Feature: Fifty years and still loving it - Martin’s lifetime of friends and fun with Leamington and Warwick Musical Society
OAKLAHOMA!, Annie Get Your Gun and South Pacific are merely a spattering of the stage musicals Leamington man Martin Key has helped to bring to audiences in the town.
And it was a trip to see the film version of South Pacific at the former Regent Cinema in 1963 that started it all off for the 65-year-old, whose love of the razmataz of shows is clear by the fact that he has been in the Leamington and Warwick Musical Society for 50 years.
Marking his 50th anniversary this year, Martin looks back fondly on his time as a member - more than 30 of which he has spent on the society’s committee - and looks forward to many more years to follow.
“I have had some fabulous times, made some amazing friends and meet some amazing people, both from the amateur and professional world,” he says.
And although now Martin, who recently retired from his 23-year career as a materials handler at the Leamington-based recycling solutions firm Denis Eagle, has taken a step back from acting, he has been in most of the society’s shows since he was first permitted to tread the boards.
He says: “I had been to see the film South Pacific at the Regent Cinema and that gave me the flavour of musicals. The society’s 1963 show was Oaklahoma! which I went to see. But they wouldn’t let me perform because at 15, I was deemed too young.
“So I sold programmes for three years, then they let me on stage.”
He might have been young, but Martin was by no means a novice actor. Having been performing since the age of 12 with the Cubbington youth drama group and also with the Cubbington Players and the Automotive Products pantomime group, he has since childhood harboured a love for acting and singing. So much so, that he dreamt of it being his full-time occupation.
But he says: “When I was young, the opportunities to go professional were just not there. You were very lucky if you could get into something like that.
“But I have had years of enjoyment from doing it as a hobby.”
And now Martin takes just as much enjoyment out of his role as chairman. He says: “You need to be able to give up your time to it.
“We only do one show a year in the spring, but we start working on it in November. For the performers, it ends after the show until the next November, but for the committee, it’s never-ending. There’s always something to do. We are already talking to the Spa Centre about the 2014 production.
“I enjoy the planning and organising involved in getting the show on. When you see the end result, you think it has been worth all the hard graft.”
So what changes has he seen over his long tenure at a society at which he has spent most of his life?
“The main change is that when I first joined, it was mainly local Leamington and Warwick people who took part in shows - there was a very loyal following. These days, the net spreads much wider and we get people from other areas as well.
“The audiences have changed dramatically. It’s not so much about who is doing a show any more, it’s more about what show is on which gets people to buy tickets.
“The style of shows that are popular to stage has changed, which means we get a different set of people coming to see them. Years ago, we staged a lot of old operettas, but now you get more fast-paced, song-and-dance shows.”
And the sort of people who want to be a part of the society’s shows has also changed. Martin says: “When I first joined, the age range was 18 to 60, but now, because of the style of the shows, performers have to be able to sing and dance so our membership is a lot younger.
“But we’d love to have more members - especially men and older people.”
The society, which was originally called the Leamington and Warwick Operatic Society, is now 90 years old. Does Martin see it lasting much longer?
“People are becoming a bit more choosey about what they see because of the recession. It is noticeable - not just for us, for the whole industry, even in the West End.
“But I am confident we will survive for hopefully another 90 years. There is so much going on in this area - there is a big appetite for the arts.”
The Leamington and Warwick Musical Society’s next production will be The Producers, which will be staged at the Spa Centre from Tuesday March 19 to Saturday March 23 at 7.30pm each evening, plus a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets, which cost £13, are now available. Call 425507.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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