Worthing-based director Michael Burnie is once again in charge as Brighton Theatre Group Youth bring their production of High School Musical to The Old Market, Upper Market Street, Hove from July 25-29.
Michael has enjoyed a string of successes with the youth group including Joseph, Miss Saigon, Les Mis, West Side Story, Hairspray, Legally Blonde and Fame. Alongside, he has worked with the adult group for more than 20 years.
“As a northerner, it was the first group I joined when I came down here. I arrived in Brighton and I saw at the old library that they were looking for people to do a musical called Cabaret. I didn’t know anyone, but I went along and I auditioned and I played Emcee, and that was it! I felt that they were really warm and welcoming, and I stayed with them. I did Sweet Charity and I did the lion in The Wizard of Oz and I also did Chicago for them. And then I started directing for them.
“The youth theatre has been going for quite a while, but I used to just do the adults because the nights clashed, but when they asked me to do Joseph, they changed the nights so that I could do it.
“I teach classes. I go from four years old right up to 16. I do lots of classes around Sussex and I also teach different levels, but my teaching from four years old to youth theatre is great. It meant that when I came to Joseph, I felt that I could really connect with the group.
“I never talk to them as if they are children and they always respond as if they were adults. There is no real difference how I go into it. Both groups are great, both the adults and the children, but if there is a difference, it is that sometimes the youth group has more energy! I was with them last night, and it was two hours non-stop.”
It can be hard to come up with shows. The size of the venue always has to be a major factor, as does whether the show is available: “You might be looking at a show and then suddenly it is on tour and it becomes unavailable or vice versa as new shows become available.
“High School Musical has always been on our list. We are really good at doing things like Grease, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Fame, all that type of musical. The youth theatre love them and the audience love them.
“After Fame, I asked them what they would like to do that wasn’t in the West End at the moment. And High School Musical was at the top of the list alongside Wicked and Hamilton which obviously we can’t do. So we sat down and read it and we really liked it. I had never seen the film and I had never seen the musical. I didn’t even know that it was about a high school putting on a high-school musical.”
What Michael discovered was a fun tale filled with encouragement to do what you want to do: “It’s a really good fun uplifting musical. It’s about the fact that you can succeed. The message is that you have just got to try.”