YMT blog


A Teenage Opera. Meet the Creative Team.


Julie Atherton: Director

After training at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Julie Atherton is one of the West Ends foremost leading ladies. She began her career playing the lead role of Sophie in the West End production of Mamma Mia! From that she took the role of Serena Katz in the UK tour of Fame! From there, she performed at the legendary Chichester Festival Theatre in Out of This World and in Just So where she played the Kolokolo bird. Moreover, she was part of the premier of the new musical Ordinary Days at the Finborough Theatre and Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi at the Liverpool Playhouse.
In 2006, Julie was chosen to be part of the original cast of Avenue Q at the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End. She played the role of Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut from 2007-2009. After Avenue Q, she created the role of Charlotte in the new musical Through the Door by Lauren Mark Wythe and Judy Freed at the Trafalgar Studios in the West End. 

In 2011, Julie starred as Sister Mary Roberts in the first UK Tour of Sister Act: The Musical.  In 2013 she was featured as 'French Teacher' in the world premiere of the musical 'LIFT' by Craig Adams and Ian Watson, at the Soho Theatre. This was followed in 2014 by the title role in 'Thérèse Raquin', again by Craig Adams with Book and Lyrics by Nona Shepphard. After a sold out run at The Finborough Theatre the production transferred to Park Theatre in Finsbury Park.
Julie has also released three solo albums “A Girl of Few Words”in 2006, “No Space for Air” in 2010, and “Rush of Life” in 2014. She also released Avenue Q’s official recording of “There’s a Fine Fine Line”.

Mark Wirtz: Music & Lyrics

Mark is a pop music record producer, composer, singer, musician, author and comedian. His most famous output is in the 1960’s where we worked at the famous Abbey Road Studios with The Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. Wirtz is most famous for the song Grocer Jack (Excerpt from a Teenage Opera), the  song that made it to number one in the charts in 26 countries worldwide in the 1960s.

Keith West: Music & Lyrics

Keith is a British rock singer, songwriter and music producer. He is rose to fame for being the lead singer of the famous 1960’s rock band “Tomorrow”. In 1964 he became acquainted with Mark Wirtz, where they both recorded Grocer Jack and it topped the UK charts at number 2. He also performed the song Sam which reached the top 40 in the same year. Releasing singles such as Revolution, and a solo album Wherever My Love Goes he has made his name in the music industry.


Pete Gallagher: Book, Additional Lyrics & Concept Developer

Pete has been performing professionally since 1983.  Among his film and television credits are: Sarah & Duck, Nuzzle and Scratch, Jesus Christ Superstar, Waking the Dead, Casualty, My Hero, The Two of Us, Moon and Son, Bergerac and The Mrs Bradley Mysteries.
In the theatre, he has appeared in Don't Dress for Dinner, The Braille Legacy, The Fix, Shock Treatment, Moonlight and Magnolias, The Pirates of Penzance, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Doctor Dolittle, Jesus Christ Superstar(Lyceum and Arena Tour), The Rocky Horror Show, The Mystery Plays, Buddy, Godspell, Fields of Ambrosia, Frankenstein, Up on the Roof, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Lautrec, Guys and Dolls, Betrayal,and many, many others!

He has also directed dozens of including the award-nominate first U.K. Tour of Spring Awakening and the critically acclaimed gothic-punk A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Chelsea, and his Edinburgh 2008 transfer Missing Mel ran at the Cochrane Theatre in London, straight after Fairy Lights won first prize at the Windsor New Writing Festival. His play The Brothers Lionheart achieved a ‘Must See’ stamp at Edinburgh 2009 and was the number one Children’s Theatre Recommendation on the Edfringe website.
Pete is also a prolific writer. Projects, many currently in development, include: Gribblum Tales (TV series), and musicals Fanny Hill, 6 Ways, The Brothers Lionheart, The One, The Christmas Shop, Face2face and biog of a legend, Feelin' Good – the Anthony Newley Story. Plays include What Goes Around, Cryptic Lines and Tongues.

Wirtz has collaborated with West to finish the rock opera ready for its golden anniversary. Additional lyrics have been written by Pete Gallagher, who had the idea of completing the show, and who has managed to track down the children who sang the famous chorus in Grocer Jack.

