Get tickets for Ipswich Co-op Juniors' Christmas Spectacular at Snape now
PUBLISHED: 18:35 26 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:34 27 November 2019
Creating the Ipswich Co-op Juniors Christmas Spectacular is a wonderful collaborative endeavour and produces some much needed seasonal magic. We take a look behind the scenes at this Christmas treat.
As the lights go up on the latest Christmas Spectacular at Snape Maltings on December 6, the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company celebrate their 15th year in the famous concert hall and have treated more than 105,000 guests to a lot of sparkling entertainment during that time.
The success of the show's popular music and dance formula, often with a storyline added, is now a firm fixture in Suffolk's entertainment calendar, drawing audiences from across East Anglia.
Most of the young cast - totalling 99 singers and dancers - were not even in the first shows at Snape, but they appreciate the chance to perform in a world-class venue. When the Co-op Juniors moved there in 2005 after staging pantomimes and musicals at the Ipswich Regent for 25 years, they could not have expected to take up residence for 15 years, as technical director Alan Ayres explains.
"When we first talked to the team at the concert hall, we literally didn't have a home for a Christmas show after the Regent decided to stage a professional panto.
"Snape Maltings agreed to host our first Christmas Spectacular, which was inspired by the famous show at Radio City Music Hall in New York. It was a new direction for the group and we've never looked back. We're also staging our first musical at Snape next May with Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, before Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr at the Seckford Theatre in June."
For director and choreographer Lucy Allen, who has performed with the company and directed Sister Act and last year's Spectacular, the opportunity to stage a show of this scale and ambition is unique.
"People like to remind me that this is the largest youth musical production in the UK, so no pressure!" she laughs.
"The Christmas show is the highlight of our year, it's a massive feel-good festive extravaganza that literally lights up the cast and audience. Choreographing numbers for such a wide range of ages is so creative and I've been lucky to work with guest choreographers who know the company and push them to achieve their best."
For musical director Jo King, who worked on Barnum and Peter Pan with the Co-op Juniors before taking over from Nigel Virley at Christmas this year, it's been a journey of discovery.
"There are always surprises working with young people, and it's a real delight for Lucy and I to discover talent in the group that hasn't had a chance to shine before.
"The familiarity of our choice of music should please our audiences. It's more festive than ever and covers a huge selection from carols to swing, marching toy soldiers to a magical nativity scene."
With a nine-piece live orchestra, Jo has created some arrangements and orchestrations, while working with top arranger David Tobin, more used to major classical recordings at Abbey Road Studios. Orchestrator and composer Jen Green, who has worked with Alison Moyet and Elaine Paige in a long list of credits, provided most of the orchestrations as "she's so familiar with musical theatre".
Always a major feature of Christmas Spectacular are the costumes, many of the 800 hand-made by parents and friends.
For costume supervisors Jeannie Ingram and Cilla Tricker. "The biggest challenge is developing original ideas and making sure each group of dancers matches or co-ordinates, and of course 80 toy soldiers have to be in identical costumes," said Jeannie Ingram.
Adds Lucy Allen, "We've got a magical stage set with towers of presents, thousands of twinkling lights, huge golden arches over the stage and some startling stage magic - we're talking camels and hippos here. It's what our audiences expect from a show with spectacular in the title and we deliver it."
Christmas Spectacular! 15th Anniversary at Snape Maltings Concert Hall from Dec 6 - 15.
Book snapemaltings.co.uk/spectacular or call 01728 687110. Seats from £15.
Booking for Cats in May 2020 opens December 6.