Worthing Musical Comedy Society are promising something fresh and vibrant with their production of Meet Me in St Louis in Worthing’s Connaught Theatre from May 1-5.
As director Caroline Lowe says, you could offer a show which people will have seen time and time again. Or you could go for a show which, while still a classic, will offer something new to lots of people.
WMCS has gone for the latter – and Caroline has got plenty of reasons to be pleased.
“It is based on the 1944 MGM musical which people will have heard of, starring Judy Garland, and it has got some very famous songs in it, like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Skip to My Lou and The Trolley Song.
“It’s a really charming, traditional story set in 1903, a fairly simple story about the Smith family and the children growing up within the St Louis environment and everyone really looking forward to the World Fair coming there. That’s the main excitement for them.
“I have done a lot of research, and it was a real event. It was a massive undertaking, exhibitions more than a fair really, and key features of all the states of America were exhibited there.
“The ice-cream cone was first used at this particular World Fair, and allegedly the hot dog was first sampled there.
“There were fashion shows and exhibitions, and it was a huge thing. Souza was a famous conductor and he conducted the band at the opening of the World Fair.
“We have done a lot of attention to detail so that the company know that it was a real thing.
“It is all very exciting. The last time it was performed in Worthing was 1993 and I was lucky enough to play the Judy Garland role. It has all gone full circle with me directing it now. I was fairly young back then, but not as young as our Esther now in the show, but it was one of my first shows with WMCS, and I just grew up adoring Judy Garland. I followed her through all her films, and for me it was a huge honour to play that role.
“It was her emotion in her voice that made her so great, even when she was very young. She had a very sad life behind the camera, but she just knew how to tell a story through that voice. It was a stunning voice for one so young.
“When they asked me to direct it this time, I didn’t take long to accept! It hasn’t been performed so much, and that gives us the opportunity to bring something new to it that the audience won’t have seen.
“People will see the show and remember some of the moments from the film.
“But my aim right from the beginning is that I want to make it realistic and believable. We are trying to give a real truth to the whole thing. We have got a really lovely Smith family, and we have worked really hard to make them feel like a real family. We don’t want people thinking ‘Oh, this is a musical – we don’t have to believe it.’ We want people to really feel that it is real and believable.
“I am a drama teacher and I am an examiner for LAMDA. I travel around the area to lots of schools, but directing is something that is new for me.
“I was assistant director last year for Annie at the Connaught, and now this is my first full directing job. It is so exciting, and we have got such a lovely company. It is coming together really well.”
Tickets for Worthing Musical Comedy Society’s production of Meet Me in St Louis are available from Worthing Theatres on http://worthingtheatres.co.uk.
For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2