Theatre in Wales

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A Grateful Retrospective

Aberystwyth Summer Musical

Summer Productions , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , July 23, 2021
Aberystwyth Summer Musical by Summer Productions Many species make for themselves forms of play. Only one species places such significance on ritual and ceremony.

The human mind spends its time roving outside the immediacy of place and moment. Ceremonies are anchors and expression of communality; play itself is indispensable for innovation.

Every kind of event, of togetherness, has been swept away for a year and a quarter. The enclosedness of home is essential but it is also insufficient. It is a place to cherish but also a place to step out from.

In a time without ritual, funerals have been enacted with mourners diminished. One hundred thousand weddings are on hold. Millions sing together weekly; for months a tenor has been a person of danger.

Aberystwyth Arts Centre for long had a rhythm to its year. The final touring production would perform around the end of May. The ambience would quieten with the examination period. It would flare into life again with graduations. Aberfest would run for two weeks of chamber music, classes and events. A company would arrive early July for three weeks of intensive rehearsal.

Public money is for public event. It is good that the range of artistic events should include one with ten thousand tickets to sell for an audience from five counties. At its peak the Aberystwyth musical pioneered a unique hybrid of performance. The productions have propelled young performers of Wales from chorus parts to dance and drama college and professional life.

In 2020 a summer collaboration with the Eisteddfod and Theatr na nÓg, long in the preparation, did not take place. Hopes are placed on its happening in 2022. Aberfest returns next week, its scale reduced but live music will flow.

From the record:

2015: “Aberystwyth’s five-week summer show is now a taut and honed production machine...It is a big show, the likely biggest after WNO in Wales’ annual calendar, and one that arrives via the tightest of rehearsal periods. That it does so with the brio, panache and flamboyance of this production is part-due to the well-established team behind it.”

2013: “It is the last week of July and the epicentre of theatre in Wales has moved west. Eight or nine companies are packing their bags for the melee of Edinburgh but it is in Aberystwyth where the big show, the big noise and the big audience are happening. Nudge the person in the adjoining seat and the starting point for their journey might have been anywhere from Saundersfoot to Llanidloes. The box office is bursting good and the cast is a dream.”

2012 “Hairspray” closes with the most ecstatic scene to have played on Aberystwyth's stage. “You can't stop the beat” sings the entire cast. Indeed you can't; Arts Centre house staff report that the sheer gusting energy is bringing the audience to its feet night after night. It is a big sound from a big company. Producer Alan Hewson and director Anthony Williams have swelled the company this year to thirty-one in number.”

2010: “The Aberystwyth summer musical has earned itself over a couple of decades a loyal audience franchise. From the sound of the reaction this year “Chicago” may be breaking new ground in tone and content but went down with no less rapture. What is interesting is how the Aber show has morphed into taking on the most demanding shows from the musical canon...a consistent quality producing venue it stands alongside the Watermill and the Menier Chocolate Factory.”

Reviews below:

10 August 2019 “Oliver!”

29 July 2015 “Legally Blonde”

30 July 2014 “Sister Act”

06 August 2013 “Little Shop of Horrors”

20 August 2012 “Magic of Musicals” charity performance

01 August 2012 “Hairspray”

10 August 2011 “Chess”

22 July 2011 “Chess”

24 August 2010 “Magic of Musicals”- charity performance

26 July 2010 “Chicago”

13 August 2009 “The King and I”

17 August 2008 “My Fair Lady”

24 July 2008 “My Fair Lady”

28 July 2007 West Side Story

29 July 2006 “Fiddler on the Roof”

30 July 2005 “Oliver”

28 August 2004 “Singing in the Rain”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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