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East Lancashire's 'Mr Panto' launches most ambitious project yet
IT’S the stuff showbiz dreams are made of – putting on a major show.
In the movies it seems so easy; a few friends get together, decide to do it and hey presto it’s a massive hit.
The reality, however, is somewhat different.
For George Critchley, producer of many of East Lancashire’s most popular shows, the chance has come to join the major players in the theatre world and he’s relishing the challenge.
George is teaming up with two of the big names of British theatre with a view to producing a new touring version of the musical Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.
Already some of the country’s biggest theatres are being booked for the show, with the tour scheduled to start next September and the option of transferring into London’s West End is a possibility.
Potential stars, designers and choreographers are already being discussed but before the dream becomes a reality, there’s just a small matter of finance to resolve.
“We’ve worked out it will cost around £340,000 to put the show together,” said George, “then there are the weekly running costs once it’s on tour. So what we are looking for are investors to back the show, which is standard practice for a major production like this.”
George’s fellow producers in the venture are stage and TV favourite Paul Nicholas and renowned West End figure Peter Frosdick.
“I’m very much the junior partner in terms of experience compared to these guys,” said George. “It’s such a great opportunity for me to learn from them, I’m going to be a sponge and just take everything I can from it.
“Everyone knows Paul from TV and Just Good Friends but he has starred in and directed some massive hit musicals from Jesus Christ Superstar to Grease. And Peter is known internationally as a producer, he is a major figure in British theatre.”
In fact Peter has been behind three previous tours of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers which were successful both with critics and at the box office.
“Because he knows the show so well, he knows what potential it has,” he said. “Traditionally it’s a show with massive appeal to an older generation but we have ideas to bring it to a younger generation too; we want to bring a new approach to it.”
His creative ideas have made Barrowford-based George’s shows around East Lancashire some of the most eagerly awaited productions.
With his company PMA Productions he has brought the magic of the pantomime to countless youngsters. This Christmas will see him returning to Colne Muni for the 16th consecutive year and he will also be responsible for the annual festive productions at eight other different theatres both in East Lancashire and further afield.
“Seven Brides is a massive step up for me,” said George. “We are talking about all the number one touring venues in the country, your Manchester Opera Houses and Liverpool Empires.
“The show will run for an initial 28 weeks starting in September next year. It would run for 14 weeks up to Christmas and then a further 14 weeks in early 2014.”
“I am used to taking shows out on the road and all the aspects of putting a show together. This summer I have sat down and gone through 4,500 applications to cast the 29 actors I need this Christmas.
“But next year will be doing everything on a totally different scale. I couldn’t have better role models than Peter and Paul.”
George has to raise £85,000 for the production and investors have the chance to get involved in £5,000 units.
“Of course there are no guarantees,” said George. “Like any investment there is a risk attached but I already have friends who have invested in me and I wouldn’t like to think I’ll have to avoid them in the street as a result. My first investor saw something I’d put on Facebook and signed up straight away.”
Profits from the show will be split 60:40 between investors and the producers with investors getting a proportionate sum to match their investment.
“I suppose I am asking people to invest in me,” said George. “But this is a venture I truly believe in. My company PMA stands for Positive Mental Attitude and I’m not the sort of person to think ‘what if?’.
“It’s not an ego thing, truly it’s not. But it is a chance for me to see what is required to take things to the next level.“ l Anyone interested in finding out more about investing in the production can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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