Stuart Rogers: Choreography

Dance Captain/Ensemble in The Bodyguard (Adelphi Theatre, West End) as Dance Captain/Ensemble. We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre West End), Ash & Dance Captain in Never Forget (UK national tour), Ensemble & u/s Ren & Assistant Dance Captain in Footloose (UK tour), Sinatra (choreographed by Stephen Mear, UK tour), understudied and played the role of Pepper in Mamma Mia (Prince of Wales Theatre), Mary Poppins (Prince Edward Theatre, West End), Fame (Aldwych Theatre) where he understudied and played the roles of Goody, Schlomo and Nick Piazza, the roles of Fritz/Prince Bon Bon and Gobstopper in Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker (Sadler’s Wells and Japanese & Korean tour); Oh! What A Night as Swing & understudy to the roles of Sal & Stretch Mulligan (UK tour).

Television credits: Dancer for Emma Bunton on TOTP, T4, CDUK, The Kumars and the Lycra Style Awards.  Other TV appearances include This Morning; GMTV; Victoria’s Secrets; Gloria Hunniford’s – Open House; The Queen’s 80th Birthday Celebrations at Buckingham Palace and Blue Peter.


A Teenage Opera (2017)

Berkshire: South Hill Park Arts Centre

Friday, 11 August 2017 - 7:30pm
Saturday, 12 August 2017 - 2:30pm
Saturday, 12 August 2017 - 7:30pm
Sunday, 13 August 2017 - 2:30pm


"The First Lady MUST be a leader. She must not be a follower"


YMT presents the new musical First Ladies.

“The first lady MUST be a leader. She must not be a follower”- Oleg Cassini.

First Ladies is a celebration of women though out history featuring characters that have broken out of the male shadow they were thrust into and have shone beyond expectations. 

This brand new musical brings together and celebrates an important, often overlooked, surprisingly contemporary group of first ladies, shedding light on important questions about leadership, civil rights and women’s position in the world.
Elizabeth Charlesworth (composer and musical director) has always been intrigued by this specific league of woman; from different places and times, these ground breaking achievers supply a plethora of stories, scandals and narratives that feed the creative mind.

What is First Ladies About?

The main message behind this story is that ‘it pays to persevere and be tenacious’, especially if you are a woman. Be proactive, work hard, don’t listen to niggling, negative voices and you can get there- where ever you want to be.
What is especially important about this production is to remind the audience that these historic heroines and political figures were human too.


Why is this project so important?

Elizabeth is especially passionate about this project; “the notion that there can still be ‘firsts’ for women is a sobering indication of women’s continual struggle for equality”. In the male dominated musical theatre industry, Elizabeth is especially proud to be writing this song cycle for an all-girls cast.
The intent for the project is for the cast to explore ideas of feminism and equality and if this inspires the cast to create change in ANY industry as they choose to go into, then it will be a success, “their championing of the next generation of performers is vital”.



“As a composer I aim to push the boundaries of traditional musical theatre. YMT shows are not populist or commercial; they push boundaries and allow their creators to do the same. I can honestly say I would not be where I am today without them. Their ability to commission challenging works is fantastic; in my opinion, no organisation is more important to the future of musical theatre than YMT."
This production is not just about gender inequality, but the cuts that the arts are facing are making the careers of emerging writers treacherous and sometimes impossible. Elizabeth credits YMT as her creative lifeline. “Their faith in me as an artists and their active contribution to bringing to life new pieces of musical theatre is priceless”. 

Nikki Racklin (Book & Lyrics) intends to offer the audience an uplifting and entertaining experience. Opening the audience’s eyes to some of history’s lesser known heroines, as well as those globally celebrated. What she particularly hopes the achieve is to inspire the female audience members to walk away excited and empowered.

Some background information about some of the creatives working on First Ladies: 

Composer & Musical Director – Elizabeth Charlesworth: A composer, orchestrator and arranger based in London, Elizabeth trained at the University of Nottingham, graduating with a First, and has since worked to create new works for the stage and beyond. Elizabeth was trained as a Youth Music Leader with City Arts Nottingham and has since written extensively for music and education in commissions for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Nottingham City Council. Her recent project is a miniature song cycle for Nottinghamshire primary schools based on Nick Cope's The Art of Being Brilliant.

