Guides and scouts from across Tamworth ensured that Tamworth Assembly Rooms went out with a bang as the curtain closed to rapturous applause for the last time until the theatre’s modern new look is revealed.
The 2016 Tamworth Gang Show took place over four nights with more than 1,200 people enjoying the production across the near sell-out performances of comedy, music and pyrotechnics each day.
Almost 100 people from scout and guide units across the town, including a cast of 80 youngsters aged between six and 18, delighted audiences with variety style entertainment from comedy spoofs of Scooby Doo meets the Phantom of the Opera to music from Matilda and Spamalot.
Producer of the Tamworth Gang Show, Chris Hollyaoke, said, “We had an amazing time putting on the show; our cast had such an experience. The feedback we have had from our audience has been so positive and we know it was the best show we have ever done.
“The Saturday night finale was very special with a standing ovation for our cast who had worked so hard all week and for the five months of rehearsals previously.
“The Assembly Rooms has so much character and atmosphere and we felt honoured to help it go out with a bang. The final number was Riding Along on a Crest of a Wave which was well received by the full house – there was no better way to go out.”
The show was the last to be staged at the 126-year-old Assembly Rooms in its current form, as the historic venue is now closed, ready for its biggest transformation to date.
The theatre will be restored and extended in a major refurbishment programme designed to bring it into the 21st century, in terms of both appearance and accessibility.
The regeneration is part of the ambitious £6.1million project by Tamworth Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council to develop a Creative Quarter in the heart of Tamworth town centre over the next three years.
Work to the Assembly Rooms will include the creation of a café bar and exhibition space, a multi-use area, a new box office and new glazed double doors at the front of the building for a more welcoming and inviting feel. The café area will be open throughout the day to allow the building to be used to its full potential.
A brand new glass extension will be added onto the side of the building, which will be used as a studio space and lit up at night.
The theatre’s windows – which have been covered over for a number of years – will be opened up to allow natural light into the auditorium and to complement the new glass frontage to Corporation Street.
As well as scouts and guides, who have been performing the Tamworth Gang Show at the Assembly Rooms since 1979, the closure also marks the end of an era for many other town groups who have been treading the theatre’s boards for several decades.
Belgrave Studio of Dance has been using the Assembly Rooms for annual shows since 1967. Its Principal Katie Shelton said, “Local dance schools need somewhere to show off their talent and the Assembly Rooms are a lifeline for us. Every time we have a new judge they always love the cosy atmosphere there so I’m looking forward to seeing some new and exciting changes.”
Tamworth Male Voice Choir first appeared at the Assembly Rooms in 1977 and it has been home to the group’s annual concert ever since.
Choir secretary John Egan said, “We have come to regard the theatre as our home. Our last concert was in November when we were delighted to share the stage with Tamworth Ladies Choir. The evening was a success, which was fitting for our final performance at the Assembly Rooms before it undergoes a much-needed refurbishment.
“The choir is eagerly looking forward to the opening of the refurbished theatre, particularly the new entrance area and back stage facilities, while still keeping the original ambience of the historic building. We already can’t wait to get back.”
Alex Farrell of Tamworth Pantomime Company added, “The Assembly Rooms is very special to me and also the Tamworth Pantomime Company. I have performed in nine pantos there and the company has been there for many years before that.
“It is sad that it’s closing, but also very exciting because I know that it will be changed for the better and we can’t wait to get back and perform in the fantastic new space. Hopefully the renovations will put Tamworth on the map as the perfect place to come and enjoy the theatre.”
Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Economy, Cllr Steve Claymore, said, “This refurbishment represents a significant investment in our arts provision and marks an exciting chapter in the history of Tamworth Assembly Rooms which will help secure the theatre for future generations.”