Friday, 1 July 2016

Honest As Coconuts: Banter With Benjamin

Ches Checkley-Hill joined The Wight Strollers in September 2014 as part of the cast for our February 2015 production of Aladdin. He has since gone from strength to strength in our chorus and has this year taken his first principal role, as Benjamin in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

We thought we'd have a catch-up with the lovely Ches to see how he's been finding it! So, Ches, how did it feel to be asked to play Benjamin?

Fantastic! It's genuinely one of the best opportunities of my life.

And this is your first part with the Strollers, isn't it?

It is!

So what was your first show with the company?

Aladdin in 2015 - it was my first pantomime and I got to dress up as a woman, so it was a pretty good first show with the company!

Only since 2015? It feels like you've been with us a lot longer, I have to say! What's your favourite thing about being in The Wight Strollers?

Just everything. I can't pinpoint what's so great about it - just everything. I love it.

That's always nice to hear! And what about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, what's your favourite thing about that?

Just being on the stage, singing and dancing, and getting to be a part of such an incredible show with such amazing people.

And if you had to choose a favourite song, what would it be?

The Benjamin Calypso! Obviously!

Obviously! Alright then, off the back of that, who's your favourite brother?

Judah. Definitely. Mostly because he begs for my life - that's quite a good way of becoming someone's favourite brother!



It most certainly is - we won't spoil the story by letting everyone know if he succeeds! Of course, Judah's just one of Benjamin's eleven brothers - what's it been like being one of twelve siblings?

It's just like one big family, to be honest. We might as well be brothers, we get along really well. It's great - they're all fantastic and it's wonderful to see it all coming together with everyone now.

You also stepped in a few weeks ago to double up as the Butler, didn't you? How are you finding that?

I like it! It's definitely typecast, because he's a bit of a camp character, so you know, I'm loving it - it's definitely been fun to double up.

We're less than a week from showtime now, so what are you most looking forward to about getting into the theatre?

There's so many things! Wearing all the costumes, putting on all the make-up, getting into character for an audience - doing all of that is fantastic.

It certainly gets the adrenaline pumping! Why do you think people should buy a ticket to see the show?

Because it's an amazing show! It's so fantastic; from the sets to the dancing to the acting to the costumes and everything, it's all fantastic. Everyone needs to see it.

And, to finish, a question we'll be asking all interviewed cast members: what's your favourite colour?

Pink.

That's a favourite colour you share with your favourite brother, I think! Thanks so much for chatting, Ches - and the very best of luck in your first principal role with The Wight Strollers. I think I speak for everyone when I say you're going to absolutely smash it!

-

To see Ches in action as Benjamin, book your tickets for Joseph at Medina Theatre on July 9th and 10th 2016 by visiting www.medinatheatre.co.uk or by phoning 01983 823884.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Wonderful Workshops!

Over the last six weeks, Team Joseph have created a sub-team: Team Workshop. This particular team of people, led by yours truly, have been visiting schools and community groups around the Island delivering free workshops to children to help them gain confidence, try out singing and dancing and have some fun with the story of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

And the feedback has been wonderful.

The workshops contained a mixture of games, vocal warm-up exercises, singing and dancing, with each group learning two songs from the show: Any Dream Will Do and Benjamin Calypso. 

Each group also took home our 'Design A Dreamcoat' worksheet, and all those returned by the deadline will be displayed at Medina Theatre during the run.

We thought it would be nice to share just some of the feedback with you, and give Team Workshop some recognition for all their hard work.

"It was wonderful of the cast members to give us a day of [their] time and provide the children with such a great experience...the children loved it and they all thought you guys were great."
- Carisbrooke C of E Primary School

"It was great to have you all in...it's really humbling to know there are folks out there prepared to give up their time for children and to share their talent and passion for the arts with them."
- Haylands Primary School

"Thank-you Team Joseph for a brilliant workshop...the children were really inspired. Your 'Fat Camel' galloping game has caught on with Year 6!"
- Brighstone C of E Primary School


Thank-you so much to each and every member of Team Workshop for all their help, and to all the schools and community groups we visited for being so warm and welcoming, and to all the children who participated - what a credit all of them were to themselves, their parents, their schools and groups.

