Inspiring theatre: Green Room Productions in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 17:50 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:11 20 February 2013

Fatty Arbuckle

Fatty Arbuckle

For more than 50 years, Green Room Productions has been presenting top-class theatre. Chairman Alastair Woodgate talks to Hertfordshire Life about the history of the company, its struggles and triumphs, and the lure of the greasepaint

ON the first day of January 1952, a few enthusiasts with a common aim met together to found a London Operatic Society which could, in the friendly spirit of the Green Room, present the best shows available on the amateur stage. After selecting their title, The Green Room - the Mecca of all theatre lovers since the days of David Garrick - set to work to establish the society and select its first production, Dear Miss Phoebe, based on Sir James Barrie's immortal Quality Street. Today, Green Room Productions, as it is now known, has made Hertfordshire its home and is
one of the most highly acclaimed
non-professional musical theatre companies in the country.
Back in 1952 the company found its first home in the heart of London at the 1,100-seat Scala Theatre. Here, in its first 12 years, the company presented no less than nine amateur premieres, including Oklahoma! in 1954 and West Side Story in 1963. The closure of the Scala forced the company to search for a new venue and after residencies at The City Temple, King George's Hall and The Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green, Green Room settled in Hertfordshire, at the Wyllyotts Theatre in Potters Bar, immediately following the theatre's opening. It is the Wyllyotts Theatre where Green Room still performs today.
Through its productions Green Room hopes to show that non-professional theatre can be as impressive and enjoyable as shows on the West End stage. The company strives for innovation and inspiration in musical theatre, by staging newly released productions and giving a fresh interpretation to classic shows. The company's 2004 production of South Pacific involved turning the stage into a beach with real sand and palm trees, and its 2005 production of Lionel Bart's Blitz!, staged to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VE Day, saw the stage transformed into the war-torn East End of London and involved recreating a bomb explosion every evening.
Green Room's latest production, which ran at Wyllyotts from May 6 to 10, was Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's masterpiece Showboat, one of the most influential musicals of the 20th century. 'Re-creating a panoramic story of romance, racial prejudice and poverty set on the Mississippi River and spanning almost 50 years from the 1880s to the height of the roaring 20s stretched our creative energies,' says Green Room chairman Alastair Woodgate. 'We also recruited additional black performers to enable us to stage this production. This has brought several new members into the company and we look forward to their continued involvement with Green Room over the years to come.'
Green Room's costs of staging a musical are about 30,000 per show which cannot be met from ticket sales alone. To cover costs, income also comes from members' subscriptions, fundraising events and from advertising and sponsorship. 'We are always pleased to hear from businesses interested in showing their support for the performing arts,' says Alastair. 'Various opportunities exist to sponsor a production or to become a corporate patron of the company. I would be delighted to meet businesses in Hertfordshire and discuss how they can get in on the act.'

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