The Encore Performing Arts Academy brings The Sound of Music to The Alley Theatre
Who is Rebecca Thompson
My name is Rebecca Thompson, I’m a 31 year old wife and mother of four boys who decided to leave my job as a secondary school teacher to open up my own Performing Arts Academy. I’m originally from Strabane and have recently moved back to the town after living in Letterkenny for nine years. I am the owner and Artistic Director of Encore Performing Arts Academy, based in Letterkenny. I am also the producer, director and choreographer of our production The Sound Of Music to be stated in The Alley Theatre, Strabane, this Easter.
Can you tell us a bit more about Encore Performing Arts?
Encore PAA was established in September 2010 with one aim: to offer various disciplines the Performing Arts under one roof. Now in its third year in business, Encore is regarded as the leading Performing Arts Academy in the North West. We are based in a purpose built, state of the art facility within which are 3 professional dance studios, two drama rooms, and a fully sound proofed music room. We have classes for everyone, whether they are 3months or the very old! Courses on offer include the incredibly popular musical yheatre class,speech and drama, piano, singing tuition, drum kit lessons and lyrical dance.
All classes can be exam led through the London College of Music. We also prepare our students for various productions, performances, competitions and auditions.
Why the Sound of Music?
It is without doubt one of the best loved classics of all time. I think the number of people who wouldn’t know at least one song from the show would be very few. Even if someone would be unsure of the titles of the songs, if they they heard the opening lines such as ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’ or ‘doe a deer a female deer’ they would probably be able to sing along. It is the perfect family show, with great songs, a beautiful storyline, and, perhaps, a happy ending.
Who are some of the main cast?
We have a cast of just under 40 and they hail from Donegal, Tyrone and Derry. They have been selected from our students, parents and staff at Encore PAA. We were lucky that some our leads starred in previous productions with each other so the chemistry is electric. We have managed to find ourselves with two brilliant Marias in Ellen O Donnell and Laura Douglas. They are very different as actors but equally mesmerising in performance. Our Captain Von Trapp is in the very capable hands of Philip Doherty who will have the ladies hearts from his first entrance! We have had such fun working with our Von Trapp children, who are aged from 5-16! We are really blessed to have such talented children at Encore and this show is going to showcase just what these children have to offer. And it is something truly special.
Have they been having fun?
Yes! At times too much fun! Rehearsals can, and have, ended up with the cast and crew in a heap in hysterics at something someone has said or done! Still, the chemistry and bond that this team has developed since November is very strong, and it is important that this is maintained. It is very hard work, and at times long hours, but it is very important to me that we maintain a sense of enjoyment and excitement about performing for our audiences. If our cast are enjoying it, then so will our audience.
Any nerves in advance of opening night?
There’s always nerves! I don’t think I have slept a full night for ages! As producer, director and choreographer my mind is on overdrive 24/7. The cast are also now starting to feel the pinch of show week creeping up on them. I always say that nerves are good, though. I’d be more worried if the nerves were gone, that would reveal complacency!
What have been some of the highlights of rehearsals so far?
Watching the development of our cast is definitely one. To see your students develop from the initial script reading through to the finished choreography and songs is amazing. But I think the main highlight has been watching our Von Trapp children developing a connection with each other that is similar to a very close family. Their maturity to the task that is in front of them is overwhelming and humbling. They have taken their roles so seriously and have developed as young actors and performers and I am so proud of them.
Sound of Music is, of course, a beloved musical – what’s your favourite number and why?
I have watched this musical for years. I think I was 6 or 7 when I first got the video! I’ve always loved ‘My Favourite Things’ and ‘So Long, Farewell’. Actually ‘Do Re Mi’ is probably up there too, and… I can’t decide! It is really one of the very few musicals that every song is a great song! Maybe after the show my feelings will change?
What can audiences expect?
Audiences can expect an amazing show. We really have an amazing cast who love performing, our fantastic set has been designed especially and our live orchestra will just add to the overall theatre experience this Easter. It will have all audience members, young and old, singing and swaying in their seats as it stirs up old memories and creates new ones.
Any plans for future productions?
I said after our last production that I wouldn’t and here we are again! At Encore Performing Arts our aim is to showcase our students in a way that is different from others. There is definitely exciting times ahead for our Academy so there may well be something in the pipeline…….watch this space!
The Sound of Music is at the Alley Theatre from April 3 – 6