Cats is just the latest large-scale musical production put on by Easy Street, who have performed Les Miserables and Barnum in recent years.
Sallianne Foster-Major, director of the company, said: “With 44 in the cast of Cats, it’s a massive undertaking for any company to do. Youth theatre is slightly different from the amateur dramatic societies as it’s training for young people who want to get into the industry.”
As well as acting, the youngsters also learn about lighting and stage management and get involved with set building and helping in the costume room.
Some of the set building takes place in polytunnels at Bents Green Nursery, run by one of the other volunteers, Phillip Smith.
“It’s very much a training programme,” said Sallianne.
All the adults are volunteers, she said. Sallianne is a professional director and teaches speech and drama at Sheffield Girls’ High School and drama at Westbourne School.
She said: “I’ve directed since I was 17. I started off directing a youth company, St Cyprian’s theatre workshop, at Frecheville.
“I’ve been involved with theatre all my life -- my dad’s the chairman of Manor Operatic Society and I’ve performed since I was 14. It’s in the blood really. You get to be passionate about it, especially as a volunteer.”
She added: “We do long hours. The high you get is seeing the kids on stage. Whatever you’re doing with them is turning into this piece of theatre in front of you. All the adults and children work hard to create it.”
Sallianne said that a lot of the group are doing GCSEs or A-levels in drama, performing arts or theatre studies. Her son Harry, aged 11, wants to be a film director and others have amibitions to work in the arts.
The group are really proud that five youngsters are appearing in the chorus of Oliver!, the Christmas musical production at the Crucible this year.
Sallianne said that being part of the group has other benefits for youngsters.
“Because they come from different areas of Sheffield, when they get down here there’s a common denominator. They’re all great friends. Some start off not very confident and some completely turn their lives around.
“They encourage each other to have a go at things. It’s a huge ensemble effort.”
She said that one student, James Godfrey, sang for Sheffield Cathedral boys’ choir. “He was a really, really shy guy but he had this magnificent voice.
“He’s a completely changed person now and that’s why we do it.”
Easy Street rehearse at Nursery Works in Little London Road, Sheffield. They also run a junior section and a Saturday performing arts academy.
For more information, go to www.easystreettheatre.co.uk.