Academy spreads a little Madness

THE madness of a West End musical is coming to the North East, thanks to a Morpeth businesswoman.

Lucy Sage, 36, set up the Sage Academy of Performing Arts in Newcastle 11 years ago to offer North East youngsters the chance to work with leading industry professionals without having to leave home.

Miss Sage grew up in Morpeth, but had to go to London as a teenager to pursue her dream, training at the Italia Conti School. While she enjoyed the experience, she was eager to establish an academy in the region to give more people the opportunity to develop their talents and keep the cost of courses as low as possible.

And now the entrepreneur is taking her initiative to another stage after forming S.A. Productions.

“The production company is an idea we have played around with for a while,” she said.

“We do college and school productions a lot and everyone raves about what we have done and we always get good feedback so this was the next step.

“By doing this it gives our students going into the industry experience of working with a professional company. All of the productions we do at college will always be a college production, but with this they get to work with people their own ages, as well as different people at the next stages of their training and experienced professionals.

“It is a lovely chance for our students to be going for the auditions and having a chance to see what it is like in the real world.”

Miss Sage, who has moved back to Morpeth and lives in Newgate Street, has hired an internationally-renowned team to bring the Madness musical Our House to the region.

The director will be Lee Proud, who worked on Billy Elliott, Guys and Dolls and High Society, the Musical Director is Richard Anderson, whose CV includes Sister Act, Dirty Dancing and the Little Shop of Horrors, and the choreographer is Gina Johnson, from Northern Ballet.

In addition, Ross Furlong has been given the lead role of Joe Casey, having previously toured with Mamma Mia, Annie, Saturday Night Fever and Footloose.

“We have been very lucky in being able to work with some great people over the years and we have called in every favour,” said Miss Sage.

“It was a lot about who we know, as well as what we know, and pulling all that together is great.

“I think these people appreciate what the academy does because people like Lee had to move away to London to work. When he was training there wasn’t the chance to do it anywhere else, it used to be London, London, London so he appreciates what we are trying to do for the North East.”

Auditions for the show were open to Sage Academy students, but they were given no preferential treatment and in the end two students and two academy graduates were chosen to join the 21-strong cast.

“It is actually a really difficult production and I believe it holds the record for the number of quick changes for any character – the lead role has about 30 quick changes so Ross has to have his own dresser. There are also a lot of little technical things to do. Added to that, there are just 12 days of rehearsals, but then most professional shows in this day and age will only rehearse for two or three weeks because of budgets,” said Miss Sage.

“Our work is a bit scary in the fact that it is a mix of some very experienced people and some with very little experience and there will be some long days ahead, but that is all part of it.

“We all work well under pressure and at the end of the day we know we will put a show on and it will be fantastic.

“It is a great show because we have the Madness music, but the story is good as well so it really appeals to Madness fans and also musical theatre fans in general.”

She added: “We have learned so much from this process already and we will keep learning. Our aim is to have another big show like this probably at the same time next year.”

Our House is a musical with music and lyrics by Madness and a script from Tim Firth, telling the story of Joe Casey, who becomes involved in petty crime and follows different directions in his life in London.

It will be staged at The People’s Theatre, Newcastle, on Saturday, August 4, at 7.30pm, and on Sunday, August 5, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets cost £12 for adults and £8 for students and children. They are available on 0191 265 5020, or online at www.ptag.org.uk