Am Dram preparing to rock and roll

LIGHT the lights! Curtain up! It's just a couple of months before the members of Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society (IODS) take once again to the stage of The Regent.

LIGHT the lights! Curtain up!

It's just a couple of months before the members of Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society (IODS) take once again to the stage of The Regent.

This week feature writer JAMES MARSTON went along to a rehearsal to meet some of those prepared to strut their stuff in front of hundreds of strangers.

IT might be the depths of winter outside but inside its Summer.

And in an Ipswich backstreet a group of about 40 people have shed their seasonal blues and taken themselves off to Italy and France for a 'week or two'.

From the moment you walk into the IODS rehearsal room behind the Ipswich Labour Club, in Silent Street, you know you are in a creative environment.

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People are chatting, practicing routines, going over lines and singing harmonies; they are making sure they will get it right on the night.

This year IODS is performing Summer Holiday.

Released in 1963 and starring Cliff Richard, the famous film was turned into a stage musical about five years ago.

In charge of the 40 or so strong cast, and the man with overall responsibility for putting on the show is IODS director Simon Bowen.

The 41-year-old father of three is confident IODS will pull it off again.

He said: “I've got two aims. To make sure the audience walk out smiling after having enjoyed themselves and to make sure the cast walk off stage smiling having enjoyed themselves. It is a fun show and we want people to have fun.”

A musical with comedy and romance, Summer Holiday was chosen by the IODS committee before they asked Simon to take over as director.

Simon, a client manager for a finance firm, said: “It is always good to do a show that is new. I jumped at the chance when they asked me to direct it. I had wanted to direct IODS for some time. I really enjoy it.”

A former performer and member of the society since 1983, Simon knows about the buzz that actors get when on stage.

Simon, of Quilter Road, Felixstowe, said: “The buzz for me now is at the rehearsals. At the moment we are slightly ahead of schedule and it is going well.”

The first half of the show is 'set' - theatrical slang for telling actors where to stand and where to move during the scenes - and one of the larger chorus numbers is also well on the way to completion.

Simon said the group is lucky to have a string younger membership.

He said: “There is lots of talent and we have a good number of young men, an area where some amateur groups struggle to recruit.”

The auditions, the casting, the set, the props, the lighting, the sound effects - Simon's responsibilities are numerous.

He said: “I start by reading the script several times. I go to see it is it is on anywhere else. Some shows are well known and direction is easier but this one is a blank canvas.

“It is quite a challenge but you have the chance to create your own interpretation and come up with different ways of doing it.”

And what about those notorious 'am dram' prima donnas?

“There aren't any prima donnas in this show. I am really pleased with the cast. There will be some performances that will knock the audience of their seats laughing,” Simon added.

A musical wouldn't be a musical without music and it is 26-year-old Mike Wren's job to make sure the music and singing are the best quality possible.

Mike was the musical director for IODS for last year's show Anything Goes.

He said: “The show is 1960s rock and roll. The music is well on the way. A lot of progress has bene made and a lot of songs have been learned. Once the songs move onto the stage they do suffer so we will have to refresh the singing later in the rehearsal process.”

Mike, a trained clarinettist and saxophone player, is a music and art teacher at Chantry High School. He rehearses with IODS about three nights a week.

He said: “I am looking forward to the show now. There is nothing that is particularly difficult but I will be working with the ensemble to make sure the singing is as tight as possible. The standard of performance is high and I want to maintain that standard.”

In charge of about eight musicians during the show, Mike prefers to use live music rather than taped backing tracks.

He said: “Modern audiences expect high quality music and I like being in control. I can speed it up and change the volume if necessary. No two performances will be the same. It is a challenge for me.”

A hairdresser by day David Hockley is the show's choreographer.

The 39-year-old father of one is enjoying one of the busiest and most demanding stages in the production.

As the chorus learn the large 'showstoppers' David has his work cut out.

He said: “It is an upbeat musical and not so regimented as other musicals. There is about 40 in the cast with varying degrees of ability. I like to make rehearsals as enjoyable as possible but I also have to work people quite hard.

“There is a lot of numbers.”

David, of Ranleagh Road, Felixstowe, said he works out routines in his kitchen late at night.

He said: “I prepare what I am going to do. I listen to the music close my eyes and visualise a stage. I count the bars of music and work out what to do in each segment.”

David said the music itself often provides the inspiration.

He added: “I think we are on time at the moment. There is a lot done already we have yet to set 'do you wanna dance' which is another big number and involves the whole cast.”

Like Simon and Mike, David admits he does the job because he enjoys it.

He said: “I enjoy seeing people enjoy themselves. When someone doesn't think they can do something then I prove to them they can it is great for their confidence. I really like that moment.”

Summer Holiday will be performed from March 29 to April 1 2006 at 7.30 pm (Saturday Matinee 2.30 pm).

Tickets are £12.50 and £11.00 Concessions: £11.00 and £9.50 Family Ticket: £40.00 (two adults and two children) Buy ten tickets and get 11th free (Only one concession to apply) to book on-line visit or call the box office on 01473 433100.

Do you like musicals? Have you ever performed at the Regent? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to


Mike Cook-Chorus

Enjoying a couple of cameo roles as Swiss policeman Jean D'Arm and Wrightmore the British Consul, 32-year-old Mike is looking forward to performing in Summer Holiday.

He said: “The whole process is brilliant. It a challenge and I really enjoy it.”

An amateur actor with a degree in performing arts, Mike said he is not an extrovert.

He added: “It is a way of expressing myself. You are with like minded people and no one cares. There is no pressure.”

Karen Wilding-Alma

Mum-of-two Karen used to be a Coop junior.

The 35-year-old said: “I have always loved dancing and I haven't taken a part with the society for a long time I have been concentrating on being a mum.”

Playing Alma-a 'young vacant looking but ultimately aware cookie'-was a challenge she couldn't resist.

Karen said: “I've been in the society for 23 years so I have grown up with it. The social side is great and it is like one big family.”

Rodney Marsh-Edwin

A 33-year-old teacher, Rodney plays one of the leading make roles.

Edwin - 'a chirpy but over-knowledgeable young man who takes things very seriously' - enjoys a romance with Alma during the show.

Rodney said: “Last year I played Lord Evelyn in Anything Goes and I liked the Edwin character. I always wanted to do acting and be on the stage. I think I got the bug.”

Rodney said he still has a lot of lines to learn.

He added: “I will be nervous but I hope I'll be confident.”

Lindsey Gomez-Chorus

Lindsey is an experienced IODS performer.

A member of the society since 1969, the 55-year-old window dresser said she enjoys getting out during the winter nights.

She said: “It gives you something to do and takes you out of yourself. You have to learn and memorize new things so it keeps your mind active.”

Joined by her husband Tony, who plays the part of Jerry, Lindsey said she enjoys singing.

Lindsey said: “I am no dancer. I like show music though. You have to be in character but not stand out so the attention is taken away from the main parts. It is a balancing act.”

Ipswich Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society was formed in 1954.

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