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The Story of FMS

1983 – Let's start at the very beginning...

The founder of FMS, Betty Richards, was for many years a performer with the South Downe Musical Society, which had roots in the Fareham area, but was performing at The Kings Theatre in Southsea. Betty had a dream, supported by her late husband Vic, that Fareham might one day have its own company performing in the town at the brand-new Ferneham Hall, which had opened in 1982. 

Thanks to the encouragement and invaluable help of friends Sharon Shilton and Trevor Wyatt of the Solent Theatre Club, the first steps were taken with the placing of an advert in the local paper. Sharon then wrote to those who had expressed an interest, issuing an invitation to the first meeting of what was to become FMS. This was held at Titchfield Village Hall on 19 May 1983. Amongst those attending was Diane Carpenter with her son Matthew. Diane is the only founder member still taking part in the Society's productions.


1983 – First performance

The first show to be performed was Rock Nativity. This was suggested by Joan Pressey, who was vital to the success of the Society as she directed the first three shows as an unpaid volunteer. Rock Nativity was staged at the Lee-on-the-Solent Community Centre towards the end of 1983 and produced on a shoestring, with no live musicians. From these modest beginnings FMS grew and In September 1986 Betty's dream was realised when FMS first performed on stage at Ferneham Hall

1984 – In a flap

Our second show The Boy Friend was presented at the Thorngate Theatre, Gosport in September 1984, with Joan Pressey as Director and Choreographer, and Cliff Palmer as Musical Director. Wendy Lawrence played Polly Browne and John Clements played Bobby Van Husen. The most expensive tickets were £1.50

1985 – Broadway beckons

In March 1985 we performed our first Broadway musical, The King and I, directed and choreographed by Joan Pressey, with musical direction from Cliff Palmer. The show, like the next two, was presented at the Thorngate Theatre, Gosport, and used a simple home-made set in contrast to the lavish scenery that would be hired for the 1997 and 2011 productions. The show starred Sharon Shilton as Anna and the late John Clements as the King, a role that would be played in our 2011 production by his brother Graeme.

1985 – Two shows a year!

Our second show in 1995, staged in August at the Thorngate Theatre, was Oklahoma! The Director and Choreographer was Mark Lanman and the Musical Director was Maureen Tapping. Wendy Lawrence played Laurey and John Clements played Curly, with Nigel Duffin as Will Parker, Rita Clements as Ado Annie and Betty Richards as Aunt Eller.

1986 – Last show in Gosport

Presented in February 1986, Salad Days was to be our last musical to be performed in Gosport. Again Mark Lanman was engaged as Director and Choreographer and Maureen Tapping as M.D., with Wendy Lawrence leading the cast as Jane. In the prophetic words of one of the songs the graduating students sing "We said we wouldn't look back."

1986 – Fareham!

Realising the dream of Betty Richards, and following encouragement from the Mayor of Fareham, Mrs Hilda Joyce, in September 1986 we performed our first show in what is now our 'home' – Ferneham Hall. That show was South Pacific, in which Betty Richards sang Bali Hai, her favourite song from a musical. Director and Choreographer the late John Pearce was a long time friend of FMS. As well as South Pacific, he directed Kiss Me Kate, No No Nanette, The King and I and My Fair Lady. He was for many years our NODA Regional Representative. Musical Director Maureen Tapping was a stalwart of early shows and rehearsals.

1987 – Looking swell

Our second show at Ferneham Hall, in April 1987, was Hello Dolly, directed again by Mark Lanman with Don Preskett as Musical Director. Anne Allen was Dolly Levi and Ted Carpenter played Horace Vandergelder, with Alan Backhouse as Cornelius.

       In September 1987 we performed a compilation show entitled Showtime at Portchester Community Centre. This was directed by member Marjorie Hillman with Don Preskett as M.D.

1988 – Reviewing the situation

Oliver! performed in March 1988 was our third show at Ferneham Hall. The late Susanne Drew directed, and again Maureen Tapping was the M.D. Alan Backhouse played Fagin, with Lisa Brady as Nancy and Greg Smith as Bill Sykes. Oliver was played by Gary King. Presumably in a move to save costs, this was the only show to be staged this year

1989 – Way out west

Calamity Jane was performed at Portchester Community Centre in March 1989: Director Marjorie Hillman, Musical Director John Witham. Sue Hope played Calamity with Steve Stonehouse as Wild Bill Hicock and Nigel Duffin as Lt. Danny Gilmartin.

     September 1989 saw us back at Ferneham Hall with Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Susanne Drew and with Maureen Tapping as M.D. Ken Foster played Tevye with Moira Grigg as Golde.

