I never doubted the Felixstowe Spa would be back in business, says Suzie Lowe
Walking back into the Spa Pavilion was a real homecoming for Suzie Lowe.
She grew up watching her father Dennis - dubbed Felixstowe’s Mr Entertainment - stage summer and Christmas shows there; appearing in many of them. When he died in 1999, the professional dancer and choreographer picked up where he left off until the century-old Spa closed at the start of 2013.
Nearly three years later, The Dennis Lowe Theatre Company made a triumphant return to the recently re-opened venue which is now run by NRG Theatres.
“It’s the best feeling in the world. I still walk into the theatre and it feels like home... You just feel this presence. It’s a really special place,” she said when I caught up with her during rehearsals.
“For a really long time I felt like my right arm had been cut off. I was like ‘what do I do now’. Fifty per cent of my work was with the Spa, the summer youth project with the kids, all the other shows I used to get involved in. So much of my life, my work, it just went.
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“When you’ve been brought up in the theatre like that, with your family around the place; to lose that it’s tough emotionally. If my dad had still been here, he would’ve been there with me and we would’ve fought it (the closure) together.”
She and the rest of the Cinderella cast are excited to be back at the Spa. Some had their doubts the 913-seat theatre, formerly owned by Suffolk Coastal, would ever re-open. Suzie never had a doubt.
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“My gut feeling was telling me it was going to re-open... I knew this day was going to come, it was just a matter of when. I thought to myself, somebody’s going to have the guts to take it on and just roll with it and they (NRG Theatres) did. I’m extremely happy, if I could’ve afforded it I would’ve done it myself,” she laughs.
Suzie admits she would have been disappointed if the new owners hadn’t give the Dennis Lowe Theatre Company first bite at the cherry when it came to this year’s pantomime.
“We’ve been there for 50 years, entertaining the community and surrounding areas and people have always come to see us. They obviously knew us but I did get in there quickly, I didn’t hang about. The first time I met them I opened my big mouth and made a point of telling them. Within hours (of meeting) really we’d made a deal and were happy to go with it.
“I’m thankful they’ve completely put their trust in me. We’re coming back with a good show, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love Cinderella.”
The show, which she’s adapted from a script by her dad, has particular significance for Suzie. She played the lead role when she was 16, the year after he died.
“Before he passed away, it was quite bizarre actually, he’d sorted out the script, the songs, he’d brought all the material for my costumes and this was a whole year in advance. So Cinderella has a special place in my heart.”
While always one for making classic tales current as far as possible, this is quite traditional.
“We’ve had a couple of years off (and) there’s something about Cinderella, you can’t play with the story. I wanted to bring some of those (storybook) elements back but at the same time I’ve got up-to-date songs, lots of slapstick comedy, a beautiful transformation scene... With the ball I’ve kept it quite tradional, lots of waltzing, the prince meeting Cinderella...”
Ellena Bacon, playing the titular princess in waiting, adds the show is perfect for all ages with plenty of singing, dancing and comedy.
“It literally is a ball playing Cinderella,” laughs the performing arts student, who has appeared in several shows with the company in the past including Mother Goose and Aladdin.
“Being back at the Spa is fabulous. I’ve performed there since I was seven and I’m now 18, it’s a great feeling coming back. We went in (during rehearsals) to have a look around and when we walked in it was just silence, everyone was just taking it in.”
Cinderella by the Dennis Lowe Theatre Company runs at the Spa Pavilion until January 3. Read arts editor Andrew Clarke’s review here.