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To see Team Workshop (and their dozens of fellow cast members!) in action, all you need to do is phone 01983 823884 or visit the Medina Theatre website to book your tickets  - we'll see you in July!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Closing In On Showtime...

Well now, what a couple of weeks we've had! As many of you, our wonderful supporters, will by now know, online booking at Medina Theatre has been unavailable for the last two weeks, due to a technical hitch beyond the theatre's control.

We are, however, pleased to report that the online booking website is now back up and running, so please do book your tickets!

We'd also like to thank Neil at The Pompey Chimes for his help in promoting the show throughout the diocese, especially whilst online booking was unavailable, and we'd like to give an equally big shout-out to every single person who and gave us support across our various social media platforms. Your support was absolutely invaluable.

Meanwhile, rehearsals have been going swimmingly and cast members are now working with our spectacular set to get used to it ahead of next week's dress rehearsals and performances.

Next week! We can hardly believe it's now so close!

With every single department in overdrive - from costumes to props to publicity - we're pushing harder than ever to reach the sell-out houses our cast deserves.


In a fundraising update, we raised a further £280 towards the cost of putting on Joseph with our quiz night on Sunday 27th June, which was attended by a whopping 89 people.

We recently made an appearance at Shorwell Midsummer Fair earlier this month, too - and not only were we flyering, we also pitted two of Joseph's brothers - Asher and Napthali - against each other on the Gladiator Pole.

There's never a dull moment on Team Joseph, that's for sure!

And, in some very exciting news, we have also chosen our charities and good causes to support with the proceeds from the show.

St Peter's Church will, of course, be receiving some of the proceeds towards getting running water, a kitchen and a toilet installed in the church, and we will also be supporting the Joe Ellis Trust, as well as putting some money towards a Public Access Defibrillator in the Shorwell area.

Now all that's left to do is sell the remaining tickets and introduce you to some more of our wonderful cast before curtain up!

There's loads to look forward to on the blog before showtime: you'll meet Joseph, Benjamin and the Narrator, among others, as well as hearing from some of the production team.

You'll also find out more about the workshops we've been offering to schools and community groups over the last six weeks; and you'll be getting some more sneak peeks of our set and costumes.



Don't leave it to chance - make sure you've got your tickets for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Medina Theatre on July 9th and 10th, either by booking online or by phoning 01983 823884 - it's going to be phenomenal!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Stop. Rewind. Play. Repeat.

"The film's not finished, it's just paused!"

Last week, I heard a child shout these seven words to his friend as they wandered past me during the interval of Mary Poppins at The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton...and they broke my heart.

When did technology become so ingrained in our lives that the next generation can't recognise the difference between actors on a stage and people on a cinema screen?

I suppose, in a way, it was a compliment to the show, which was practically perfect in every way; slick and polished, Mary Poppins was the highest class of entertainment. But alongside all the magic I carried away with me, I also carried that little boy's words, stuck in my head long after the final chord.

Since last week, I've had time to muse on it and, not for the first time, have come to the conclusion, that there is one way and one way only to ensure that live theatre is preserved in all its glory.

And that's by supporting it, and by encouraging your friends, your family, your children to support it, too.

You can't pause a live show, you can't rewind the bits you've missed, you can't screenshot it or find it on iPlayer - it's happening, right there in front of you. Characters are coming to life, a story is being told, and every single person doing the telling is doing it as you watch.

Anything could happen...and isn't that a thrill?

No two performances are the same, each audience will see an equally impressive but slightly different show. Each audience member will come away with a different experience, according to what caught their eye.

One may spot Joseph sat on the steps trying to decipher his dreams whilst the Brothers are scheming, another might see the shock of the Chorus as Benjamin is accused of theft, a third might see Joseph and the Narrator dancing together in the background of another number, a fourth could hear an instrumental riff from a different musical creeping into the score...