1990 – Home, sweet home

In March 1990 we presented The Pajama Game at Portchester Community Centre: Director Eileen Hodges, Choreographer Eileen Walker, Musical Director John Witham. This was our last main show away from Ferneham Hall, which has since been our home theatre. 

     In September 1990 we returned there to perform My Fair Lady. The Director and Chreographer for this show was Kate Bennett with John Witham as Musical Director. Margaret James played Eliza Doolittle and Alan Backhouse was Professor Higgins.

1991 – Oh, what a beautiful stage!

In April 1991 we returned to Oklahoma!, staging it at Ferneham Hall for the first time. Eileen Hodges directed with Eileen Walker as Choreographer and Carl Reeves as Musical Director. Karen Smith played Laurey and Nigel Duffin played Curly, with Alan Backhouse as the villainous Jud Fry.

     The production in October 1991 was Half a Sixpence, a show we had hoped to stage three years earlier. The Director was Susanne Drew with Rosie Nash as Choreographer and Nigel Duffin as M.D. Gary Cleave played Kipps, Debi Weaver played Ann, and Amanda Humphry was Helen.

1992 – Guys, Dolls and Shakespeare

In April 1992 we staged our first production of Guys and Dolls, directed by Eileen Hodges, with Choreographer Rosie Nash and Musical Director Carl Reeve. Alan Finden played Sky Masterson and Kerry Cleave was Sarah Brown. Uniquely, we could not perform the show on Thursday 9th April as Ferneham Hall was used to count the votes for the General Election.

     Our show in September 1992 was Kiss Me Kate, directed and choreographed by John Pearce, with Andrew Trotman as Musical DIrector. Alan Finden and Verity Peirce played the warring couple Fred and Lilli.

1993 – Ten musical years

In April 1993 we celebrated our first ten years with a compilation show, named appropriately, Ten Musical Years. The musical direction was by Nigel Duffin and the choreography by Veronica Young. The Saturday evening performance of this show was a Gala Evening, raising money for the Mayor of Fareham's Charity Appeal. An amended cut-down version of the show, Ten Musical Years On the Road, was presented at the Thorngate Theatre, Gosport that summer.

     In September 1993 John Pearce directed No No Nanette, with Carl Reeve as M.D. and Alison Dea in the title role, with the Director joining the mens' chorus and appearing on stage in blue-sequined jumpsuit and bowler hat.

1994 – Hoorah for Eileen!

With rising costs and dwindling reserves, the next two years would see a period of consolidation with three of the four musicals in that time compilations, all three of them expertly (and economically) directed by Eileen Hodges with choreography by Rosie Nash. In April 1994 we staged an unknown musical Hoorah for Hollywood! by Peter Hornsby, which was introduced by then Chairman Tony Henson. A pastiche of the early days of Hollywood, it was essentially a compilation of classic songs interspersed with the fictional history of a Hollywood film studio. Musical arrangements were by Roger Parham with Nigel Duffin as Chorus Master.

     The next show, in September 1994, was a compilation themed on old time music halls entitled London Melody, with John Grumbridge as MD. Alan Dilworth guested as the Music Hall Chairman.

1995 – Show business as usual

In March 1995 we presented Annie Get Your Gun. The show was directed by Roger Wettone, with Julie Gask as Choreographer and John Grumbridge as Musical Director. Sue Hope played Annie Oakley and Nigel Duffin was Frank Butler.

     Eileen Hodges and Rosie Nash returned in September 1995 for another compilation Magic of the Minstrels. Michael Morton was Musical Director.

1996 – Scaling new heights

In April 1996 we presented one of our most successful shows The Sound of Music. This gave the Society a firm financial foundation and won the NODA Southern Regional Accolade of Excellence. The show was directed by Eileen Hodges. Alan Pring acted as M.D. with Alan Trout as Chorus Master. Jane Whitehead played Maria and Nigel Duffin was Captain Von Trapp. There was a Gala Performance on the Saturday evening with a Grand Draw in aid of the Rowan's Hospice. That evening's performance was notable as having the largest single audience for an FMS show, with a sellout of nearly 1000 people in both the Solent and the tiered Meon seats, a number which can never be repeated following redevelopment at Ferneham Hall.

     We followed this in September 1996 with an ambitious and successful compilation show West End Showstoppers. John Bettesworth was Director, Rosie Nash was Choreographer and Nigel Duffin was M.D.

