Ruislip drama club, Starlight Youth Theatre, is staging its version of the popular Broadway show A Chorus Line this week. SIBA MATTI spoke to company founder and musical director, Dave Roberts, to find out more
A SPIRING young actors often dream of treading the boards in the West End or gracing the silver screen, but in such a competitive industry, only a select few are given the chance to shine.
Starlight Youth Theatre is the exception to the rule.
With 32 budding thespians aged 10-20, the club is open to people of all abilities. There's no joining audition, no experience necessary.
Rather than putting members into age groups, founder and musical director Dave Roberts believes working together is the best way for everyone to learn the skills necessary to create a polished production.
He explains: "I came out of drama college in 1996 and set up Starlight in Ealing as a hobby, but it turned into a business which I ran for six years.
"I took a break to go off and perform myself, so I did the cruise ships and had parts in a few shows, then came back in 2005 and started Starlight again.
"The concept of people aged from 10-20 rehearsing for the same show in the same room is a bit radical but it actually works really well. The older teenagers end up being quite parental to the younger members, and they quickly learn from each other.
"The sessions are designed to challenge the younger members but also ensure the older teenagers are not bored."
Starlight perform three productions every two years, with past successes including Annie, Fame and Godspell.
And for the past six months, the group has been hard at work on A Chorus Line.
"A Chorus Line is a brilliant show, based on the film starring Michael Douglas in the 80s, and of course, the original 70s musical," Dave says.
"The whole show, which is set in an empty theatre, is based on an audition process, similar to the early rounds of the X Factor, where the characters are hoping to win a place in a chorus line.
"The audience will get an insight into the characters through their performances, including song, dance and monologues, which are both funny and tragic. For example, there is a 15-minute song about the perils of going through puberty!
"For some of the cast, it is their first time on stage in front of an audience and they are very excited, although understandably a bit nervous."
While Dave, who recently moved from Hayes to Feltham, has no regrets about restarting Starlight, he says it can be hard work.
"I'm pretty much a one-man-band, so sometimes it can be difficult to manage so many people at once, but rehearsals are always good fun.
"It can be time-consuming preparing all the costumes - the cast will be wearing gold sequinned waistcoats, bow ties and hats for the grand finale - and also the set design.
"Although the stage for A Chorus Line is quite bare, the backdrop is a wall of mirrors, and it hasn't been much fun staying up until 1am putting it all together!
"Despite that, I think it will be our best show ever. We have had standing ovations at our previous shows and we hope this one will be no different."
Since re-launching Starlight in Ruislip, Dave has opened clubs in Ealing and Hampton, as well as setting up Mini Starlight, for five to 10-year-olds with stage dreams.
He will also be hosting a series of Michael Jackson and Madonna-themed workshops based on the popular television drama series, Glee, before the club begins working on their next production, The Wiz, a musical retelling of the Wizard of Oz.
And Dave is still putting his own talent to good use, having landed the role of Sky Masterson in the smash-hit musical Guys and Dolls, which comes to Richmond Theatre next February.
Many Starlight members go on to emulate his success. "Lots of people have gone on to work in West End plays and on cruise ships, and one girl is due to be appearing in Assassins in the West End, having graduated from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney," says Dave.
"We encourage everyone to pursue their dreams and find regular work in the industry, and it's a fantastic feeling seeing someone blossom."
Starlight Youth Theatre welcomes new members. Visit www.starlightmusicservices. moonfruit.com.
* A Chorus Line is at the Winston Churchill Hall from tonight (Wednesday) until Friday.