Stanwix Theatre, at the University of Cumbria’s Brampton Road campus, has a treat in store for lovers of musical theatre in March – in fact they have three!
From Wednesday 9 to Saturday 12 March, second-year undergraduate students will be performing three different productions, offering a diverse choice of musical theatre shows.
Award-winning director Charlotte Westerna returns to the university to lead the students in an original show set in Cumbria in World War Two.
Here, written by Kate Marlais and Alex Young, won the prestigious S & S Award in November 2015, which is presented annually to the “most promising new unproduced musical of the year”.
Here draws upon real events in the life of German artist Kurt Schwitters, famous for his Elterwater Merz Barn collage, created in 1947 in the Lake District. After exiling himself from Nazi Germany, Schwitters spent his final years living and working on Cylinder Farm in Ambleside.
Charlotte has most recently been working with acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon on the scenario for his new one-act ballet Strapless at the Royal Opera House.
She explains: “I loved my time working with the University of Cumbria students last year, so when I discovered this new musical set in Cumbria it seemed the obvious place to develop it. It feels like a very good match all round.
“The students have been getting so much from the process of developing a new piece of musical theatre with writers of Kate Marlais and Alex Young’s calibre. And in turn we’ve been feeding off their enthusiasm, talent and creativity. The local resonance has also given this work an extra poignancy.”
University musical theatre lecturer Mary Hitch is thrilled by the standard of these productions and says:
“We are very excited about the opportunity this is giving our students to be involved in creating a new show, where they themselves are part of the process of bringing these works to life.
“This is a fantastic chance to broaden their skills and experience a piece of unusual, beautiful and challenging contemporary musical theatre.”
The students will also perform musicals Standing By and London Road over the four day run.
The UK premiere of Standing By explores how the world of the theatre is spun on its head when a small fringe show is transferred to a large West End venue. The music for this show is written by Mark Webber, a University of Cumbria graduate.
The production of London Road is a regional premiere of an experimental and challenging work, which portrays how in 2006, the everyday life of the quiet rural town of Ipswich was shattered by the discovery of the bodies of five women.
Stanwix Theatre manager Lexie Ward says:
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the theatre and the students to stage these productions. We’re very passionate about bringing new shows to the audiences of Cumbria and these three musicals are outstanding examples of new and exciting work.”