In December, Letchworth’s Broadway Theatre will open its doors for a six-night run of its first-ever resident production, The Wind in the Willows. Scott Ritchie tells us what it means to be the first resident theatre company at Broadway and how they have been working in the community for months ahead of their Christmas showcase.
Scott, it seems early to be talking about Christmas. Why should we be talking about Broadway Theatre’s The Wind in the Willows Christmas show?
It’s an exciting time for Letchworth’s Broadway Theatre. The venue has embarked upon an inspiring new venture this year by hosting the town’s first resident theatre production.
This new staging of The Wind in the Willows has been specifically produced for Broadway Theatre and Letchworth audiences. It has all the ingredients of an energetic, fun-filled family Christmas show. It has been created as an alternative to a traditional Christmas pantomime, while retaining all the elements that work so well such as singing, dancing and acting.
What benefits will the show bring to Letchworth as a resident production?
With Broadway Theatre securing a resident production for the town, it means the show is built solely around the Letchworth community. The show isn’t going on a tour around UK theatres and this means that energy can be channelled into what works best for local Letchworth families and Broadway Theatre audiences.
As a resident production, we were thrilled to hold the auditions for The Wind in the Willows junior chorus at Broadway Theatre in June, encouraging children and young people from Letchworth and surrounding areas to come forward for a role in the Christmas show. We didn’t need to open the auditions to other towns and venues or hold auditions in London as is often the case. We were so impressed with the standard of talent that we’ve adapted the main scripts so that enhanced acting roles are now in place, as well as singing and dancing for the younger members. This means local children and young people can develop their performance skills right here at Broadway Theatre, in a high-profile Christmas show, at a high quality venue.
Aside from those interested in performing arts, how will your residency be of interest to the wider Letchworth community?
We’re passionate about the show being built around the whole community so that we can say with confidence that The Wind in the Willows is ‘Made in Letchworth’. An example of popular engagement with the community is The Wind in the Willows storytelling we held for families and children who came along to the free community Have a Field Day event at Radwell Meadows back in July. Children and local families enjoyed the great outdoors, listening to chapters from the book. This was set against the backdrop of the beautiful Wind in the Willows sculptures, fittingly created from willow and situated on Letchworth’s popular Greenway. We gave visitors a flavour of what’s to come in the Christmas production including the values of friendship and loyalty shown by Mole and Ratty, not to mention the mischievous antics of characters such as Toad and Chief Weasel.
What else is planned in the lead up to the Christmas show?
There are a variety of events in the pipeline between now and Christmas.
We’re excited to be holding the adult professional auditions at Broadway Theatre on 9 September. We’ve received 684 applicants in total for the roles of Mole, Chief Weasel/Badger, Toad and Ratty in the first week alone, which shows how competitive it is to win a leading role. Holding the auditions at Broadway Theatre is a draw for professional talent as it is a quality venue. We have a lot of shortlisting to do and will narrow this down to five actors per role for each audition.
As well as the auditions, we’re hosting more themed activities at Standalone Farm throughout October half term and setting up a display in Letchworth town centre. An exciting development is the series of Wind in the Willows inspired workshops we’ll be hosting within Letchworth schools. The aim is to facilitate learning and education around values and highlight the fun and playful messages found within the classic tale. It will also be an opportunity to showcase some of the show’s songs and act out some of the scenes!
When will the rehearsals take place?
Once the cast is in place, rehearsals will run between 18 November and 1 December 2019 at Broadway Studio and Gallery. We’re very excited to be offering local families the opportunity to enter a prize draw with the chance to win a backstage tour and watch the actors rehearsing for the show. The winners can quiz producers about the production process and find out what’s involved in creating and developing a show, as well as what kind of background you might need to break into the industry. If you have a passion for performing arts, theatre production or think it would be interesting to watch the rehearsals and find out more, simply email your name and the names of any accompanying family members to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word ‘Rehearsals’ in the subject heading, by 20 September 2019. We will contact the winner shortly afterwards.
When does the show run and how do I book a ticket?
The Wind in the Willows Christmas show runs from 10 to 15 December 2019.
You can book a ticket online via broadway-letchworth.com/theatre or call the Broadway Theatre box office on 01462 681088.