The society was originally founded in 1922 as the Newbury & District Amateur Operatic Society. LIke most operatic societies of the time the original repertoire consisted mainly of the classic Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.
After WWII the range of shows broadened to include other operettas, musicals and even an occasional opera. Then, as now, popular Broadway and West End shows only become available for amateur performance when the market for professional productions has been satisfied, but the society was quick to stage big hits as and when they were released, including shows like South Pacific (1961), Oklahoma! (1964) and My Fair Lady (1969). Alongside these the society also staged various concerts and for many years also produced the Newbury pantomime at the Corn Exchange.
As the range of possible material increased, other local groups sprang up alongside "the operatic" to cater for different markets. NOMADS was formed in the 1970s to perform more modern material for a younger audience, and Kennet Opera stages both amateur and semi-professional productions. Time has mellowed the differences between the different groups, who now happily co-exist sharing members, directors, crew, venues, repertoire and even Christmas parties!.
Since 2000, audience numbers for and membership interest in operetta has declined, and in 2012 the society decided to change it's name from Newbury Operatic to Newbury Musical Theatre to more accurately reflect what we now do.
The society has an active committee, made up of a cross section of the membership. This includes members who have been with the society almost since the beginning (sorry Chris, only joking!), and relatively new members. Committee members, including the Chairman, are all elected by the membership and vice presidents at our Annual General Meeting, which takes place in June/July each year. Committee members serve terms of up to 3 years, but there are usually vacancies each year. So if you interested in helping to run the society, there are always opportunities!
The main show each year (performed at the Newbury Corn Exchange around Easter) is selected by the membership at the AGM. A short list is drawn up by the committee, based on availability, member suggestions, and commercial/technical factors, and after a short presentation of the key points and highlights from each show, the membership votes. Because of difficulties in obtaining rights for shows, we decide on shows over 18 months before a show is performed, which gives members plenty of time to prepare their audition pieces!
The committee selects the director, producers, choreographer, musical director, stage manager based on interest, availability and track record. These roles are appointed on a show by show basis.
Our autumn production is smaller, and allows us greater artistic and commercial freedom to experiment and take risks. This gives us an opportunity to select shows that are outside of our normal repertoire, or might not be commercially viable at the Corn Exchange. It also allows less experienced members to direct, produce and take lead roles. The autumn show is chosen by the committee, but as always, suggestions from the membership at large are always welcome.
Please see the shows we have performed in the past from our humble beginnings way back in 1923 (some of those members are still with us).
Pictures from some of the shows are available by clicking on the links below, but watch out for pop-up blockers!
1923 The Gondoliers
1924 The Mikado
1926 Pirates of Penzance
1926 Trial By Jury
1927 Yeomen Of The Guard
1930 The Gondoliers
1931 HMS Pinafore, Trial By Jury
1933 Les Cloches de Cornville
1934 The Mikado
1935 Merrie England
1936 The Vagabond King
1937 Tom Jones
1938 The Pirates of Penzance
1947 The Gondoliers
1948 Merrie England
1949 Miss Hook of Holland
1950 The Yeomen of The Guard
1952 The Gondoliers
1953 Desert Song
1954 Rose Marie
1955 Tom Jones
1956 The Vagabond King
1957 HMS Pinafore, Trial By Jury
1958 Chu Chin Chow, Merrie England
1959 The Quaker Girl, Faust
1960 The Gypsy Baron, Carmen
1961 South Pacific, The Gondoliers
1962 Carousel, The Mikado
1963 Desert Song, Die Fledermaus
1964 The Merry Widow, Oklahoma!
1965 White Horse Inn, La Belle Helene
1966 Annie Get Your Gun, Gilbert and Sullivan
1967 Showboat, An Evening With Franz Lehar
1968 The Merry Widow
1969 Cinderella, My Fair Lady
1970 Aladdin, The New Moon
1971 Dick Whittington, Calamity Jane
1972 The Wizard of Oz, The Land Of Smiles
1973 The Sleeping Beauty, The Gondoliers
1974 The Sound of Music, Brigadoon
1975 Robinson Crusoe
1976 The King and I, The Mikado
1977 Viva Mexico, Orpheous in The Underworld
1978 Oliver, Kiss Me Kate
1979 Cinderella, Die Fledermaus
1980 The Wizard of Oz, Oklahoma!
1981 Camelot, Trial By Jury, HMS Pinafore
1983 The Sound of Music, Desert Song
1984 Half a Sixpence, My Fair Lady
1985, The King and I, The Merry Widow
1986 South Pacific, Annie
1987 Aladdin, The Yeomen of The Guard
1988 Hans Andersen, Guys and Dolls
1989 Some Enchanted Evening, Fiddler on The Roof
1990 Sullivan Supper and Song, The Pirates of Penzance
1991 Olde Tyme Music Hall, Annie Get Your Gun
1992 Grand Night For Singing, The Dancing Years
1993 Thanks For The Memory, Iolanthe
1995 The Sound of Music, Kiss Me Kate
1996 Annie, Ruddigore
1997 The Wizard of Oz, Anything Goes!, Die Fledermaus
1998 Me and My Girl, The Gondoliers
1999 Gilbert and Sullivan Concert, Camelot
2000 The Mikado
2001 My Fair Lady
2003 South Pacific
2004 HMS Pinafore and The Zoo, Into The Woods
2005 Hello Dolly
2006 Calamity Jane, Old Tyme Music Hall
2007 Thoroughly Modern Millie, Pirates of Penzance
2013 The Sound of Music, Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Our main venue is The Corn Exchange, Newbury.
It is a 330 seat, tiered auditorium, built (as the name suggests) inside the old exchange building in the Market Square, Newbury.
The Corn Exchange was completely refurbished and reopened as an arts centre in 1993, and has up to date sound and lighting, as well as excellent back stage and front of house facilities.
For more details click here.
Our autumn productions are performed at a variety of venues, including New Greenham Arts.
Rehearsals for shows usually run for 4-5 months. Typically, chorus rehearsals take place on Tuesday evenings, with principal rehearsals on Thursday evenings. In the weeks immediately before a show, the full cast may be required on both Tuesday and Thursday evenings. In show week, band call, technical and dress rehearsals are usually held at the venue.
Rehearsals schedules are provided during preparations for each show, and wherever practical we work around members holidays, work and other commitments. But if you cannot make a rehearsal, please contact the director or production team before hand.
We also run have a Concert Party group, usually made up of Members not in the current show. In this way we can take the society out to new audiences or those who cannot get to our usual productions - Get in Touch below for further details. Otherwise DO pop down to a rehearsal night and see how tings are coming along over a cup of coffee.
Newbury Musical Theatre Society is affiliated to the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA). Founded in 1899, NODA is the main representative body for amateur theatre in the UK. It has a membership of some 2500 amateur/community theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK.
For more information on NODA, click here
Our grateful thanks for ongoing support received from the following:
The Gerald Ward Charitable Trust
The Colefax Trust
Greenham Common Trust
Thanks also to Brian Burgess at Newbury Net for web hosting services.