The biggest name in musical theatre gave a group of young performers a last-minute boost before the curtain went up at a small Northumberland theatre.
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted the cast of Berwick’s Maltings Youth Theatre just 40 minutes before their performance of his famous musical, The Phantom of the Opera.
The musical megastar sent “break a leg wishes” to the 40-strong cast, which is made up of young actors aged between 14 and 21.
Katie Hindmarsh, who plays the leading female role in the youth theatre’s production, described hearing from Lord Lloyd Webber on the show’s opening night as “insane”.
The 20-year-old from Berwick said: “We were doing our warm up on the stage when someone came running across shouting, Andrew Lloyd Webber has tweeted you guys!
“It was such a big boost at a critical moment just before we were about to go on stage.
“Performing his work was an honour enough, but to hear from the man himself was phenomenal – you just can’t top that.”
The story of the Phantom of the Opera is as well-known as its creator. In 1881 at the Paris Opera House, a masked figure lurks beneath the catacombs, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it.
He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her talents and employing all of the devious methods at his command.
The youth theatre chose to perform the timeless classic to celebrate its 20th anniversary under the direction of Wendy Payn.
In 2010, Wendy’s invaluable work with young people was formally recognised when she was appointed regional youth champion of the arts by the English National Youth Arts Network.
She said the tweet from Lord Lloyd Webber was a ringing endorsement for the hard work of her beloved theatre group.
“We were very excited to get the tweet from Andrew Lloyd Webber on opening night,” she said. “It came at the perfect time a half-hour before opening night and it really gave our extremely talented cast an extra boost.
“It always feels like the show we’re doing at the time is the one, but this really is iconic with lots of pressure attached.
“The show has been one big team effort both on-stage and off-stage. Everyone has worked their socks off to get to the standard we’re at now.
“It’s been an absolute joy to work with so many fantastic youngsters for 20 years, it’s just gone by in a flash! Youth theatre is always the best fun, we’re a huge family. Even those who have left the area always pop back to see us, they never really leave.”
The theatre group’s performance of Phantom of the Opera began last night with more shows tonight and Saturday. For more details go to www.maltingsberwick.co.uk .