50th Birthday Open Day
Civic and Cramphorn Theatres, Chelmsford
Saturday 8th September 2012
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first professional, live theatre in Chelmsford, and fitting nicely into the annual national Heritage Open Days scheme, the Civic and its younger sibling the Cramphorn opened their doors to the public for a day of theatrical celebration.
Visitors arrived in their hundreds to enjoy this free event, with entertainment on offer throughout the day to get anyone enthused.
For the youngest theatre-goers, New London Road's innovative Just Imagine Story Centre offered a creative outlet in the Cramphorn foyer, including children's illustrations being created by Poddington Peas illustrator Colin Wyatt. With face painting, an array of costumes to try on, and the chance to try your hand at booking your own commemorative ticket, the foyer was bustling with activity all day. In the Cramphorn auditorium the most was made of the studio space, with seating swept aside to make way for fascinating display boards and various free workshops to get people involved in singing, dancing and musical theatre.
Over in the Civic, the bar was constantly bedecked with delightful musical accompaniment from some of the many guests who perform at the theatre's Wednesday lunchtime concerts. The ever popular D'Ukes performed a set on the pavement to the pleasure of many enjoying their al fresco sandwiches in the glorious September sun. In the auditorium a plethora of local talent performed tasters from their most recent performances, including Tomorrow's Talent with excerpts from Our House and Rent, Chelmsford Young Generation Musical Society with selections from their upcoming production of Les Miserables (School Edition), Springers Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society performing numbers from All Shook Up, Chelmsford Ballet Company dancing choices from their recent Tales of Beatrix Potter and Chelmsford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society with a preview of their forthcoming Titanic the Musical.
The highlights of the day however were the hugely popular backstage tours, taking interested groups around the theatre into the usually unseen areas; the workshop, green room, dressing rooms and even on the stage itself. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides imparted gems of knowledge on fully booked groups, including a detailed technical demonstration on stage from Technical Manager Andy Chafer complete with an array of lights, smoke machines and pyrotechnics. The tours were well executed and brilliantly received and would be a welcome addition to the theatre's regular programme.
Organiser Bethany Walker and the committed team at the Civic Theatre excelled themselves with a varied, entertaining and well structured day, that showed off all the qualities of this busy receiving house. A diverse turnout of patrons with an age range spanning many decades kindles hope for the popularity of live theatre, and a busy new season of local entertainment in Chelmsford.