A Chester-based theatre company run solely by a small band of dedicated volunteers has embarked on an ambitious new season of plays and other productions at the Forum Studio Theatre in the city centre.
When local theatre company Tip Top Productions moved in to the former Chester Gateway Theatre building back in 2007 initially for just 12 months prior to the building being demolished to make way for the Northgate development, no-one could have predicted that eight years later they would be still producing plays, musicals and other events in the building’s studio theatre, playing to packed houses and hosting numerous local community groups, visiting companies and professional touring shows each year since.
Opening the season at the intimate 130 seat venue and running until September 26 is comedy drama Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling and directed for Tip Top by popular Chester based director Gail Young.
With its all female cast, the play was adapted into a highly successful film in 1989 starring Dolly Parton and Julia Roberts.
Musical theatre then takes centre stage from October 15-24 with a production of acclaimed musical Love Story with music by Howard Goodall of Vicar of Dibley theme fame.
Based on the film of the same name, the musical received rave reviews when staged in the West End, directed by Michael Ball.
It's panto time
Following Love Story, Tip Top once again stages Chester’s very own traditional family pantomime, now a firmly established favourite in the city’s calender of festive events.
This year the company are staging Dick Whittington at the theatre from December 4-30, with tickets already on sale.
Musical theatre and comedy are among the highlights for the first half of 2016 with a youth production of the hard hitting Tony Award winning Broadway musical Rent to be staged from February 11-20 following the company’s critically acclaimed staging of their first ever youth production Les Miserables earlier this year.
A much loved comedy classic takes centre stage on March 16 and 17 as Tip Top say ‘hello campers!’ with a production of the BBC TV comedy Hi-de-Hi, featuring all the characters from the iconic show.
Other highlights being produced by Tip Top Productions at the theatre during 2016 include a production of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Mike Leigh’s 1977 play Abigail’s Party which was originally produced as part of the BBC’s Play for Today series, Michael Palin’s acclaimed comedy The Weekend and a concert version of the much loved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!.
The theatre will also once again be playing host to a number of visiting professional and touring shows including the return of the popular Mersey beat tribute group The Fabs who will bring the sounds of the famous Cavern Club to Chester, the multi award winning Queen tribute band GaGa, Genesis tribute act Mama, comedy from award-winning comedian Sam Brady, original new drama Hurricane Hill by Chris Leicester, a one woman show based on the life of Marlene Dietrich and featuring many the songs she made famous, a return visit by the legendary Houghton Weavers who are bringing their unique brand of folk songs and humour to Chester as part of their nationwide 40th anniversary tour.
Local theatre company RJ Productions will also present a stage version of the BBC comedy Men Behaving Badly.
Tip Top Productions’ artistic director Steve Davies said: “We are delighted to be launching our new season of live theatre at the Forum Studio Theatre and we hope that there is something for everyone whether it be comedy, drama or musical theatre.
“There are lots of volunteer opportunities for people to be involved in helping to run the theatre, be it backstage, performing in show or being front of house.
“If you have a love of theatre and would like to be part of producing a vibrant mix of high quality productions in the heart of Chester then why not come along and say hello.”
Full details of the 2015/16 season and how to get involved at the Forum Studio Theatre can be found at www.chestertheatre.co.uk where tickets can also be booked online. Alternatively, contact the box office on 01244 341296.