Do you recognise these faces? Young Doncaster stars at Let’s Act are hitting the screen and stage
You may be wondering where you’ve seen them before. .
Some are faces that you may have stumbled across on the television.
Some have been the face of adverts. Others have been in well known dramas.
But all of them love their acting and regularly tread the boards in stage productions in Doncaster.
They are the young members of the Lets Act stage school, run out of a former office building in Bentley, just round the corner from the library on Cook Street.
The group has been running for over a decade, since it was set up by Doncaster lass Amy Shone as a 21-year-old, straight out of stage school herself.
Former Hungerhill School pupil Amy started the Let’s Act school 13 years ago, in a room at Hall Cross School. Later on, she moved to her current premises, where she has now converted the previous office space into three studios, as her school grew by word of mouth.
As things have grown, she’s taken on more staff. While Amy is the principal, she has Hayley Shay as her deputy head. She knows Hayley well. She was a former pupil at the school herself before she got a job there after getting a degree in music and theatre.
“We don’t just get out of work actors to work for us,” she said. “We want our teachers to be people who love to see the children blossom.”
Amy left school, and headed off to London to try to get acting work. While she was down there she qualified as a speech and drama teacher. She spent the weeks in London and the weekends back in Doncaster with her school. She appeared in a string of TV adverts for brands including Microsoft, Garnier and Bet Victor.
Now she has 200 youngsters enrolled in her Doncaster classes.
Some of her pupils take their acting seriously, and have agents.
Ethan Wilkey, for instance, appeared in a feature film called Pondlife alongside Coronation Street actresses Sally Lindsey and Julie Hesmondhalgh. He was also in a Sky TV advert for the Ryder Cup.
Others have been on CBBC shows and television dramas.
But is not just television and film glamour.
There are also regular shows that are staged by the group.
One of their most recent engagements was performing at the Christmas lights switch on in Doncaster town centre. Youngsters from Lets Act took to the stage, and performed song and dance routines from Les Miserables.
That was a follow-on from one of their main productions from last year, a performance of Les Miserables in a theatre in Sheffield.
They had originally hoped to stage it at Cast, but could not get the licence for the show because the theatre, Doncaster’s main professional stage venue, at Waterdale, holds over 500 people. That made it too big for them to get the permission they wanted, so they held is somewhere slightly smaller.
However the show was a big event, that saw Let’s Act hire a full orchestra for the music – a stipulation of the licence that they were able to get for the smaller venue.
This summer, they will be heading for Cast. They are booking the venue for a production of the musical Chicago , which will be staged in July.
Amy believes the experience of working with a full orchestra was great for the youngsters.
She said: “It was magical. Originally we took them to one of the schools in Cantley for the rehearsals. They don’t get to hear live music like that any more. It was amazing to see some of their faces when the musicians sounded the first notes.
“Some of their voices are so great – they are a talented bunch of children. I told them they were amazing.”
She has already cast Chicago, which will be on July 6 next year.
Emma Marsh will play the big role of Roxy, while Mia Brown plays Velma.
Aaron Phillips Richardson will play Billy Flynn.
While Chicago is the show that her older pupils are putting on, the younger ones will be taking part in their own productions. Lets Act is also looking to get licences for Disney’s Aladdin Junior, the Aristocats, and Into The Woods Junior.
The roles will be rotated on different nights for the younger group. For instance there will be two Aladdins, and two Jasmines, to make sure that every pupil gets to have a good speaking part.
The Disney shows are due to be performed in the second space at Cast, which holds an audience of 144.
Amy says the Cast shows will sell out, and that means there will be rationing of tickets. She will initially limit sales to four tickets per child, before putting them on general release. “That usually causes a scramble,” she said.
Amy finds youngsters come to the school for different reasons. Some come to build their confidence, some join to work on speech issues. Some join to make new friends, but some come down because they genuinely want to be actors.
She added the mums and dads who support the pupils were vital. “We’re so lucky to have such an inspirational bunch of parents,” said said.
Lets Act has recently extended its classes.
In the last year, as well as the school aged groups, it has brought in nursery classes for two to four year olds.
And it has also introduced a rock choir, called The Larks for grown ups, mainly aged 30 to 60.
Amy said: “A lot of the mums wanted to find something that they could do. Now they come down on Wednesday nights to sing.
“The nursery group started because a friend of mine had a baby and couldn't find anywhere that focused on speech.I got together with a friend who is a headteacher to develop a syllabus.”