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A forty year history

Peter Nixon, a Macclesfield thespian, decided to form a group to put on a musical show. He approached Peter Higginbotham, a director of the Majestic Picture House, to see if the production could be staged there, thus returning musical shows to Macclesfield after a gap of many years.

A production team of John Hedley Palin, a Producer of many MADS plays, Doris Patterson and her daughter Jean were to oversee Choreography and Musical Direction was to be overseen by Alfred Hyde. Peter Nixon himself was to design sets and scenery.

Advertisements were placed in local newspapers and after a huge response, Oliver! was chosen as the inaugural show in 1971, followed one year later by South Pacific. The Group joined the National Operatic and Dramatic Association.

A first pantomime


The Group continued over the years to provide first class entertainment with shows and Music Hall Varieties. In 1978 the Group, now Musically Directed by Keith Yearsley, took their show, The Count of Luxembourg, to the Waterford International Festival in Ireland - such a challenge to take cast, crew and set over the water. They were thrilled to win several prizes of beautiful Waterford Crystal.

In 1985 the Society decided to bring back Pantomimes to Macclesfield, the first one being Dick Whittington; which proved to be highly successful and introduced the town to the hilarious trio of David McGuinness, Carol Dabbs and a young Stephen Clayton. MMTG’s annual pantomimes are still produced and enjoyed to this day.

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A 21st celebration

In 1987 the Group once more crossed the water to Waterford with Sweet Charity; no prizes this time but many happy memories - like travelling to the theatre in the back of an open truck as ours had been demobilised!! The Irish thought we were mad.

The Group’s next milestone was the 21st birthday in 1991. To celebrate, a birthday concert was held. The audience were treated to excerpts from past shows performed by then past and present members.

Difficult times were to follow. In the mid 1990's, the Society was faced with a lack of finances, raising the question of the next production. The Committee decided that ‘if belts were tightened and trimmed’ the show might go on! and together with Pantomime receipts put the Society firmly in the black. The resulting show ‘The King and I’ was a huge success, breaking box office records and together with Pantomime receipts put the Society firmly in the black.

A nomadic journey

The Group, having enjoyed the support for many years of the owners of the Majestic were, in 1997, faced with the challenge of finding a new venue for their shows as the Theatre was sold. Whilst some parts of the building remain, it is now used as a pub.

The MMTG then began a rather nomadic journey looking for a home, using the Silk Heritage Centre, the Evans Theatre, Wilmslow for their Pantomimes, and Fallibroome High School Drama Hall, until finally settling into the very convivial MADS ‘Little Theatre’ on Lord Street, Macclesfield in 1999. The journey around the different theatres certainly had issues; from having to convert a games hall at the Evans Theatre - complete with seating and backstage facilities - to a stage overnight to converting classrooms and teaching areas at Fallibroome School nightly, and also the tremendous task of ‘get in’ and ‘get out’ on the second floor of the Silk Heritage Centre for two of their shows. All good fun, but hard work!

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A rehearsal studio

During this time their rehearsal venues kept changing as some were closed down or others fully utilised. In November 1996 they transferred to their current MMTG studios, which they lease, and includes two studios, wardrobe and properties storage, kitchen and office. They are very grateful for the great support from their landlord and the then Macclesfield Borough Council and continued support by Cheshire East. The Group then obtained Charitable Status which has been hugely beneficial.

As members of NODA, as the standards have continued to improve the Group has had three nominations for Best Pantomime in the North West; one Best Actress nomination in 2005 (Colette Desborough), won the Best Costumes in a Pantomime award (Mina Latham and Sue Jones) and, in 2009, won the Best Pantomime (Producer: Micheal Daws). A great achievement for all those involved.

They have many loyal members, some of whom are still performing. Harry Newton, our current President, has performed in more shows/pantomimes than any other member; Sheila Gaskell, a founder member, was to be seen only last year - 40years on! still treading the boards as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!

The professional stage

Over the years, a number of our members have gone on to the professional stage Jonathon Morris (TV - Bread and West End Shows), Marshall Lancaster (TV - Lakes, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes), Chris Donnelly (TV and professional actor), Lindsey and Emma Hurst (Riverdance and Musicals), Tina Lynn (singing on cruise ships), Steve Helliwell (West End and Royal Shakespeare Company), Andy Hofton (singer and entertainer), Gemma Moss - stage name Sutton (several West End productions including working with Sir Trevor Nunn and touring as the lead in Oklahoma! last year), Johnny Bower (acting and touring with Buddy) and more recently Micheal Daws (Really Useful Group's staging of Love Never Dies).

As a Group, the MMTG welcomes and encourages members to hone their various talents by singing, dancing and acting, also there are great opportunities for people to work backstage in set building etc., wardrobe and front of house.

With forty years completed, the Group is looking forward to the future, entertaining and keeping Musical Theatre alive in Macclesfield, as was its intention back in 1971!

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