1997 – Second dates

March 1997 saw us revisit The King and I with a most successful production directed and choreographed by John Pearce, with Alan Trout as M.D. The show featured Amanda Humphry as Anna and Nigel Duffin as the King.

    In September 1997 we had a second date with The Boy Friend, which was directed by Eileen Hodges with Julie Gask as Choreographer and Dennis Brombley as Musical Director. Alison Dea played Polly and Philip Sharland played Tony.

1998 – Take 2

Our second production of Calamity Jane was presented in March 1998, directed and choreographed by Jacqui Ivemy, with Nigel Duffin as Musical DIrector. The part of Calamity was again played by Sue Hope.

     Following the success of West End Showstoppers in 1996, John Bettesworth was persuaded to direct the sequel West End Showstoppers 2, which was staged in September 1998. Rosie Nash was again Choreographer and Nigel Duffin Musical Director. In the children's chorus was 15-year-old Helen Rees, who would go on as Helena Blackman to be the runner up in the hugely successful TV programme How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

1999 – Curtain calls

Anything Goes, performed in March 1999, was the last show that Eileen Hodges directed for us before her untimely death; Rosie Nash was Choreographer and Susan Denison Musical Director. This was the first show for which we received nominations in the Echo Curtain Call Awards, and Jonathan Redwood was our first award winner as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Also nominated were Jane Kenyon for Best Actress as Reno Sweeney, and Eileen Hodges for Best DIrector.

     John Pearce took a metaphorical curtain call as he directed and choreographed his fifth and final show for us, our second production of My Fair Lady, in September 1999. Member Susan Denison was the M.D. Alan Backhouse reprised the role of Professor Higgins, with Sarah Miatt as Eliza Doolittle. Also in September we performed at the NODA National Conference in Worthing.

2000 – Millennium music

In terms of critical acclaim, our production of Me and My Girl in March 2000, directed by John Bettesworth, with choreography by Rosie Nash and with Nigel Duffin as Musical Director, was most successful. Robbie MacNab won the Curtain Call award as Best Actor in a Musical, Rosie Nash received the award for Best Choreography, and the show received the prestigious NODA Accolade of Excellence.

    In September 2000 we presented a compilation show, Music from the Movies, directed and choreographed by Kate Bennett in her second show with us, with Musical Direction and arrangements by Nigel Duffin.

2001 – Bali and Berlin

Our second production of South Pacific was performed in March 2001, with Patricia Roberts as Director, Rosie Nash as Choreographer and Susan Denison as Musical Director.

    Presented in September 2001, Cabaret, directed by John Bettesworth and with Nigel Duffin as Musical Director, won a Curtain Call Award for Rosie Nash as Best Choreographer for the second year running. Katie Bushell starred as Sally Bowles.

2002 – In a spin

In March 2002 we performed Carousel, which was directed by Pat Roberts, with choreography by Vivien Reilly-Davidson and Kim Majczak, and with Dennis Brombley as Musical Director. Patrick Stewart (no, not that one) played Billy Bigelow and Alison Dea played Julie Jordan.

     Our production in September 2002 was Irene, an enjoyable show suggested by Director John Bettesworth when our plans to stage Annie were thwarted by Ferneham Hall also having booked the show. In the end neither of us staged Annie until our award-winning show in 2006. Irene was choreographed by Rosie Nash with two members acting as Musical Director at different times – Susan Denison and Nigel Duffin. The show did not attract the audience numbers of an Annie, but was an artistic success with Curtain Call Awards for John Bettesworth as Best Director of a Musical and Sue Hope and Jackie Pryce Best Supporting Actresses.

2003 – Twenty musical years

As FMS reached its twentieth birthday, we paid our third visit to Oklahoma! in March 2003. Our Director was Kate Bennett, with choreography by Kim Majczak. Nigel Duffin was the M.D. and became the Society's first winner of the Best Musical Director Curtain Call Award. Katie Bushell played Laurey and Danny Owen played Curly.

     In September 2002 we presented the local premiere of Billy, the musical version of Billy Liar. The show was directed by John Bettesworth, with choreography by Wesley Sebastian and with Nigel Duffin as M.D. Robbie MacNab played Billy.

2004 – Big hitter

Our production of Oliver! in March 2004 attracted our largest ever audience figures. The show was directed by John Bettesworth, the Choreographer was Kim Majczak and the Musical Director was Roger Symes. Phil Pennington played Fagin, Danny Owen was Bill Sykes, and receiving the Best Actress in a Musical Curtain Call Award was Sarah Miatt for her performance as Nancy. Lewis Hiller and Thomas Peters shared the role of Oliver, while Elliot Bath and Oliver Taylor were Dodger.

