THE NORFOLK AND NORWICH OPERATIC FUND
Registered Charity No 261564
The wonderful support which audiences have given to the Society’s productions over many years enabled a Trust Fund to be set up with the object of assisting talented local people to train for a career in professional theatre. Since 1970, many grants have been awarded and students have graduated from theatre schools and colleges before going on to perform or teach in the performing arts. Each year we feature a student who has been awarded a grant and successfully completed their professional training.
In our 2007 programme we featured local girl Charlotte Baker (professionally known as Charlotte Scott) who was completing her 3 year training at Mountview Academy. Since then Charlotte has gone on to enjoy a very successful career and in 2016 we invited her to tell us about what happened next!
“During my third year at Mountview, I got an audition for CATS. Three weeks and six auditions later I got offered the job and couldn’t believe my luck. I toured with CATS for eighteen months around the UK, including a 3 week sell out run at Theatre Royal, Norwich and then finishing my contract with a five week tour of Italy. I followed this with national tours of Footloose, Fame, and The Rocky Horror Show, where I appeared in the ensemble whilst also being the understudy to the female leads in all productions. Christmas 2010 was a particular career highlight when I returned to Norwich as principal girl for panto, as Jill in Jack and the Beanstalk. But appearing in panto and spending a proper Christmas period at home was made all that sweeter knowing I was about to make my West End debut, obviously something that all performers aspire to. February 2011 I opened in Wicked in the West End, a show that I’d seen whilst at drama school and completely fell in love with, I was a part of that show for two years and was lucky enough to understudy and play Glinda the Good Witch. Before leaving Wicked I was offered the understudy to Kathy Seldon in Singin’ in the Rain at the beautiful Palace Theatre, London, also a dream having grown up watching the film. Something else many actors aspire to is being a part of an original production and in 2014 I was cast in Urinetown, an exceptionally clever and witty musical making a social, political and ecological statement about the sustainability of our lifestyle. We had a massively successful and critically acclaimed run at the St James’ theatre and were offered a transfer to a bigger theatre in the heart of Theatreland. Unfortunately I was not able to be a part of the transfer due to having already accepted my current job. Which brings me very nicely to the present! I’m currently residing in dressing room 6 at the Cambridge Theatre, round the corner from Covent Garden where I play the Acrobat in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Matilda, I also understudy Miss Honey, whom I’ve played in over 70 performances and Mrs Wormwood, Matilda’s Mother who I’ve played once with about 5 hours notice!
Sitting down to write this piece I realise how much I’ve surpassed any expectation that I ever had of my career. This industry is hard, so so hard, and anyone out there who aspires to do this needs to know that most people don’t achieve what they hoped and that you need to be prepared for failure. But as cheesy as it sounds I’m living proof that it can happen, and I will be eternally grateful to NNOS for the financial aid they gave me throughout my time at drama school which has helped to shape me into the performer I am today.”
We are grateful to Charlotte for staying in touch, and we wish her continued success for the future. In 2015 we featured Daniel Waite a past member of the NNOS who has successfully completed his professional training and we invited him to write about his experience.
“I began dancing at the age of 6 at the Guildhall School of Dancing and have performed all around the country. Becoming part of the performing arts department at Ormiston Victory Academy at age 16 gave me strength and confidence in singing and acting as well as dance. During this time I took part in the NNOS production of West Side Story and Threshold’s Footloose. It was around this time that I realised I wanted to continue performing and, after several auditions, accepted a place on the 3 year Musical Theatre course at Performers College.
My time at college gave me many opportunities to perform and work with professional choreographers. My work included the Royal Variety Performance as a backing dancer for Take That, backing dancer for Eastenders’ Children in Need Special, ITV Text Santa opening credit, backing dancer in the movie Cuban Fury and I successfully auditioned as dance captain for PHA Pantomime’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk. I had many other opportunities to perform which include MOVE IT which I successfully auditioned for each year, the Dance Proms at The Royal Albert Hall, a lead role in the play Peace In Our Time and the role of Igor for the musical Young Frankenstein.
Graduating in 2013 I successfully auditioned for different job opportunities and decided to accept an 8 month contract as a dancer on board P&O cruises ship the Oceana. Returning to the UK in August 2014 I decided to take a break from performing and explore some dance teaching opportunities but a few days later was offered an 8 month contract to go and join P&O Australia onboard the Pacific Dawn starting January 2015, giving me the opportunity to rehearse in Sydney.
I was desperate to continue my passion for performing and this would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends and of course the help that the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Trust Fund gave me, which not only helped me pay for my course but showed me they had faith in me as a performer. I hope that people who love the Arts continue to support this charity as it helps young performers realise their dreams and get one step closer to achieving what they desire.”
In 2014 we invited Greg Fitch to write about his experience having been awarded a grant from the trust fund and successfully completed his professional training. Greg first performed with the NNOS in 1998 as a chorus member in ‘Hello Dolly’. He went on to perform several times with the company most notably as Mack in ‘Mack & Mabel’ Emile de Beque in ‘South Pacific’ and Julian Marsh in ’42nd Street’.
“I joined The Bridge Theatre Training Company in 2011 on their one year professional acting course. The course not only covered acting but also stage combat, period dance, singing and much more. The Bridge also ensured that I had all the necessary tools to become a professional actor.
The year culminated with an industry showcase performance at The Criterion theatre in the West End. From this showcase I secured representation from one of the industry’s more influential agents. Whilst at The Bridge I appeared in two fringe productions at The Cockpit Theatre. Since leaving I have appeared in two short films (one of which picked up an award at The Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival!) and am currently appearing as Brother Dennis in the No1 National Theatre tour of ‘Cadfael-The Virgin in the Ice’.
The financial support I received from the NNOS was vital during my first few weeks of training as I was waiting for other funds to become available. It ensured that I could stay in London during those first few weeks and equip myself with everything I needed.
I will always be grateful to the NNOS not only for their financial support but also the experience I gained through the wonderful opportunities afforded to me during my time with them.”
We wish Greg every success for the future.
Norwich born classical singer Annabella Ellis wrote in 2013
“Hello, my name is Annabella and I’m currently in my final undergraduate year at Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Vocal studies at Guildhall mirror the shape of a pyramid. The first years’ training started from a broad spectrum; I had my principal study lesson as well as language classes, electives in subjects like music history and Kodaly, performance classes such as drama, song repertoire, and light-music theatre projects.
Gradually I noticed the curriculum narrowing down, integrating skills from each year with the additional introduction of opera. This year I will have the opportunity to sing in the Guildhall School Opera Chorus and understudy main roles, undertake concert tours, go for auditions and enter competitions; essentially the familiar schedule of a young singer’s life within an institution environment.
My training is producing results; as a new member of Philharmonia Chorus I have been chosen as one of 12 out of 300 people to perform at the Royal Festival Hall and I have been personally recommended and invited by director Daniel Dooner to audition for Glyndebourne Opera chorus where many successful opera stars have started their career.
I hope also to continue my studies onto a Masters Program to concentrate on my individual niche and primarily focus on a solid career in opera. Ideally this will lead onto an opera course program and finally, my biggest aspiration, onto gaining a place on the Young Artists Program at the Royal Opera House.
As you can see, the vocal art of opera takes years to develop and large sums of finance to support. Although I’m learning in an institution, which has been announced recently as the leading vocal school in the UK, financially affording my studies and maintenance is impossible without additional help. Continuing grants from the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society could mean the difference between studying with the talent that I have been blessed with and remaining relatively outside the profession in work that I’m not passionate about. Luckily I have not yet had to fall back on the second option and, for this, I will always hold in account my gratitude to NNOS.”