Are you aware that Beeston has its very own musical theatre group? Beeston Musical Theatre Group (BMTG) were founded back in 1957 and they celebrated their 55th-anniversary last year – they are NODA-affiliated and award-winning. They perform two shows a year over at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton and their next show is the much-loved stage version of ‘Sister Act’ – Oct 24th – 28th.
We meet John Hand, who has lived in Beeston for 5 years. John’s been a member of BMTG for 8 years and has held positions on the BMTG committee. He first joined BMTG back in 2015 and he has appeared in 8 shows; including roles in ‘Guys and Dolls’ and a very memorable performance (I saw first-hand!) as the brilliant Roger De Bris in ‘The Producers’ to name a few. ‘Sister Act’ will be the first show that he’s directed.
Since late 2021 the group have been rehearsing at the Middle Street Resource Centre. John said:
“It’s a brilliant space for us to use, the staff have been extremely welcoming, and it’s been great to be more involved in this community setting.”
I talked to John about his love of musical theatre and its origins and the importance of local theatre being accessible and why we should all get ourselves a ticket to see ‘Sister Act’ in October this year!
AVG: When did you first fall in love with musical theatre?
JH: “Growing up I was always singing, I especially loved the old Irish songs my parents would play that would tell a story. As I got older, my friends were involved in various drama classes and groups. Whilst I loved to watch and support them, I preferred to stick to art , where I was much more comfortable, and didn’t have to read out loud/remember lines, which filled me with dread!
A small part of me always wanted to try, and I started to watch more musical films such as ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’, ‘RENT’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’. When I was 17 I had a fantastic teacher, who encouraged me to pick up drama in 6th Form, and not long after, I went to go see ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at the theatre and that was that.”
AVG: Are there any shows or moments that cemented this love?
JH: “The moment for me was watching ‘RENT’ for the first time and seeing how beautifully the music and songs could convey so much story and emotion, in a way I think only a musical can. After that, it was seeing ‘Les Misérables’ – watching the barricade come down in the set was mind-blowing!
Next was the first time I performed with BMTG in ‘All Shook Up’ and most recently, it was getting the chance to help direct some scenes in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. Having such talented people take the time to stop and listen to my opinion and help bring such beloved characters to life in such a poignant story was something very special to me.”
AVG: What’s your favourite role/part you’ve ever played?
JH: “This is a really tough one. There is Dean from ‘All Shook Up’, it was my first show, so that performance will always be very special to me.
I also loved playing Benny in ‘Guys and Dolls’. Overall it has to be Roger De Bris from ‘The Producers’! It was the most camp, eccentric and ridiculous role I have ever been able to play, and if I could, I’d do it all again.”
AVG: What is the most exciting/interesting thing about directing for you?
JH: “It’s taking an idea you have in mind, the idea for the stage or how a character reacts or how you imagined a scene could look and then getting to bring that to life. That’s one of the things I’m most excited about with ‘Sister Act’ – getting a chance to work with the cast, bring out their ideas and characters, and make something that translates to the audience.
With our last show,’ Fiddler on the Roof’ – one of my favourite things I got to do was working with the talented cast to help understand each character’s perspective and story, using this to create an authentic, emotional performance.”
AVG: Why is supporting local theatre important?
JH: “A lot of the time, it feels like theatre is something accessible only for the privileged few. Many people have been convinced that theatre is only a luxury, one many cannot afford, and this is even more so for those wanting to create and perform. With the rising costs of professional productions and many questioning the value of creative hobbies, more and more people sadly miss out on these valuable experiences.
Local theatre gives us a chance to change this. It allows a chance for our community to express themselves, share stories and just bring a little bit more enjoyment back into our lives.
For an audience, it gives access to shows and stories that otherwise they may have never been able to.
Most of all, art and theatre are something so valuable to who we are and who we want to be. By supporting local theatre, we help keep it so that everyone has this chance.”
AVG: Finally, why should people come to see ‘Sister Act’ this autumn?
JH: “Well, first and most importantly: this show is just so much fun! The songs in this show are just so catchy, but more importantly, the vocals of the cast are just going to be phenomenal. We actually have twice as many nuns as this production normally would, so when they’ve been singing Raise Your Voice they quite literally raise the roof – it’s insane.
Every performer gives it their all. We’re planning an ambitious set with our production manager Katie, Chris our musical director is putting together a fantastic live band that will be playing every night, combined with Jodie’s amazing choreography this should be a show to remember.
As a massive fan of the original ‘Sister Act’ film and the show, I just can’t wait to get the audience in the theatre in October and have a fabulous time.”
Keep an eye on BMTG’s social media, it’s always lively as they regularly pop up at local events to promote their shows with performances. To find out more and to book tickets – https://bmtg.org.uk.