BYG - The Young Generation
Barnstaple Young Generation (or BYG as we know it) is the talented youth arm of our society. They have been performing excellent productions to delighted audiences for years, with their numbers growing along with local interest in getting involved.
But where did it all start?
We're glad you asked...
In 1992 Barnstaple Musical Comedy Society set up a sub-committee to find new ways of recruiting and retaining younger members for the society’s annual production in November. With no independent youth theatre group in the area it was decided to set up a junior section which was to be run on a workshop basis. Although quite popular in the early days, it soon became apparent that with no end result, and no goal to achieve, the youngsters soon lost interest, and numbers began to fall. To stem the decline the new section was invited to become involved in the the senior Cabaret which took place each Spring. The enthusiasm was back and the numbers began to climb. Local actor Colin Thorne took the junior section under his wing and was allocated a sum of money from the senior society. A bank account, independent of the parent society was opened and financial independence prevailed, allowing the dream of putting on a production of their own a step closer. In January 1994 they took that step with a relatively modest production of Jack and The Beanstalk which toured North Devon and was very well received.
What happened next ...
In 1995, the group came under the direction of Kev Behan, who had previously been a founder member of North Devon Gang Show in Barnstaple. He requested that an annual production be considered and he set about building a team who could make this possible.
Their first full-length musical production was Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat which was staged in May 1996. This again toured the area and received great support and rave reviews from all quarters. In 1997, it was decided to modernise the profile of the group, and they were subsequently renamed Barnstaple Young Generation. Still having strong links with the parent society BYG members began to join the “seniors” in their shows which was the final piece of the jigsaw ... the initial idea had worked!
More and more joined a waiting list, and although the 1997 production of The Boy Friend was not as financially successful as the previous year the membership continued to grow. Successes with Annie and Barnum followed and so it was felt that the time had come for the ultimate goal to be achieved. Easter 2000 saw the group take their production of The Wizard of Oz. onto the stage of the Queen’s Theatre. Since then BYG’s productions have settled at the Queen’s, including The Music Man, Oliver, The Railway Children and Bugsy Malone, and in 2005 the company reached, what we thought at the time was, the summit with Les Misérables School Edition, receiving a post bag of congratulatory letters and cards and standing ovations at each sell-out performance. To add to the company’s elation, It was later awarded a Certificate of Excellence from NODA. Following the immense effort involved with Les Mis, the company drew breath in 2006 and did some concert work for underprivileged children with Kids 4 Kids. In 2007 we were delighted to present the regional premier of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Members are now regularly appearing our senior company shows too, the most recent being Titanic (the musical), The King & I, and South Pacific and Blitz!
It wasn't until 2008 that we reached what can only be described as amateur theatre history. Disney's High School Musical played to five sell-out performances (an extra matinee being added to the run at short notice ... and then selling out within 48 hours!!) and has generally been described as " the loudest 'am-dram' show to ever play at the Queen's, and to have the most expensive lighting rig ever for an amateur production in Barnstaple. Pretty good huh?.. the critics loved it too!!
2009 promised great things as we took a step back to one of the great pre-war hits with Cole Porter's Anything Goes. Unfortunately a shortage of disposable incomes meant that audiences did not come in the numbers expected. Crippling costs and poor ticket sales caused a financial blip for the group, but the management team under Company manager Kev Behan, lived to fight another day! The show itself continued to show off the talents of the BYG kids to their very best. Excellent reviews were received from NODA SW and the local press alike.
Our 2010 show promised more great things as BYG were pleased to present the regional premiere of Andrew Lloyd-Webber/Tim Rice's The Likes of Us, the story of Dr Thomas Barnardo. This is quite a dark story, and was told in a similar way to all ALW/TR shows, predominantly through music ... but what music ... this eclectic score is set to be a great hit when it moves into London at the end of 2011. A very different challenge then for 2010.
2011 saw us take on the classic Bernstein/Sondheim masterpiece, West Side Story. We threw ourselves into this fantastic show, performing breathtaking choreography to the stunning score. Special fight trainers were involved in the preparation of the show which must be up there as one of our greatest challenges to date.
2012 saw us coming back to home ground with the great British musical "Half A Sixpence" ... a great way for the company to join in the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and to wave the flag for Britain in Olympic Year.