Why Nick's Rotherham stage Show Stoppers never have to audition

Nick Challenger of Wales Musical Theatre Company
Nick Challenger of Wales Musical Theatre Company

Enthusiasm, dedication, the ability to join in… that’s what Nick Challenger looks for when he’s casting a show.

The one thing the man behind the success of Wales Musical Theatre Company does not do, though, is hold auditions.

The community theatre group’s next production, Show Stoppers 2016, comes to the Acorn Theatre in Worksop from September 14 to 17.

There will be an estimated 70 performers on stage, aged between five and 80.

All of them will be giving everything they’ve got to West End, Broadway and movie hits from Matilda, Beauty and the Beast, Jersey Boys, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jekyll and Hyde, Sister Act and the Rocky Horror Show.

But nobody in the cast will have had to stand in front of an audition panel and prove their dramatic or musical worth.

“We don’t have any criteria for being in the show, absolutely no auditions for people to join,” Nick insists.

“They just have to bring themselves along and I will bring out whatever I can see in them, hopefully.”

The 38-year-old Killamarsh businessman readily admits that he has always hated auditioning for parts.

He’s been acting and performing most of his life, starting with school productions.

That’s where Roy Staniforth, behind the phenomenal success of the Wales Methodist Church Pantomime Players, first saw Nick in Calamity Jane and invited him to join.

“I must have been around 15 at the time and here I am, 23 years later, still heavily involved,” he says.

“To me, being part of Wales is like being in a very special family, family who are all there for each other.”

Nick now writes, produces and directs the famous Wales pantomime following Roy’s retirement. A new production of Cinderella will be on stage in Sheffield in the New Year.

But when he decided to launch a new branch of the society, Wales Musical Theatre Company, he wanted to make it a true community experience .

“I just throw everybody in at the deep end and let them get on with it,” he laughs. “Really it’s a case of guiding them and bringing out the best, seeking out individual talents.”

It’s a unique approach that took Nick to the national finals of the Britain Has Spirit Awards.

Nick’s award citation recognises his tireless work on producing two annual shows.

“He gives up his time to write scripts, manage rehearsals and spend time with individuals who couldn’t get into other groups,” the nomination explains.

“It provides an opportunity for people to try new things, meet new people and most importantly gain confidence.”

Because it is an open door policy, Wales Musical Theatre Company has cast members who otherwise might never get a chance to appear on stage.

“We have one young member of the company who is autistic but who had become passionate about appearing on stage after coming to see one of the pantomimes,” Nick says.

“If we’d asked him to audition he would have walked away from the start but he came along and we didn’t really think he would get past the rehearsal period let alone make it on to the stage.

“He was the sort of boy who seldom left his room, who hated bright lights, who never spoke and was accompanied by his mum.

“But he came along, went on stage without his mother - and the change in his life was unbelievable.

“The simple truth is that if we had asked him to audition he would never have achieved any of the things he did.”