WATCH: Duchess's takes on Queen - Alnwick high school musical in rehearsal
The prestigious conveyor belt of talent at Alnwick's high school that has produced a stream of high-class shows is set for yet another humdinger.
Students and staff at Duchess's Community High School are putting the final touches to their production of the rip-roaring musical We Will Rock You, which is due to open at Alnwick Playhouse on Wednesday, February 21.
A mere handful of tickets remain for the five-show run, such is the fantastic reputation of the school's musicals, which have entertained sell-out crowds in recent years, for the likes of Grease (2012), Back to the 80s (2013), Return to the Forbidden Planet (2014), Disco Inferno (2015), Rock of Ages (2016) and Fame (2017).
Now Duchess's takes on Queen in the shape of Ben Elton's brilliantly-corny jukebox musical. Originally panned by the critics (what do they know?), the show has gone on to record huge successes around the world.
I called in at the rehearsals today ahead of the opening night in a week-and-a-half, and found the usual energy, hard work and commitment associated with one of the school's productions - it's going to be a belter.
Judging by the couple of numbers I watched, the Alnwick audiences are in for a treat - where do they get these talented youngsters from? My video shows Ruby Falke performing No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) and dancer-turned-dynamic-diva Cora Drummond belting out Somebody To Love.
Now that the school, which has retained its deserved Artsmark Gold status, has converted to a secondary, the audition process was inundated with 11 and 12-year-olds (Years 7 and 8), eager to be a part of this remarkable success story and join the distinguished list of past performers. Several of them made it through the auditions and will gracing the Playhouse stage along with their older counterparts.
Sadly, there will be no musical next year as the Playhouse closes for 12 months for its Â£3.3million refit, so everyone is keen to make a lasting impression to carry the school through to 2020.
Director Martin Allenby, head of English and Drama, was pleased with the progress of this production when I spoke to him and said the high standards he has demanded over the years were being met, despite the extra challenges that come with a new school building and educational structure.
"It will only be 109 days from the end of our autumn play Much Ado About Nothing to the start of We Will Rock You, so it has been tight, but I think we will be ready," he said.
Mr Allenby claimed he had mellowed since he started getting involved with the school performances, coincidentally on the 2011 production of We Will Rock You. Perhaps we should ask the current cast for their opinion!
Cast: Isaac Ellis (Galileo), Cora Drummond (Scaramouche), Harriet Renner (Killer Queen), Ruby Falke (Meat), Jack Clements (Brit), Oscar Wilson (Khash), Ethan Allan (Oggi), Martin Latto (Pop), Gordon Rae (Big Macca), Palesa Thompson (Teacher), Emily Breeze, Jamie Brown, Megan Brown, Robyn Charlton, Maddie Clements, Jemima Green, Phoebe Hayton, Honey Hughes (violin), Emma Jackson (soprano sax), Jamie Mcintosh, Isaac Mills, Isla Morton, Erin Murray, Becca Pitcher, Lauren Robinson, Darci Scott, Lucas Thornbury. Band: Ruairi Ryan (guitar and AMD), Robin Falke (bass), Toby Cooke (drums), George Moloney (keyboard), Tom Rippon (keyboard), Adam Johnston (alto sax). Assistant directors: Megan Hallows, Antonia Scott.