Director – Gerard Jones: British stage director Gerard Jones joined the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the start of the 2015/16 Season. Gerard studied Italian and German at University College London. Since graduating, he has assisted such opera directors as David Alden, John Copley, John Fulljames, Richard Jones, Antony McDonald and Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. As a revival director Jones has directed Copley’s production of La bohème for Istanbul State Opera and David McVicar’s production of Les Troyens for San Francisco Opera. Original directing work includes a set of scenes for the National Opera Studio.


12-13 August
Sat 2.30pm & 7.30pm | Sun 2.00pm
£12 Adult | £10 Concessions

Raising Money with Self-Raising Flour.


Massive congratulations to Honor Briggs who received a place in this summer’s production of First Ladies.

To help raise funds for YMT, she has held a bake sale at her home.

After spending hours cracking eggs, sifting flour and measuring sugar, Honor has baked her way to success. After making and decorating every cake, her hard work has paid off when she sold out, and with contributions from her family and school (Rathdown School in Glenageary, Dublin) she has managed to raise the funds required.


Thanks for being a first class lady yourself Honor! We look forward to watching you perform.


Reflections in Swan Lake: Beneath The Feathers.


‘We all contain within us the black swan and the white swan, an Odette and an Odile.’

Youth Music Theatre UK is proud to present the new production of ‘Reflections in Swan Lake’. Here is some information about the development of the show and how this magical production came to its feet.

What is this show about?

This is a show about identity: finding out who you truly are, and where you belong; a story of growing into your own skin or discarding one that no longer serves you. What are the events that have shaped us, how do we integrate the different parts of ourselves, how do we learn to tell our own stories?

The production focuses on digging into the myth and folklore that may have inspired the ballet, and deconstructing its core themes, rather than a retelling. Differing from previous Narrative Ballets such as Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, the production draws from the plot but is explored in a far more indirect way. It digs into the overarching themes and archetypal characters; shapeshifting, love, betrayal, identity, sacrifice and belonging. Drawing on tales of transformation and shapeshifting: from the Celtic Selkie myths of seals who come to land as humans, to Zeus disguising himself as a Swan, to Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

A Production Like No Other.

Using the primary mode of dance to communicate these universal emotions and experiences leaves room for the imagination and personal interpretation. It is a production not based on a pre-determined plot structure, but the creative team and cast have devised a piece of dance theatre, not a musical in the more conventional sense. This unorthodox way of working is how most contemporary theatre is constructed. The fragments and themes that have risen up and evolved in rehearsal have been stitched and woven together into a tapestry which has developed a through line with a satisfying conclusion and resolution.
The piece is fundamentally an ensemble focused production; everyone will be and play everything in “a fluidity of identity”. The characters who feature in scenes will pop out of the ensemble and then fold back into the company.

“Bringing this work to life through complex movement and song is a huge challenge, it truly has been a collaborative effort and a privilege to work with so many talented young people. What you see today is a testimony to their commitment, enthusiasm, and talent.”- Rachel Birch-Lawson (Director).

Design and Costume.

Sophie Barlow’s aesthetic perfectly mirrors the themes of swan lake with the design tapping into the theme of anonymity and ambiguity. There will be no sense of time or place (reinforcing the timeless themes of the narrative) in the abstract designs in an attempt to create something not only magical, but mysterious and fluid. The conventional swan costumes have been modernized with the use of rubber gloves and balloons, brutalizing the beauty of the swan and perfectly resonating with the darker undertones of this production.

A quote from Bill Viola beautifully sums up what the production aims to achieve: “I think art has a more important role to play in this century than it had to play in a very, very long time, in terms of history, and the reason for that is, in the age of globalisation, which is an age of fear, it’s an age of uncertainty for many of us, it’s an age that is characterised by the free flow of information”.

Directed and choreographed by Rachel Birch Lawson (Garsington Opera, Cahoots NI, and Tangled Feet). She is an alumni of the Clore Leadership Programme, and currently a Leverhulme Arts Scholar (MFA) at Trinity Laban Conservatoire for Dance and Music. Rachel’s work has been performed across the UK, Europe and Africa, supported by organisations including Arts Council England, Kent County Council, the British Council, South East Dance, and Gulbenkian.

