The society was formed in 1994 as the Blaenau Gwent Young Stars and our first achievement was to collect £9.00 to become affiliated to N.O.D.A. (The National Operatic and Dramatic Accosiation). We planned and performed the pantomime, 'Dick Whittigton' in January 1995 and followed this up with a ful-scale musical presentation in October, 'Blackout'.
At this time our membership reached about 30 children, with the oldest being 16 years old. A few of the cast from these first two productions went on to perform with the society until very recently, and the producer, Kevin Wood only recently left the group, in December 2001. These productions were indeed a success, establishing us in the community from the outset with great enthusiasm. This is very secial in an area where there is great competition, with many adult and childrens societies using the same theatre.
During 1996 we decided to expand, we gained new premises in which we had full control and cost us nothing, at Carmel Chapel, Beaufort. We aso began performing charity concerts around the borough. We were also invited to take part in the Festival of Remembrance at Ebbw Vale Leisure Centre where we performed songs from 'Blackout'. We began 1996 with our first attempt at a musical revue ('Springtime Revue'), which went on to be a tremendous success.
In the same year we went on to perform the Welsh Premiere of the Children's Musical 'The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe' which proved to be another winner with our audience and proved to be our biggest challenge to that date.
Following on from the tremendous success of the 'Springtime Revue' we began 1997 with our second musical revue, 'Showtime', we were now beginning to experiment with new material from shows not often seen and the audiences loved the change. Our numbers at this point had risen to 40 and the interest was undoubtidly growing.
Our big production for '97 was the musical 'Dodger (The Artful One)' . The story of "Dodger" was a great follow from the well known musical 'Oliver', it was written by a very talented gentleman from nearby Newport who kindly gave us permission to stag the show for the first time outside Newport. The show was a great success and brought us acclaim from many local organisations and local press alike. We were also fortunate to gain a grant from the Prince's Trust, which we were very pleased to accept. We were once again asked to take part at the Festival of Remembrance.
We performed our third musical revue, 'Showcase '98', in April 1998; again we tackled new material as well as some of the better-known items. It too was a reat success and this was showing because our numbers had now risen to nearly 60 children between 7 and 18, a challenge indeed.
1999 saw yet another busy year for the group, it began with a second musical written by Terry Underwood, 'Mister Scrooge', which marked the first show where we used a full band, previously the Musical Director, Craig James accompanied on the eletronic organ, and still does in our annual revues. Our second production in the year was our musical revue 'Behind the Scenes',this was different again because it began with a song that was written by the company at workshops.
We performed many concerts during 1999, raising a lot of money for local charities. Our favourite was a performance at St. David's Hall in Cardiff, for Barnardo's, where we were very well recieved. The numbers had now increased so drastically that we made the decision to put the society into two groups. The junior section, aged between 9 and 12, and the Senior Section, aged 13 to 21. In November the Junior Section performed their first solo production with the short play, 'Bill's New Frock', which they performed at the Little Theatre, Tredegar to full audiences.
The millenium started with a masive bang with the senior section performing the fabulous Broadway classic, 'Pippin' in January which was recieved very well. The two groups then came together for the annual musical revue in June with 'Magic of the Musicals', it was produced as a trip through the millenium, beginning with gospel music and coming right through to the nineties.
Just when you think things can't get any better along came the BBC programme, DIYSOS which completely redesigned our derilict premises which had been unused for 25 years. The children sang at the end of the programme which had the entire BBC team in tears, including the presenter, Nick Knowles.
We built a fabulous friendship with the team and they all came along to witness another Welsh Premiere by the senior section of 'Children of Eden' in January 2001. Also in the same year the entire company once again came together to perform 'Showstoppers 2001' in April and finishing up with the junior section's wonderful interpretation of the Lewis Carroll classic, 'Alice - The Musical', performing to full audiences in October.
One of the sadest moments in the societies history came in December 2001 when the producer, who as I mentioned earlier produced the society from the beginning of its conception left the society to concentrate on his family. Kevin is sorely missed by the children and parents alike.
