Hello, it’s another Norfolk and Norwich showstopper

Made up of a dedicated and enthusiastic team of amateur performers the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society are preparing to bring Hello Dolly to the Norwich Theatre Royal stage. SIMON PARKIN reports.

There is no doubt the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society like a challenge. Whether it is the intricate dance numbers of West Side Story or the controversial subject matter of The Producers, the society tackles each annual production with great gusto.

Their 2012 offering Hello Dolly! promises to be no exception. It screams lavish and in the rehearsal room director Ray Jeffery spent hours putting Dolly herself and the male ensemble through their paces.

The society's watchword is quality and Ray wants to see hard work delivered admitting he is a tough taskmaster but does it to bring out the best in everyone.

He said: 'A rehearsal has to be a fun day. I have to get my humour and fun out in the rehearsals. It is a two-way game really. If they don't give me what I want, above all I am the inventor. If they don't give me the ingredients, I can't make the cake.'

Ray is known as one of the country's 'go-to' directors for amateur productions and there is no doubt he shares a mutual admiration for the members of the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society.

He said: 'Local audiences are very lucky that they have a company of this standard. There are very few companies that play such a big venue as Norwich Theatre Royal and have such a big reputation. The reputation of the N&N is second to none. That is a very encouraging thing for the company.'

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And Ray promises the audience are in for a spectacular performance. He explained: 'We are blessed with quite a big company which is good. We are fortunate that we have a lot of young people in it and that is great because, after all, they are the future of the society.

'To make it a lavish piece is important. The reason our box office is so good already is because people know they are coming to see something that is first class and big and presented well - and to see that lavishness which is what theatre is about.

'We fight to get near to a professional standard even though we are only amateur. I think we are making it and it is a happy thing to be involved in. It goes at a cracking pace, there are great dance numbers and ensemble pieces.'

Taking on the lead role of matchmaker Dolly is one of the region's most experienced amateur actresses Gloria Dashwood.

Fresh off appearing in a number of shows across the region, she is looking forward to taking to the stage at Norwich Theatre Royal and playing an iconic part.

She said: 'It's really quite challenging. She's a very strong character, a woman of intent and she makes her intentions felt quite quickly. It's just a wonderful part - a part I've always wanted to play.'

A newcomer to the society, she has been made to feel very welcome. 'It was quite daunting to start with because this is the first show I have done with the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society. Mainly my background is Gorleston, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, but it was really the part and the society's reputation which brought me here.

'I was very nervous - and still am - before rehearsals but I think that's a good thing as its never good being too relaxed. You need the adrenalin rush to push you to be your best.'

And there is no doubt the cast is really keen to share their performances and the show with the people of Norfolk — and beyond.

Joe Phelps, who plays Cornelius, added: 'If you're sitting in that auditorium at the beginning of the show thinking I'm not sure about this, you will leave thinking I'm so glad I came and saw this show. It is brilliant from start to finish. We work really hard to give a great performance and I think there will be exactly that at the end of the day.'

n Hello Dolly, Norwich Theatre Royal, January 23-28, �19-�5.50, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk