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Ian Cheeseman: Break-a-Leg

The end of one era is always the start of a new one.

From 31st May 2024 Dukinfield Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society and Ashton Operatic Society will cease to exist, but then as if by magic on 1st June “TADAA” will be formed. Think about it and say “TADAA” out loud. It’s quite clever really, the new amalgamated society will be called Theatre Arts of Dukinfield and Ashton; TADAA for short.

The last two productions for the old companies will be Open All Hours, the Roy Clarke written sitcom, turned into a play by Dukinfield, running from 14th to 16th March at Hurst Community Centre in Ashton and West Side Story by Ashton OS from 21st to 25th May at the George Lawton Hall in Mossley.

I’ve been speaking to Scott Lees, the Chairman of Ashton Operatic Society and David Owen a member of the management committee of Dukinfield Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society to find out the whys and wherefores of what’s happened.

Scott told me, “It’s a wise decision because both societies are by and large the same people so we’re functioning with half a committee on either side, still doing the same shows we’ve always done in the same time frames. All that happens is that the membership shifts from one society to the other, halfway through the year. It’s just come to a point where we have to think a bit more creatively. Both societies have had long histories with Ashton celebrating 125 years. The memberships decided on this change a couple of years ago.”

I’m well aware of the costs involved in staging full scale musicals, even at AM/DRAM level, so I wondered if money was the reason for the amalgamation.

“It costs a significant amount to stage a musical”, Scott told me, “even if you have a relatively small venue like the George Lawton Hall. It was much better at the Tameside Hippodrome, where revenue could be much greater. By pooling monies, props and all the assets we have into one pot it becomes more viable for the future.”

David explained the thinking behind the new name, Theatre Arts of Dukinfield and Ashton. “We all felt that the concept of an Operatic Society is becoming a bit old fashioned as no-one does Operettas and Operas anymore and of course the new name, when abbreviated gives us TADAA, which seems very appropriate. We don’t know what the first production of the new society will be, that will be decided by the new committee. I’ve done thirty-one years on Dukinfield’s admin side and it’s time for me to step aside and the younger end to step up. Encouragingly we do have some new blood that are getting involved which I really find very heart warming.”

I can only wish the new society all the success in the future and I can’t wait to hear their plans, but while we await the news there are still those final shows to look forward to and as well as hearing Scott Lees and David Owen on my show this week, you’ll meet Paul Whitworth, who’s playing Arkwright in Open All Hours. It must be quite a daunting role to fill, having been played by the great Ronnie Barker on TV. He told me, “It’s a lot of responsibility”. You’ll hear many more of his thoughts on my radio show this week when I’ll also be talking to the director of Romilly Operatic Societies production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert which is at Stockport Plaza from 12-16th March. That show will be unmissable, I’ll be going twice because my son, Steven, is in it!

 

Break-a-Leg, all things Theatrical including Musical Theatre, is on Tameside Radio every Sunday from 7pm and then again on Wednesday from 9pm. Don’t miss it!

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