Hundreds of people watching the same show can see hundreds of tiny details, nuances and moves. Each person will have their own favourite song, favourite character, favourite moment; each of those moments has been delivered by a real person, in real time.

And only those hundreds in the audience will have shared in the experience. It can't be replayed, it can't be replicated. What an exclusive club to join, to be one of only a fraction of the population to have witnessed the magic of a particular show, with a particular cast in a particular place.

Don't underestimate the sticking power of such memories.

For a family of four to see Finding Dory in 3D would cost just 60p less than it would for the same family to see our production of Joseph at Medina Theatre this July (also in 3D, I hasten to add!) with a live band, a live cast of 57 and no DVD option for later!

It's a no-brainer.

We'll see you at the theatre!

-

Please Note: Medina Theatre's online booking system is currently unavailable. To book your tickets in the meantime, please phone 01983 823884 or visit Medina Theatre Box Office in person - if the box office is unmanned, pop downstairs and buy your tickets from the Medina Leisure Centre reception.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Meet The Family...

We're officially less than a month away from the first performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in association with St. Peter's Church, Shorwell, and the cast couldn't be more excited!

And having made a further £178 at our Beetle Drive, and with a pub quiz coming up at the end of this month, we're well on our way to being able to make yet another sizeable donation to Island good causes following the production.

Rehearsals, of course, are hotting up, and what a few weeks we've had!


There's laughs a-plenty to be had in this production, with bananas, goats, pom-poms, berets and even a camel all making an appearance.

So what better time to introduce you to some of the cast, starting with these lovely lads: Jacob and Sons.

Jacob was, as the song goes, the founder of a whole new nation, and as such he had twelve sones: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Napthali, Isachaar, Asher, Dan, Zebulun, Gad, Judah, Benjamin and, of course, Joseph.

Joe's brothers aren't his biggest fans. In fact, his dreams irritate them no end; so when Joseph is given the titular dreamcoat, they decide to do away with him by throwing him in a pit.

But when a passing group of Ishmaelites happens upon their deed, their mercenary streak wins through and they haul Joseph out of the pit to sell him into slavery.

Brotherly love, indeed.

They're not all bad, though, and the talented bunch who portray them on stage are a delight, reducing the rest of the cast (and each other!) to fits of giggles on a regular basis.

The Brothers also get some of the production's most memorable numbers, including One More Angel In Heaven, Those Canaan Days and the Benjamin Calypso.

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Want to find out if The Brothers get their comeuppance for attempting fratricide? Make sure you book to see them in action this July - they're quite the team! - and keep an eye on the blog for all the latest Strollers news.


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Springtime with the Strollers

Firstly, we'd like to apologise for being AWOL on the blog for a while - but we're back, after a busy couple of months, with lots of exciting things to tell you!

Back in April, we not only began rehearsals for Joseph, in collaboration with St Peter's Church, Shorwell, but we also had our AGM, where each year we give money away to our chosen charities.

This year, we were thrilled to match last year's total and give away £6,500 to our charities; after such a huge rise in the price of the theatre, we had to work especially hard this year to ensure that we sold out, in order for our charities not to take the hit. And we did it! We sold a whopping 2,049 tickets over our five shows, so thank-you to every single person who bought a ticket or helped us to promote Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

As a result, at our AGM on Wednesday 20th April, we were able to donate £500 to Saturday Club for the Deaf, £1,500 to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, £2,000 to the Martin Poynter Trust and £2,500 to Isle of Wight Scope.

A wonderful result and a huge final congratulations to Team Snow White on all the hard work that went into putting on such a successful pantomime.


Also on the agenda for the meeting was committee nominations and the election of a director for our 2017 pantomime.

Geoff Cox - our Vice-President - made the difficult decision to stand down from committee after many years of dedicated service. A hugely valued member of the Strollers family, his presence will certainly be missed at meetings. We are, however, delighted to welcome Nick Weightman (last seen strutting his stuff with a hoover, next to be seen sporting a glorious Technicolor dreamcoat!) onto the team.

