Is this the next hit rock (and chips) opera? Hitchin preview for 1980s music which could be a batter blockbuster
- Credit: Archant
Gilbert and Sullivan, Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein – could Doggett and Virgo be the next duo to see their names up in lights after creating a memorable musical?
Hitchin’s Market Theatre saw the low-key premiere of new musical Chips‘n’All on Saturday night – the culmination of three years of hard work for engineer Stuart Virgo, 61, and 63-year-old Alan Doggett, co-owner of the Town Fryer chippy in the town’s Hermitage Road.
Also involved in the project was Alan’s son Glyn, who is happily the Sun Street theatre’s manager as well as an actor and comedian.
The production is set in 1982 around the time of the Falklands War and centres around the love triangle between young chip shop worker Julie and her two best friends, Craig and Adam.
With the outbreak of war Craig signs up to fight and with Craig out of the picture, Adam tries to win the heart of his best friend’s girl.
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Fortunately chip shop owners Eileen and Chip are there to keep order and convince Julie that Adam is not the right man for her.
But will the real love of Julie’s life ever return from battle?
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The music that complements the story is taken from the period, with big hits like Come on Eileen, Mad World and Land of Make Believe all making an appearance.
Alan said: “About three years ago I had the idea of writing a musical set in a chip shop.
“I had seen jukebox musicals like Dreamboats and Petticoats and Mamma Mia! that use popular music but felt like there was nothing like this from the 1980s.
“I approached my best friend Stuart and we got talking about the big events of the 80s and set upon 1982 and the Falklands War as our backdrop, and with the chip shop as our main location we set about writing the story.”
Glyn guided the pair along the writing process and eventually persuaded them that the best thing to do was put on a staged trial of the piece using actors to read the parts and sing the songs to an invited audience who could then give feedback on what they thought.
Stuart said: “Saturday night proved invaluable to us as complete beginners in the writing game.
“We had reached a stage where we were happy with the basic story and script but to have professional performers reading it and making sense of it was fantastic.
“It was really lovely to see the words come off the page and to get a real sense of where we go next.”
Saturday’s reading featured a mixture of local performers from the Market Theatre including Kelly Bibb, Laura Gillions, Clive Dancey and Paul Graham, and also local singer and wine merchant Jamie Cavan Ellis who still works part time in the Town Fryer.
Glyn Doggett said: “The cast all came together very last minute and only had about three rehearsals but they did a brilliant job.
“Dad and Stuart have a fair way to go still with the creative process but they had some fantastic feedback about the reading on Saturday and they will now look to develop the story further with a view to doing a bigger staged performance locally next year.
“Who knows – this year the Market Theatre, in a couple of years maybe the London Palladium? Well, we can dream!”