     In September 2004, member Marina Voak directed her first show, a compilation entitled Musical Magic. The M.D. was Nigel Duffin. This was the first time that two members of FMS had worked together in these roles. The Choreographer was Wesley Sebastian, who was awarded the Curtain Call for Best Choreography.

2005 – Crazy stuff

In March 2005 we staged Crazy for You with Director Kate Bennett, Choreographer Wesley Sebastian and Musical Director Susan Denison/Burnett. For the second year running, Wesley received the Curtain Call Award as Best Choreographer, and Ben Smith won the Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

     We performed Guys and Dolls for the second time in September 2005. Kate Bennett returned as Director and also acted as Choreographer, with Dennis Brombley as the Musical Director. For her performance as Miss Adelaide, Mary-Rose Finden received the Curtain Call Award as Best Supporting Actress.

2006 – Showgirls and little girls

Copacabana, presented in March 2006, was the first published musical play to have members of the Society as Director and M.D. – Marina Voak and Nigel Duffin respectively. The Choreographer was Kim Majczak. This spectacular show earned for Brenda Sharp the Curtain Call Award for Best Costumes.

     Our production of Annie in September 2006 was a huge success and attracted large audiences. Directed by John Bettesworth, with choreography by Kim Majczak and musical direction by Dennis Brombley, the show received three Curtain Call Awards: Best Supporting Actress for Marie Ridley, Best Director for John Bettesworth and overall Best Musical.

2007 – Back on the roof

John Bettesworth returned to direct and choreograph The Music Man in March 2007. Valerie Tucker joined him as Musical Director. Danny Owen played the conman Harold Hill with Vikki Jones as Marion Paroo.

     We presented our second production of Fiddler on the Roof in September 2007. We appointed David Jupp as Director, Leigh Bushnell as Choreographer and Susan Burnett as Musical Director. Sadly, Susan was too ill to take up her position and Dennis Brombley kindly volunteered to assume her responsibilities. Graeme Clements played the role of Tevye, with Julie Brombley as Golde.

2008 – Silver jubilee

For the Society's 25th anniversary. the appropriately-named Silver in March 2008 offered "a night of song and dance from our most popular shows". The proven team of Director John Bettesworth, M.D. Nigel Duffin and Choreographer Kim Majczak returned to do the honours. As well as the usual week at Ferneham Hall, there was also a celebratory night at the King's Theatre, Southsea in May.

     September 2008 saw the classic 42nd Street brought to the stage by David Humphries as Director and Valerie Tucker as Musical Director. Sarah Curtis won the Curtain Call for Best Choreographer for the spectacular dance numbers.

2009 – America

West Side Story was the March 2009 show, directed and choreographed by Matt Newman with Nigel Duffin the M.D. Rachel Carter starred as Maria in an energetic and moving production, and Sarah Murray as Anita won the Curtain Call award for Best Supporting Actress.

    In September, we performed our second production of Hello Dolly, with Marie Ridley winning the Best Actress Curtain call award for her performance in the title role. The Director was Jacqui Ivemy, and the Musical Director was Dennis Brombley, with Leigh Bushnell the Choreographer.

2010 – Magnificent!

Husband and wife team David and Sarah Curtis were the director and choreographer for our compilation show Magnificent Musicals in March, with musical direction from Nigel Duffin. Featuring a very full and varied selection, the show was very popular with society members, featuring a cast of xx, it also did extremely well at the box office.

    In September we staged Mack and Mabel, director Marina Voak, M.D. Valerie Tucker and Choreographer Kim Majczak.

2011 – Third time lucky

In March we presented Thoroughly Modern Millie for the first time, with John Bettesworth the director and choreography by Matt Newman. The M.D. was Ben Lister. Helen Jolley starred as Millie, with romantic support from Ben James. 

     Our third version of The King and I came to the stage in September in probably our most expensive musical to date. Graeme Clements played the King and Alexandra Maclean was Anna. Ben Lister directed, with Valerie Tucker the M.D. and Kim Maczjak choreographing. The show was very successful at the 2011 Curtain Call awards, winning Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Musical.

2012 – Going down a storm

Singin' in the Rain was our March musical, directed by David Humphries. Also huddled under the production team umbrella were Musical Director Dennis Brombley and Choreographer Wesley Sebastian. Ben James and Hannah Edwins starred as Don and Kathy.

     In June for two nights we staged our first non-musical production, three episodes of the classic comedy Fawlty Towers live on stage. The production had rave reviews and Jonathan Redwood won the Curtain Call Award for Best Actor in a Comedy for his portrayal of Basil Fawlty. Marina Voak played Sybil, Graeme Clements Manuel and Alexandra Maclean Polly.

