Everybody has a story, and this is ours!
Chinnor Musical Theatre has been around in one guise or another since early on in the last century.
We've had a few name changes on the way, but our overriding principle has always been to put on the very best entertainment no matter what.
As you will see from these pictures, our shows were a huge affair, with great attention to detail, and large casts. The picture of The Count of Como is dated March 1935! Of course in those days, there wasn't an awful lot to do in the evenings, so anyone who could sing, dance, or perform in any way, hightailed it to the rehearsals in order to join in the fun.
There would be countless people willing to help us backstage as well as on stage - just look at the costumes and props these performers had. They would have spent many evenings sewing and altering clothes. Sets would be crafted by the builders of the day, in sheds and farm buildings, indeed anywhere they could find space.
We didn't have the benefit of microphones in those days, so actors were taught how to project their voices to the back of the room. Lighting, although electrified, was nothing like the LED lights we have today, and were incredibly hot.
1935 - 1979
1980 - 2001
2002 - 2012
2016 - 2020
Early pictures (like those above) show Chinnor Amateur Operatic Society in full bloom. We performed shows relevant to the time, which are extremely rare nowadays, and our style was very much of an operatic persuasion, with the odd Music Hall show thrown in for good measure.
In our second iteration, a change of name to Chinnor Operatic Society. Still doing operettas and Music Hall, but now introducing the more popular musicals of the time, such as The Flower Drum, The Merry Widow, and Die Fledermaus. It was also a time of change as we introduced the musicals of the time, such as Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof, Annie Get your Gun, and Hello Dolly.
We changed our name once again to Chinnor Musical Theatre as we were no longer staging anything operatic. We were putting on West End and Broadways shows with big budgets. We were a force to be reckoned with locally, and our shows had huge casts and audiences to match, however, with the coming of more and more technology and hobbies galore, we found ourselves with dwindling audiences and our performers found themselves with other things to do. Some of the shows we did were Anything Goes, Oklahoma, Sweet Charity, and Barnum (for which we won a NODA award). In the latter years, we sadly found ourselves having to write our own shows to save money, and while these were successful, they could never draw the kind of audiences we were used to. Like many other amateur companies, CMT struggled, and we couldn't continue putting on three shows a year. We also lost our performance space and had to re-locate several miles away, which was like starting again. Our performances dwindled to nothing and CMT became dormant until 2016.
In 2016 a few old members got together and decided to try to raise CMT back from its dormant state. We had very little money in the bank, and very few members, but we were determined that we would give it a try. We had a hard time with it, including not being able to perform in the Village Hall. We performed an Old Time Music Hall show there, but had no access to either lights or sound as we weren't able to book the hall prior to the evening of the performance. We really enjoyed doing it though and wanted to continue. We wrote a show, Tribute, and performed it to an appreciative audience in Cuddington, due to ongoing difficulties getting sufficient preparation time in Chinnor. We followed that up with another show there called All Kinds of Everything, once again, much appreciated by the audience. We then returned to the Village Hall and performed some self-penned shows, but our audiences were small, and we weren't able to break even, meaning our small finances were disappearing, and fast. Despite our best efforts, we couldn't get people interested, though not from lack of trying. In 2020, we had decided to go all out and do a named show, Hot Mikado, but in March of that year, the world stood still as we entered a global pandemic. All the money we had was invested in this show, and with no end in sight, we sadly had to accept that CMT was finished.
At the end of last year (2021) a group of us met once again to decide the future of CMT. We were so sad that our previous efforts had come to nothing and that we were again having to consider dissolving the Society. We still had the rights for Hot Mikado, but neither the money nor the cast to put it on. We approached Joseph Weinberger's, the right-holders, and asked if they would consider refunding our money, and they kindly agreed to pay us a large percentage of the initial payment. We've decided to give CMT one last go, and have been working really hard to provide a firm foundation to build on. We've recruited an enthusiastic committee of lovely ladies to help us achieve this, and are about to launch a series of workshops, covering singing, acting, and dancing. We have a new Chair, Chris Ebbs (whose parents were huge players in the Society until the '90s, and even in the early 2000's). We intend to start rehearsals for a Christmas show, Christmas with the Starrs, in August, for performances on 2nd & 3rd December 2022 at Bledlow Ridge Village Hall, Bledlow Ridge HP14 4AL, and will follow that with rehearsals starting in January 2023 for a new version of Tribute - with different songs!
We work extremely hard to make our shows entertaining, but we just don't have the finances to put on big shows currently. We write our own Cabaret and scripted shows, and our audiences enjoy them, but we are desperately seeking funding so we can attract bigger audiences with more named shows. We are always looking for new members, but with so many other calls on people's time, it's hard to bring in the new blood we need. If you are interested in helping on or off stage or would like to help us by sponsoring or helping to fundraise, we would love to hear from you. You can contact us by email: email@example.com