The show goes on for 65 years for actor Mike at 80!

There are some theatre companies that can rise like a phoenix out of the ashes no matter what disasters are thrown out of them.

Monday, 20th May 2019, 11:17 am
Updated Friday, 24th May 2019, 10:44 am
Mike Richardson, all set for a production of The Mikado in 1976

And in the case of Woodseats Musical Theatre Company that could be said to have been quite literally the case on one headline-grabbing occasion.

Woodseats Operatic Society, as it was then known, staged its first full-scale performance - Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado - in 1945.

Brought in to play leading man, wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo, was Harry Richardson, the manager of the Darnall branch of the Midland Bank.

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Mike Richardson's father Harry in a Woodseats Musical Theatre Company production of The Yeomen of the Guard

He would go on to play many other major roles, as well as eventually taking on the responsibilities of musical director and treasurer.

Son Mike grew up within the Woodseats family and took his first stage role at the age of 15 in the long-forgotten musical favourite Gypsy Love.

At the age of 80, Mike continues to be a key figure in Woodseats Musical Theatre Company, taking to the stage in a variety of character roles.

This year he’ll be playing Coach in the company’s new production of Footloose: The Musical at The Montgomery.

Woodseats Musical Theatre Company's production of The Yeomen of the Guard in 1950

Mike said: “It was really part of the family when I was growing up because my mother Marjorie was the company’s secretary for many years.

“My father took many of the lead roles in the late 1940s and early 1950s, shows like The Damask Rose, Good Night Vienna, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Mountebanks, Ruddigore, Veronique and The Quaker Girl.

“I never knew a man who could do so many things - he sang, he could play the violin, he could do woodwork and joinery, he was a bricklayer, he once had a trial for Hull City and he played cricket as well as being a banker.”

After his first taste of life in the chorus, Mike started to graduate to lead roles - Oklahoma, Hello Dolly, The Gypsy Baron and Gigi are among his many credits.

A 1956 Woodseats Musical Theatre Company production of Quaker Girl

Mike had been at the dress rehearsal for the 1971 production of A Country Girl only a few hours earlier when word came through on May 4 that the Montgomery Theatre had been completely gutted by fire, destroying not only the venue but also the society’s scenery and 95 per cent of costumes.

“I got a phone call on the morning of the first night to say that the place had gone up in flames,” Mike says. “The only thing that survived of mine was a red wig!”

In the true spirit of the show must go on, the company salvaged what it could and, with the support of Sheffield City Council, moved into Sheffield City Hall just a few days later for two special performance.

Just a year later The Montgomery was restored and the company was the first to perform on the newly-improved stage with a revival of The Gypsy Baron.

The 2005 Woodseats Musical Theatre Company production of Guys and Dolls

There was a period when Mike moved away to work with other groups and in that time, Woodseats made the transition to the stage at the Lyceum Theatre, starting in 1994 with South Pacific and working through The Pirates of Penzance, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, Me and My Girl, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma and Oliver!.

Mike made his return in 2002 as the Starkeeper in Broadway classic Carousel.

A 2005 revival of Guys and Dolls, however, brought the company’s days at the Lyceum to a close and for a while it looked like the society might disappear.

But by 2012, following a series of successful concert performances, Woodseats Musical Theatre Company was back - this time at Dronfield Civic Theatre - with Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend. Mike once again joined the principal cast.

Since then he has appeared in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Kiss Me Kate and was in the cast when Woodseats returned to The Montgomery with Half a Sixpence.

As Mike looks forward to joining the cast of Footloose, he can look back on many decades with one of Sheffield’s great theatrical survival stories.

A 2013 production of Kiss Me, Kate

Kick off your Sunday shoes as Woodseats Musical Theatre Company present classic 1980s favourite Footloose: The Musical at the Montgomery Theatre in Sheffield from July 10 to 13.

Tickets on 0114 2644803 or 078554 23670.