, Beyoncé, Dr Who, Star Trek, One Direction and lots more.
YMT is dedicated to offering young people unrivalled opportunities in the arts and now's your chance to join the UK's leading music theatre company and follow in the footsteps of Ed Sheeran or Sam Smith.
David, 11 - ‘Thanks for this amazing opportunity. I have made so many new friends and I love it here so much I am definitely coming back!’
Rugby School, Warminster School, Fettes College and Lockers Park.
Take a look at one of our Summer Skills Courses from last year.
Join the YMT 2016 Company - the adventure starts here...
YMT will be back on the road at the end of this month until February 2016 in the UK's largest search for young talent! We're holding 29 Auditions in 25 venues across the UK and Ireland, from Inverness to Plymouth, Derry to Colchester and all that's in between. AND Busted star James Bourne and Olivier nominee Elliot Davis will be at our first audition in London on Saturday 28 November! BOOK HERE.
We are looking for actors, singers and dancers as well as musicians to join the YMT 2016 Company and star in one of eight brand new musicals next summer including: What I Go To School For - the Busted musical at the Theatre Royal Brighton written by James Bourne and Elliot Davis. What I Go To School For marks the third project between Bourne, Davis and YMT after the Olivier Award-nominated Loserville the Musical and Out There (recently seen at the Tristan Bates Theatre London).
Other shows in YMT's 2016 Summer Season include a dazzling musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby, a women's boxing epic Fight Like a Girl, an Irish Warrior tale The Frenzy of Sweeney (Buile Shuibhne) at the Lyric Theatre Belfast, a contemporary dance opera The Dark Tower, an ancient Greek adventure Trojan Women! plus devised work in Plymouth and Aberdeen.
Performer Auditions are three-hour group workshops led by a professional director, choreographer and musical director (this year's team: Pete Gallagher, Stuart Harvey, Rachel Birch-Lawson, Vincent Manna, Sonum Batra and Richard Healey). Auditions are open to absolutely anyone aged 11-21 and no previous experience is necessary PLUS you don't even have to prepare anything - just bring yourself along!
Musician Auditions are slightly different - we're looking for musicians aged 11-21 who play ANY instrument at a Grade 7 standard. You'll need to prepare two contrasting pieces that last no longer than two minutes and the MD will then have a chat about your musical interests.
Our 2016 Auditions Locations: Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Colchester, Derry/Londonderry, Dublin, Edinburgh, Hull, Inverness, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Oxford, Plymouth, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, Southampton and Stockton.
Win a pair of top-price tickets to the smash-hit musical!
It’s Billy’s birthday! On Tuesday 12 May, Billy Elliot the Musical marks 10 years in the West End. One of the most celebrated, award-winning musicals on stage today, Billy Elliot has been dazzling London since 2005, and has gone on to captivate audiences around the world. Now we’re offering Youth Music Theatre UK members the chance to see the show in its 10th birthday year, with a pair of top price tickets up for grabs.
Set in a northern mining town, against the background of the 1984/85 miners’ strike, Billy Elliot the Musical is the inspirational story of a young boy’s struggle against the odds to make his dream come true. Follow Billy’s journey as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever. With unforgettable music by Elton John, sensational dance and a powerful storyline, Billy Elliot the Musical is an astonishing theatrical experience will stay with you forever.
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED
Billy Elliot joins a class specialising in what form of dance?
Ts&Cs: Prize valid for Monday – Thursday evening performances only. Tickets are subject to availability; non-transferable and exclusions apply. Blackout dates apply (12 May; 25 – 30 May). Travel costs are not included in this competition.