The senior section started 2002 off with a bang, with their hillarious production of 'Little Shop of Horrors', This was Craigs first show as producer, and it proved to be very successful, with a wonderful cast and crew. 2002 also saw the beginning of a new era for the Blaenau Gwent Young Stars as the Youth Committee started up the primary section, run soley by the youth committee, it is aimed towards 5 to 8 year olds, performing workshops and small plays, in order to train them for the junior section when they reach nine, it has been a huge success so far particularly following their first production, called'The Bosey Christmas Fairy', which they performed in the school in December 2002.
The second full-scale production of 2002 once again involved the junior and senior sections, came in the shape of another musical revue called 'Songs From The Shows 2002', it was a tremendous success, despite the fact that on the first night the Theatre, full to the brim, had to be evacuated because children broke in and set the fire alarm off, this delayed the show by 20 minutes, but undeterred we came back and started from scratch giving our best performance to date.
The senior section once again started off 2003 early with the hugely succesful production of 'Godspell', a show that was very close to the producers heart. This was yet another mile stone in the societies colourful history as we went that step further and got a design team from our parents to design and build a set to suit our individual production. The group raised themselves well above the challenge and the show was a resounding success.
The rest of 2003 was equally as busy with a review in April called 'To Broadway & Back' and the junior sections fabulous production of 'Wind In The Willows' in October.
The year 2004 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Blaenau Gwent Young Stars. The year began with the sucessful show 'Sweet Charity', the society's first venture into the classic Broadway show. The summer was very busy with the junior section putting on a special wartime concert and the seniors putting on the hilarious 'Those Summer Nights' for one night only. The final production for 2004 was the revue 'The Best of Times' before performing selections from this production at the NODA National Conference at Hereford in September. The society celebrated its 10th year with a special party at the Beaufort Ballroom on 25th September 2004, nd to top off a special year we had another visit from the BBC DIY SOS team who recorded a show in October.
2005 began with a bang, when the group performed thier 10th Anniversary production of 'Annie Warbucks' and this was followed by a tribute to all the productions that the group had performed to date called 'A Decade Of Musical Magic'. 2005 ended with a new production of 'Blackout' by the junior section which was well recieved by audiences.
2006 saw a massive change in the groups structure, after 10 years in "the pit" Craig handed over the baton to Lynda Maddy so that he could concentrate soley on the production of 'Les Miserables' which was staged to massive critical acclaim in February of this year. The production won 'Best Producetion' in the NODA awards.Other changes include the appointment of Pauline Roden-Sharpe as Musical Director of the Junior Section and David Jones, who became producer of the Junior Section, with Craig remaining Producer/Director of the Senior Section. Sadly 2006 ended in the biggest tragedy the group has faced to date, when Louise Jones, a member of the society since a young girl died in a car crash at the age of just 16. It was agreed that the show would go on, but would be held in her name.
2007 started with 'Jekyll and Hyde' which turned out to be a tremendous success with the audiences in ore of Josh Lewis' performance as the lead man, along with outstanding cast performances and chorus work, Lynda Maddy was once gain convinced to take the baton. Following on from this the Junior section staged its first production with the new team, performing the revue 'A Spoonful Of Musicals'. The third production of the year was an origina show, with familiar music, it was a sketch show 'Don't Cry For Me Merthyr Tydfil', it had audiences rolling in the aisles. The junior section then put on thier production of 'Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe' to capacity audiences. Following the loss of Adam Smith (Choreographer) and Lynda Maddy (MD) it was now the senior sections turn to recruit, and they did so taking on the talents of John Harris as Musical Director and Leah Robbins as Choreographer.
2008 has been another successful year in the societies history. It all began with a memorial concert for Louise Jones called 'Season's Of Love' which raised £1,500 fro Ty Hafan Children's Hospital. The Junior section then did a musical revue called 'Stars in the Spotlight' and in June the Senior Section had the audiences on thier feet in the musical of 'The Full Monty'.