Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Performing a vital role for us all

Last Friday I had the privilege of hearing a lullaby of Broadway. No, I didn’t need to go Stateside to do so, I just needed to pop up to Kingswood Theatre, in Bath, to watch a truly uplifting performance of the hit musical 42nd Street played out by the enthusiastic youngsters of the Zenith Youth Theatre.

Zenith – originally called the Bodlets – have been providing high quality youth theatre for youngsters in Bath for nearly 50 years but this was the first time I’d actually seen the team in action for myself. And I came away thoroughly impressed by the sheer energy and excitement this splendid organisation generates.

I was impressed with every aspect of the show from its high production values to the efforts put in by the youngsters who sang, danced and acted with sheer gusto to leave everyone with a smile on their face and a tune in their head.

I think organisations like Zenith do a wonderful job. There are so many youngsters now who want to go on the stage and become stars of screen or the theatre but groups like this remind youngsters that you really do have to put the legwork in and, by so doing, you greatly enhance your chances of becoming that next ‘overnight sensation’.

But to me groups like Zenith and the many others who provide opportunities for youngsters to take part in the performing arts offer far, far more than just the chance of being the one in a thousand who can become a major star.

I suspect the vast majority of those in the troupe I saw on Friday probably don’t ever want to go down that stardom route, but they want a hobby that will be fun, will enhance their ability to work as a team player and will give them the chance to develop their personalities so they can be stronger and more confident in the wider world.

I can still recall watching with a tear in my eye when I first saw my daughter appear on stage doing ballet at the tender age of three. She danced enthusiastically for many years and eventually joined a youth theatre group herself that led her to perform with other youngsters in the chorus of some big shows in the Midlands. But even when she finally hung up her tap shoes and put down her scripts, what stayed with her was a confidence, self-belief and positive outlook on life which she’s carried with her ever since.

In my experience encouraging youngsters to take part in the performing arts – whether it’s singing the Lullaby of Broadway, playing in a rock band or learning to dance –- provides a sense of both fun and comradeship but also encourages discipline and a real sense of purpose and commitment.

I came away excited by what I’d seen on Friday and if some of the genuinely talented youngsters I witnessed go on to be stars, then that’s great. However, if being part of a group like Zenith just makes the majority of those youngsters, better, more confident and happier people in the future, then that is every bit as important as seeing their names on the real Broadway.

So well done Zenith – and well done also to every other group that gives our youngsters a chance to shine under those bright lights.

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