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Theatre Royal role in is music to youngster’s ears

As The Sound of Music prepares to take to the stage of the Theatre Royal, one young cast member talks to Barbara Hodgson about his role in the Von Trapp family

 Nick Warneford, 11, who will be playing Kurt, in a production of The Sound of Music
Nick Warneford, 11, who will be playing Kurt, in a production of The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music comes to Newcastle’s main theatre this month, but first it brings the alpine atmosphere to city centre shops.

Today shoppers in Eldon Square will be treated to a selection of songs from the popular show as Newcastle- upon-Tyne Musical Theatre Company gives us a taste of what audiences can expect when its production opens at the Theatre Royal on August 27.

Half-hour performances will run at 12.30pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm in St Andrew’s Way near Debenhams.

Among the singers will be 11-year-old Nicholas Warneford, who will be making his big theatre debut in the role of Kurt, one of Captain Von Trapp’s brood of children.

Nicholas, from Whickham in Gateshead, who’ll be role-sharing on alternate days, landed the part in an open audition in Newcastle in March which saw 200 hopefuls try out for a chance to play one of the Von Trapp youngsters.

Numbers were whittled down over the course of a day which started with group singing and progressed to lines of dialogue.

He says: “We were there for about seven hours.

“When I did the audition I was really scared, but when I was doing my line it was fun.”

“It was a bit like the X Factor!” adds mother Helen, who says her son – a member of Low Fell theatre school Acting Up – has “a lovely singing voice”.

Her daughter Annabel, aged eight, seems similarly talented and attends the same theatre school as her brother with roles including that of an orphan in Annie.

Nicholas clearly impressed judges on audition day, joining a small number of successful applicants who are divided into two family groups to role-share during the musical’s run.

“When we found out who had the part the boys shook hands and said congratulations, then we couldn’t wait to start rehearsals.”

They began straight away and have continued ever since with twice-weekly run-throughs from 7pm to 9.30pm, sometimes later, at a church in Jesmond and, with the show now just three weeks away, the rehearsals are gathering momentum.

Nicholas, who is due to start at Emmanuel College in September, says: “I love it.

“Some nights I come back about 10pm and it’s quite stressful getting out of bed the next day, but once I’m at school it’s fine.”

Helen adds: “He’s on a high when he comes in so has to stay up 15 minutes more to come down!”

In his theatre school productions, Nicholas has already appeared on stage at the Little Theatre and the Dryden Centre in Gateshead, with past experience taking in solo singing roles, including Matilda the Musical, and playing the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

But this will be his first time on stage at a major theatre. It’s a major undertaking for an amateur dramatic society to present work there, but building on the success of last year’s production there of Annie, NMTC is going all-out with another family treat.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein favourite, set in war-time Austria and adapted into the famous 1965 film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, features Niki Robertson and Mark Morris in the lead roles as free-spirited nun Maria and the stern Captain Von Trapp who fall in love and flee, with the family, from Nazi occupation.

Of all its classic songs, including Climb Ev’ry Mountain and My Favourite Things, Nicholas – who will be sharing the role of Kurt with Matthew Meyer – has a favourite.

“I like Do-Re-Mi song because it has one of the best dances,” he says.

He learns dance during the three hours he spends on a Saturday at theatre school and other interests include playing the piano, basketball and watching Newcastle Eagles and also Newcastle United when his dad can get tickets.

He’s hoping that joining NMTC will set him in good stead for more roles in the future. The company is also planning workshops to keep the new members together.

“We all get on really well,” says Nicholas.

Might performing become a future career?

“I don’t know,” he answers.

“I love music and singing and I always wanted to be an actor, but it takes a lot to be professional so I might do it as a part-time thing, like amateur productions.”

The Sound of Music will run from August 27-31 at 7pm daily, with 2pm matinees from the Thursday to Saturday. For tickets visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk or call O8448 112 121. For more information on NMTC visit www.newcastletheatreco.net

Some nights I come back about 10pm and it’s quite stressful getting out of bed the next day

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