SHE may be directing Woodseats Musical Theatre Company’s revival of Cole Porter classic Kiss Me Kate but Mary Newey has a small confession to make… she’d love to be starring too!
Since arriving in Sheffield in the early 1980s, Mary has become one of the best-known faces on the Sheffield amateur theatre circuit, playing leading roles in everything from Singin’ in the Rain to Shirley Valentine and A Little Night Music to The Sound of Music.
But the one part she never got to play was feisty Lilli Vanessi, the outspoken Broadway diva whose war with her ex-husband and co-star Fred Graham is at the centre of the comic storm in Porter’s classic mix of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and modern musical comedy.
“I’d have love to have played it,” Mary admits. “I could be the understudy but I’d be the oldest leading lady in town now!
“I always felt it would have been a great part for me but the show actually isn’t revived very often and it never came my way.
“Now I’m delighted to be directing the wonderful Jenny Bingham in the part and she is an excellent choice, a very strong singer and a fantastic actor too, which is the perfect combination.
“And she’s starring opposite Richard Carlin, a real Sheffield favourite, so I have a dream team to work with and a great supporting cast too.”
Kiss Me Kate runs at Dronfield Civic Theatre from June 19 to 22 and promises audiences one of the great Broadway songbooks – Another Op’nin, Another Show, We Opened in Venice, So In Love, I Hate Men, Too Darn Hot, Always True to You in My Fashion and Brush Up Your Shakespeare are among its best-known numbers.
And if there is anybody worried that Shakespeare, even with great show tunes thrown into the mix, could be a little too highbrow, Mary insists that really isn’t the case at all.
“It’s not all pure Shakespeare, just mainly in the Shakespearean style,” she explains. “We’ve actually had a drama teacher in to take us through it and the whole cast have enjoyed that part of it a lot.”
Woodseats was launched in the 1940s but was at its strongest in the 1990s when a string of critically-acclaimed shows at Sheffield’s Lyceum, including Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, Jesus Christ Superstar and Anything Goes, made it one of the major players on the city’s amateur circuit.
In 2005, though, a production of Guys and Dolls coincided disastrously with the G8 Summit, one night’s performance had to be cancelled due to the Lyceum being closed and people stayed away from the city centre for fear of riots that never materialised.
The result was a massive loss in income that left the society almost destitute and the amount left in the bank account was nowhere near enough to enable them to present another show for some time.
A core membership persevered, however, and a series of popular concerts led last year to Mary’s directorial debut at a new venue, Dronfield Civic Theatre, with The Boyfriend.
“It’s a smaller stage than the Lyceum but we enjoyed ourselves enormously last year and we are very happy to be back again,” Mary says.
“It’s a lovely little theatre, a really intimate space and one that has been good to us already.
“The size of the stage does mean we can’t be as extravagant as some revivals of this show but it also encourages us to be more imaginative in our approach.
“We’re not sure when we will be coming back to Sheffield.
“For the moment we are very happy where we are and people don’t seem to mind coming out to Dronfield so for us it’s a good place to be.”
Tickets for the show are available now at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 01246 290499 or 0114 2468242.
To find out more about Woodseats Musical Theatre Company, visit https://sites.google.com/site/woodseatsmusicaltc/