Libretto by David Francis (co-writer of three scores for Youth Music Theatre UK shows; Tales from the World’s End, based on stories from Duncan Williamson, Nikki and the Gang by Alan Bissett, co-written with Mairi Campbell, and Not the End of the World).

Composed by James Keane (The Clod Ensemble since 1995 and toured and created with Hofesh Shechter Company for 6 years, including Political Mother the Choreographer’s Cut at Brixton Academy, Sadlers Wells, Paris and Hong Kong and played music in the Brooklyn Academy of Music, an Operating Theatre and Sydney Opera House.)

Associate Choreographer & Rehearsal Director: Khyle Eccles has toured globally with numerous performance companies on large and small scale creations, including Block Party, Dance Theatre of Irelands; One Extraordinary Day, STREB Extreme Action Company; and (in)Visible Dancing Luca Silvistrini.

Combining vocal soundscapes and improvisation, #DC2SwanLake finds a dynamic synergy between movement, music and text.

4 - 5 August | Fri-Sat 7.45pm | Sat 3pm
Dance Connections2: Reflections in Swan Lake
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, London


A Teenage Opera - Youth Music Theatre UK

50 years in the making A TEENAGE OPERA has a long and fascinating history


This summer Youth Music Theatre UK proudly presents the world première production of their newest rock-opera, A Teenage OperaHear below how it all came about and what you can expect!

A Teenage Opera - rehearsals

Pete Gallagher - Writer

The music that never left the public consciousness

Many are still asking questions about where it went, the music has never left the public consciousness (Grocer Jack went to No. 1 in 26 countries) and neither has the question of why it never came to fruition. As always, the answers were beyond the 1967 participants' control.

A Teenage Opera - Keith West & Mark Wirtz
The 1960s were an explosive time

Listening to the original concept and inspiration for A Teenage Opera has been fascinating. These ideas came from another world - the 1960s were so explosive. I feel very honoured to have been entrusted with such a legendary project.

It was something of a labour of love

Mark Wirtz and Keith West are so full of fascinating stories; that they were recording in Abbey Road and using studio 'downtime' to try and get things done, you soon begin to realise it was something of a labour of love. They were able to stay playing with ideas into the night, because The Beatles were next door, who would work very late. As long as The Beatles were in the building keeping it open, Mark and Keith could continue!

A Teenage Opera - Julie Atherton, Stuart Rogers, Joe Louis Robinson
Expect a lot of amazing musical hidden gems

We've tried very hard to make A Teenage Opera appeal to all ages, some of the music has been given a facelift. Without giving too much away, the production is set in the now but centres around a town stuck in the 1960s; this has given us a lot of scope musically. There's also a sprinkling of opera melodies in there too - with a couple of the better known tunes from Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman making an appearance. Expect a lot of amazing musical hidden gems, plenty of laughs, much reference to what might happen if you suddenly came into contact with people (seemingly) from 50 years in the future, and a barrel load of emotion.

We have the wonderful Julie Atherton directing this, Joe Louis Robinson as MD and Stuart Rogers choreographing. These are some of the finest young creatives in the UK. And arrangements by the amazing Michael Bradley, who is in China and across the world as Musical Director of The Bodyguard at the moment.

The Cast of A Teenage Opera

Harriet - Cast Member

I was absolutely thrilled to hear that I was to be part of the musical A Teenage Opera this year, as I love the1960s era. It will be hard work and long days but the more you put into rehearsals the more you get back. You really get a taste of what intense rehearsals for professional shows are like and the thrill of putting on a world première show is indescribable.

Q&A: meet the cast and creative team!

Don't miss your chance to find out all about the making of the musical on Saturday 12 August; there will be a Q&A straight after the matinee performance, where you will have the chance to talk to the creative team and cast members, including the original producer/composer, Mark Wirtz, over from the US, as well as rumored special guests!

Check out the trailer here!

A Teenage Opera will feature original classic hits from Mark Wirtz and Keith West, including the iconic song Grocer Jack (Except from A Teenage Opera), alongside a brand new book and additional lyrics by Pete Gallagher (Jesus Christ Superstar, Buddy). This long-awaited, musical spectacular will be directed by one of the West End’s foremost leading ladies, Julie Atherton (Avenue Q, Mama Mia). A Teenage Opera, South Hill Park Arts Centre, 11-13 Aug. Book Now