WOW Celebrates 40 Years with two Acclaimed Productions
“The standards WOW sets and achieves are astonishing and this 40th Anniversary Show was certainly that.”
These are not our words but the opening of a report on November’s 40th Anniversary Show from our NODA representative, Martin Stephen. This was WOW’s second production of 2022 – a celebration of musicals featuring a selection from many of the acclaimed shows the group had performed over the years.
In writing her review for the Dorset Echo, Marion Cox, referred to the group as, “..the most talented troupe of young performers on stage that Dorset has ever enjoyed,” and “…a very valuable asset to the town and its people.”
A letter to the Dorset Echo also praised the performers and production team for the “absolutely superb entertainment,” whilst remarking that 12 of the 30 performers were in their first show with WOW.
The eclectic programme featured numbers from both modern and traditional musicals including: Cabaret, Chicago, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Footloose, Guys and Dolls, Hamilton, Mary Poppins, Newsies, 9 to 5, The Pajama Game, We Will Rock You and more. (See programme for a full set list. )
A full standing ovation greeted the cast at the finale of their closing night performance. WOW Chairman, Alan McKechan, came on stage to thank everyone involved, including Musical Director, Nikki Budd, and Martine Burt for the outstanding work she had done in creating, directing and choreographing a most remarkable anniversary show. The Chairman also paid tribute to WOW’s President, Janet Stockley, who had co-founded the group in 1982. She has been the driving force behind WOW for 40 years and Mr. McKechan remarked that she should take immense pride and credit for the hundreds of young people who had enjoyed such wonderful opportunities to develop their talents and life skills through performing arts with WOW.
The evening was made even more special for everyone at WOW by the attendance of former members in the audience. Their support was much appreciated by the WOW team who also enjoyed catching up with them at the after show party.
Grease, April 2022
Earlier in the year, the Easter production of Grease was the first full musical WOW had performed since Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2019. This much-loved show was another big hit with audiences and over 3,000 tickets were sold across the five performances. Writing in the Dorset Echo, Marion Cox summed it up in her review:
“A packed house greeted the large cast of teenagers who brought to sparkling life this story of school-age love as they sang and danced their way through the evening, with hits such as You’re the one That I Want, Hopelessly Devoted to You and Greased Lightning…(Heather Reed was Musical Director for Grease with Nikki Budd conducting the orchestra.)
…….With director Martine Burt keeping the young people on the right track and musical director Heather Reed in charge of the small and talented orchestra, this was always going to be a huge success and the capacity audience clearly loved every moment of this sensational show.”
At the finale on the Saturday night, there were gasps from the audience when 10 of the cast of 26 took a final bow as members of WOW. Chairman, Alan McKechan, thanked them all, highlighting the personal qualities that make them all such a wonderful group of young people with great futures ahead of them. (See for yourself in their Yearbook entries in the Grease Programme.)
In the following month of May, WOW held new member auditions, taking in a dozen new members who soon started learning the music for November’s 40th Anniversary WOW Show. Although there were no leavers after the November show, WOW held further auditions in December 2022, and the addition of ten new members took the size of the group to 40 in total.
Grease was not the final WOW performance for all the April leavers, some of them were able to take part in our cabaret performance at Fayre in the Square. WOW has supported Weymouth Rotary Club’s fundraising event since its inception in 2014, including a virtual performance during the pandemic. This was the first live Fayre in the Square since 2019 and WOW was privileged to be chosen to take part and also very grateful to be one of the local charities chosen as a beneficiary from the monies raised.
A couple of days after the November WOW Show, 18 of the cast were back on the Weymouth Pavilion stage performing a selection of numbers from that production for Weymouth & Portland Lions Club’s Variety Show. WOW’s 30 minute set closed the first half and was very well received by the audience.
WOW’s final performance of 2022 was a cabaret for the local branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. This is a Christmas booking that our group looks forward to every year. The nine members in the group did WOW proud with their performances.
“Thank you all so much for delighting us with your performance. We so look forward to seeing you at the end of the year. “MS Society, Dorset
All the cabaret performances have to meet the high performance standards for which WOW is renowned, so WOW’s performance troupes are very fortunate to be able to work with professional director and choreographer, Martine Burt, who has directed many of WOW’s celebrated and award-winning productions, including both 2022 shows. Martine has also received the NODA South West award for Outstanding Choreography.