Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT) is transporting us back in time to 1967’s ‘Summer of Love’ with the world premiere of A Teenage Opera; the legendary show that was never completed. Having inspired a host of rock operas that would be seen in the following years, A Teenage Opera is celebrating 50 years since its inception with the first ever live performances on its golden anniversary at South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell from 11th – 13th August.
A Teenage Opera features the conceptual rock compositions of producer/composer Mark Wirtz and artist Keith West of the band Tomorrow, including the classic hit, ‘Grocer Jack’ which peaked at number two on the UK singles chart in 1967 and went to number one in twenty-six countries around the world. The new production will feature this iconic song and others written for the project by Wirtz and West, alongside a new story and additional lyrics by Pete Gallagher (seen in Jesus Christ Superstar, Buddy, Dr Dolittle). It will be directed by one of the West End’s foremost leading ladies, Julie Atherton (Avenue Q, Sister Act, Mama Mia, Fame etc.)
YMT is the biggest commissioner of new music theatre in the UK, and has found success in the past with their production of Loserville: The Musical, which transferred to the West-End and was Olivier Award-nominated for Best New Musical in 2013. The national charity, which is supported by a wide range of trusts, foundations, and benefactors, has supported and trained over 8,000 young, ambitious performers including Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Lauren Samuels (Bend it Like Beckham) and Charlotte Ritchie (Fresh Meat, Call The Midwife), just to name a few.
The national YMT company of 2017 consists of 300 talented young musicians and performers who are offered an exciting opportunity to work with some of the best and most established composers, directors and other specialists in a range of new shows, paving the way for the future of musical theatre. The cast of A Teenage Opera includes over 40 talented performers aged 11-21 years, who were selected from 1,200 young people seen across the UK and Ireland on a national auditions tour.
Resurrecting A Teenage Opera from the ashes is the brainchild of Pete Gallagher who spotted the looming 50th anniversary and questioned why it had never been completed. He discussed the idea with YMT Executive Producer, Jon Bromwich, as it seemed ideal for their programme, and then set about tracking down Mark Wirtz and Keith West to get the show on the road. Pete noted, “The internet is a wonderful thing – I first found Mark in America, who told me all about his original concept, and then vocalist and co-writer Keith closer to home, who regaled me with stories of Abbey Road Studios at the time of The Beatles and this project. I even found all the kids who sang the choruses 50 years ago! When I discovered several articles asking why it had never been completed, I thought it would be rude not to try!”
The ‘opera that never was’ certainly has its fans though who will be pleased to see its eventual fruition, with Paul McCartney quoting that the melodic structure and tempo changes inspired his songwriting process for the Abbey Road, whilst Cliff Richard even commented that he would have liked to appear in the opera.
Seemingly lost from the history books of musical theatre, A Teenage Opera is set for its glorious stage debut this summer, finally realizing the kaleidoscopic vision of Wirtz and West all those years ago.