Building on the success of their production of Billy Elliot, performed last year as part of Billy Youth Theatre, the cast of young people ranging in age from 9 to 19 have been rehearsing for the last several months in preparation for their version of one of the longest-running and most successful musicals in history.
Producer Iain Burdis says of the cast: “We have high hopes for our incredibly dedicated cast. Last year they were selected to perform in a regional version of Billy Elliot at the Sunderland Empire. As a result of their performance, they were then invited to London to take part in the Billy Elliot Youth Theatre Gala on the real Billy Elliot stage, the Victoria Palace theatre. This year’s cast are dedicated to putting on a first-class show and exceed the precedent set by last year’s performances of Billy Elliot. Keith and I stand in awe of the commitment and enthusiasm of every single cast member.”
The talented youngsters have even given up large chunks of their summer holidays in order to perfect their stagecraft.
Keith Fairley, the shows other producer, adds: “We had two weeks’ rest from rehearsals, during which time we all felt guilty because we really just wanted to continue practising and everyone was missing each other so much! We also took the cast to London to see the West End production of Les Misérables, which was great because it reinforced the cast’s own interpretation and understanding of the story.”
FWM Productions was set up in 2010 with the aim of giving youngsters with talent opportunities to work in a professional theatre environment – something not offered by the traditional education system.
Iain continues: “We have kids who attend theatre schools and achieve distinctions in professional examinations, but we also have kids who have never had the chance to show off their nascent talents. FWM Productions provides a safe environment for youngsters to express themselves, learn from one another, build friendships and flourish as a young adult. One of the great things about what we are doing is that enduring friendships are formed which transcend age and social barriers. It doesn’t matter what type of school or area the members of our cast come from, they all have an individual presence and learn to respect one another.”
“We try to keep our fees to a minimum in order to encourage families who otherwise would not consider involving their children in the Performing Arts. To this end, FWM Productions endeavours to seek sponsorship to allow the inclusion of youngsters who cannot afford even our modest fees.”
The project has been supported by Sage UK Limited, who have partly funded the production, but Keith and Iain hope that further sponsorship can be found to keep the dream alive.
Les Misérables is a story about one man’s struggle against prejudice, social upheaval and injustice in turbulent 19th century France. Even though the show contains adult themes including prostitution and violence, the producers have chosen not to steer away from these. Instead, they have embraced them as opportunities to educate the cast and instil a mature understanding of these topics.
The show, written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, is being directed by Keith Fairley and Iain Burdis, along with assistant director Pam Gibb. The musical director is Tony Fairley, with technical aspects of the production being led by Sheriton Swan.
Tickets are available now from www.fwmtickets.com or the booking line on 0845 557 0492. Matinees and evening performances are available and special discounts will be offered to groups of 10 or more.