There were two nominations for our 2017 director: Sarah Scotcher and Grumbly the Dwarf. The company unanimously voted Grumbly, until we found out that Smiley had filled in the nomination form on Grumbly's behalf, as a practical joke!

With no other choice, we were forced to vote again and Sarah came out on top - congratulations, Sarah!

We also raised £52 at the AGM with our games of Bingo and Family Fortunes - there's never a dull moment at a Strollers meeting!

Following on from this fantastic meeting, with Joseph rehearsals going swimmingly and our coffee morning raising £203 towards show costs, we leapt into May with a spring in our step.

Our next fundraiser was a Barn Dance at Shorwell Parish Hall, which raised a huge £285 towards Joseph.

A huge thanks to Geoff and June Cox for calling so brilliantly, to Tony Scotcher for paying for the hire of the hall, to Shorwell Social Club for running the bar, and to everyone who attended and made it such a brilliant evening!

As we continue into May, we're busier than ever and working towards a summer of music, fun and laughter...and, of course, our much-anticipated carnival entry, the theme of which will be...revealed at our first carnival outing! Watch this space!

In the meantime, we'll see you at Medina Theatre this July and please do keep an eye on the blog, as well as on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for all the latest news and updates.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Feedback, Round 2!

Well, what a second weekend we had! Completely sold out and the positive feedback has once more been flooding in since this time last week - so we thought we'd share a few more of the wonderful things people have been saying about our production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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"It was the first time we'd seen a performance by you all and it was truly unique. My son hasn't stopped talking about it, [we] can't wait for July!"
- Laura Smith

"Fantastic show - well done."
- Susan Coquio

"Thank-you so much for a fantastic show tonight, we loved it."
- Caroline B Ritchie
"Thank-you so much to cast and crew for another brilliant performance last night! It was hilarious and entertaining as always, and even the two 14-year-olds that I had with me loved it and yelled and clapped along with the rest of us. We absolutely love the Strollers shows, we always leave with a big grin and dried tears of laughter on our cheeks. We will be back for next year's panto and we will see you all in July for Joseph."
- Lou Hewison

"A great show again, I came on Saturday afternoon. Def[initely] didn't disappoint, [it] was great. Loved it and so did my nieces, who are still talking about it now - great job, guys!"
- Samantha Stean

"Thank-you for our magical afternoon from 8th Ryde Brownies, we had a fantastic time and hope you like our photos - see you next year!"
- Caroline Seaward

"Another bloody amazing production. They just get better and better. Love the adult humour. Nice to see some new faces, which means it is still going to be the best panto on the Island for a good few years. What can you say about Sarah's performance apart from 'brilliant as usual!' - can't wait to see Joseph in July. Well done to you all!"
- Lynda Waddams

"Every year, me and my fiance come down to support The Wight Strollers. Having taken part in many shows before moving to London, I must say I truly miss it. A cheeky little shout out to my mummy, Karen Cassford, who somehow manages to work full time, organise, design and create endless number of incredible costumes. And Cheryl Rudd, absolutely incredible choreography! It is just such a pleasure to watch all the beautiful dancers as well - watching them grow into lovely young ladies! An incredible cast and an incredible director - well done, Wight Strollers! Standing ovation!"
- Hannah Cassford

"Thank-you for a wonderful pantomime!"
- Sandra Ma Davies

"The Wight Strollers put on an awesome performance this evening...laughed so much! Well done, all! Very well done!"
- Julie Anne Harris

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We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported us - whether that was by liking one of our Facebook posts, sharing our event, putting up a poster or, of course, coming to the show itself - we couldn't have done this without every single one of you!

We will be announcing our charity totals in April, so watch this space!

In the meantime, if you enjoyed Snow White - or if you missed out and want another chance to see us in action - then visit the Medina Theatre website and book tickets for Joseph - they're already selling fast!

As always, please visit our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to keep up to date on the everyday happenings of The Wight Strollers.