     Wesley Sebastian was the director of our third production of My Fair Lady in September alongside Valerie Tucker as musical director. Mary-Rose Finden was flower girl Eliza Doolittle, Alan Finden was Professor Higgins and Alan Backhouse played Colonel Pickering.

2013 – Thirty musical years

A snowy January 2013 brought a four night repeat of Fawlty Towers at Groundlings Theatre, Portsmouth, culminating in a sell-out performance on the Saturday night.

     Summer Holiday was the first musical of the year in March 2013; Wezley Sebastian again directing and choreographing, and Rhys Scrivener as musical director. Gareth Daniel played Cliff Richard's role with Soraya Scrivener as the wealthy runaway heiress who disguises herself as a boy on his bus.

     In June 2013 it was a Return to Fawlty Towers, with a second batch of three episodes directed by Marina Voak, now extended to a three night run.

     FMS celebrated its thirtieth birthday with its first Gilbert and Sullivan – The Mikado, staged in September 2013. Julie Brombley was director and choreographer, with husband Dennis Brombley the M.D. Stuart Frank played Nanki-Poo and Sarah Tully was Yum-Yum. 

2014 – A-B-C and Do-Re-Mi

After a rocky start to rehearsals, Musicals from A to Z came to the stage in March 2014 under the directorship of Graeme Clements, the musical directorship of Valerie Tucker and a trio of choreographers: members Beth Marshall, Natalie Cleave and Matthew Swann.

     June 2014 brought More Trouble at Fawlty Towers, with a third helping directed by Marina Voak, and which won the NODA regional Accolade of Excellence.

     We presented The Sound of Music in September 2014, directed by Ben Lister with choreography by Matthew Swann and musical direction by Valerie Tucker. Alexandra Maclean won the News Awards Best Actress for her portrayal of Maria.

2015 – Last orders

Our third production of Oliver! in March 2015 was again under the guidance of Ben Lister (director), Valerie Tucker (musical director) and Matthew Swann (choreographer), and had sell out performances at the Saturday matinee and evening shows. Nick Scovell played Fagin and Clare Blackburn was Nancy. Tristan Redwood and William  shared the role of Oliver, Benjamin Dawson and Nicholas Nutt were Dodger.

     Last Stay at Fawlty Towers in June 2015 saw us present the final three episodes live on stage. The final episode saw an unsuspecting red car being thrashed by a branch in the Ferneham Hall auditorium in that iconic scene.

2015 – Murder!

Jekyll & Hyde was the September 2015 musical, Kate Bennett the Director and Robert Douglas the M.D. The show won Best Musical at the News Awards, and Stuart Frank (in the title roles) and Lucy Barratt were the runners-up for Best Actor and Best Actress.

    With the success of Fawlty Towers establishing plays as popular and viable, FMS embarked on its first straight drama in November 2015 in the shape of the Agatha Christie classic And Then There Were None. Directed by Jonathan Redwood, the play was a critical and popular success. 

2016 – Triple threat

March 2016 saw our second production of Anything Goes, with Marina Voak directing, Kim Majczak choreographing and Ian Peters as musical director. Beth Marshall starred as Reno Sweeney, singing and dancing her way through some Cole Porter classics.

     In June 2016 we presented No Sex Please – We're British, the world's longest-running comedy. Real life drama came to the stage when Alex Howatt was taken ill at dress rehearsal and director Ben Lister stepped in to play the part for the run (garnering a Curtain Call nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the process).

     A new venture for July 2016 was the one night only Reflections, a tribute act show devised and directed by Graeme Clements (who also played Johnny Cash), with Louise Helyer as musical director. Also featured were Marina Voak as Karen Carpenter, Lucy Barratt as Judy Garland and Evie Payne as Eva Cassidy, and the evening was a highly entertaining success.

2016 – Let it go!

Throwing caution (and clothes) to the wind, September 2016's musical was The Full Monty, directed by Sam Sampson. Valerie Tucker was M.D and Beth Marshall Choreographer. The courageous line-up of lead actors did indeed go the Full Monty, raising eyebrows and the roof at Ferneham Hall! The production won the NODA regional Accolade of Excellence.

     Our second Agatha Christie mystery, Murder on the Nile, was staged in November 2016 with direction from Jonathan Redwood. Sarah Tully and Stuart Frank were the newly-weds honeymooning on the Nile, with a host of colourful and suspicious characters along for the voyage.

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