History

From Annie Get Your Gun to Waltzes From Vienna, there isn’t much the Northampton Musical Theatre Company hasn’t performed over the last hundred and fifteen years.

The company is amongst the oldest amateur dramatic institutions in the country, and was founded as the Northampton Amateur Operatic Company in 1898 by the choir of Northampton’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, conducted by William Griffiths, the organist, and assisted by the vicar Rev. Charles Brookes.

The first production was at the Opera House in The Royal Theatre Northampton (nowadays part of the Royal And Derngate Theatre), in June, 1898, where the company presented Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeoman Of The Guard, and The Mikado, the following year.

The company experienced some trouble over the next few years: in 1900 the company split due to ‘artistic differences’ and The Guildhall Operatic Company was born. In 1901, the GOC then had to pull their presentation of The Gondoliers when it was announced Queen Victoria had died. The two companies presented separate shows until 1904, when they reunited as NAOC for a repeat performance of The Mikado.

All productions took place at The Royal Theatre until 1922 when the venue was changed and the production of Les Cloche de Corneville was given at The New Theatre, on Abington Street, where Primark now stands. The company put on shows at The New Theatre for many years, including Desert Song, earning the company the accolade of being the first amateur group in the country to present it.

The only breaks in the company’s long line of annual shows were forced during the war years. However they came back with a flourish in 1947 with a production of Rose Marie, for which they had to recruit an almost entirely new company. They also welcomed back some of the previous members, which that year’s programme commented that “The passage of the war years does not seem to have affected their versatility.” It also notes that the company had donated over £3,500 to charity by that point – around £35,000 in today’s money!

The post war years saw many successful productions at The New Theatre, including many Ivor Novelo shows. In 1958, The New Theatre was razed to the ground; NAOC’s final production there was White Horse Inn and, ironically, the last song in the show was Goodbye!

The company relocated to the Cannon Cinema’s Savoy in Abington Square, in 1959. This was meant as a temporary home for the company, but they stayed for 23 years. The first production there was The Merry Widow and the last was The King and I in 1982, by which time the venue was known as The ABC Cinema – it still stands today, as the Deco Theatre. That year saw the completion of a new theatre – Derngate, where the company took up annual residency until Anything Goes in 2009.

NAOC moved in 2010 to regularly perform in the Cripps Hall Theatre, in the Northampton School for Boys campus. Over the years, NAOC has been nominated in several categories for the annual NODA Awards (National Operatic and Dramatic Association). Their best year being their 2010 production, Jesus Christ Superstar, where they were presented with trophies for: Best Programme; Best Poster; Best Show for Northamptonshire; and the icing on the cake: Best Show for the whole of East Midlands!

In 2011 the company presented their last show as NAOC - Sweet Charity. The Northampton Musical Theatre Company, as they are now known decided that although they will always have the affectionate nickname “The Amateurs” the full title no longer described who they were. Their first production as NMTC, Whistle Down the Wind in 2012, earned them the praises of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. After a 5 year absence, they returned to the Royal & Derngate with Roger & Hammerstein's South Pacific in 2014.

On 13th October 2013, the NMTC moved out of their rehearsal venue, Wardington Court, Northampton Association for the Blind's headquarters. Sadly this 25 year partnership was ended when Wardington Court was bought over for redevelopment. NMTC shall continue their rehearsals in Northgate School Art College.

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