Community Corner with Richard Abrams

23rd April 2019

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#CommunityCorner with Richard Abrams, one of the Musical Directors for multi-award winning amateur Theatre company, COS Productions.  Merrily We Roll along is on at The Barn Theatre 8th – 11th May 2019.

HOW DID COS PRODUCTIONS START? TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR HISTORY.

COS Productions was formed in 1951 under the name Cirencester Operatic Society. Its first show was Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ and it was performed at The Bingham Hall.  The Society performed Gilbert & Sullivan operetta’s annually until 1965 when it ventured into ‘modern musical theatre’ with a production of Oklahoma.  In total the Society has performed 112 musical shows in the town with the majority being at The Barn Theatre.  That first show, ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ has been performed 8 times in all.  Well, it is considered the most popular of the G&S operettas. 

WHAT ABOUT YOU? HOW DID YOU GET INTO AMATEUR THEATRE?

My first foray onto the stage was at the age of six, when I started taking dance lessons. I remember being deeply unpopular with the chaperones, who were constantly finding that I had disappeared off to explore the theatre. A little after that I started drama lessons and joined my first musical theatre group at about age 11.

WHAT OTHER SPACES HAVE YOU WORKED IN LOCALLY?

My home is in Swindon, so I’ve grown up around the Wyvern Theatre and Arts Centre. I’ve worked as Musical Director for the Wharf Theatre in Devizes and have also been involved in productions at the Bingham Hall and various schools and colleges in the area.

HOW DID YOU CONNECT WITH THE BARN?

As the musical theatre scene in Swindon became increasingly crowded, A theatre company I had been Musical Director with for a number of years were seeking a new venue to perform in. We had already been working with some of the technical staff from the Barn Theatre and moved our performances to Cirencester prior to the refurbishment. Before that I had already been to see a few productions at The Barn – including watching COS tackle another of Sondheim’s works, Follies.

HOW HAS WORKING IN THE BARN THEATRE BEEN SINCE IT WAS RENOVATED?

The technical facilities at the Barn are excellent, in fact, I would say they are virtually unparalleled in theatres of comparable size. This gives tremendous creative scope in how we approach and stage performances.

TELL US A FEW MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM RECENT SHOWS

During the re-fit, we were staging a production of Acorn Antiques, the first to make use of the new sub-stage pit. As the theatre was still in the process of being renovated the band were frequently showered with plaster dust from the cast tap dancing above our heads. by way of apology, we bought everyone pizza during one of our final rehearsals. Unfortunately, I had become distracted and gave our violin player the go-ahead to grab a slice… moments before the cue for one of the big production numbers. She gamely played the entire piece with a large slice of pizza tightly gripped between her teeth – something I won’t forget for a while.

COS PRODUCTIONS HAVE PRODUCED A NUMBER OF STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S WORKS, TELL US ABOUT THIS ONE AND YOUR ROLE?

Merrily We Roll Along is the semi-autobiographical story of a composer and his two best friends as they seek success and recognition on Broadway. As with many of Sondheim’s pieces, it’s really an exploration of character and the consequences of attaining your dreams.

Although originally booked as Musical Director for the production, a role I’m still fulfilling and enjoying, things took an interesting twist during the early stages of casting and I find myself more involved than usual! It’s given us the chance to create something a little different and to involve the band more in the staging of the show than they would usually have the opportunity to be. We’re really excited to be presenting this rarely performed musical and hope the audiences will really enjoy the unique nature of the show.

COS PRODUCTION ARE PERFORMING STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG AT THE BARN THEATRE, CIRENCESTER 8TH – 11TH MAY 2019