Southwick Opera & SO Musical Theatre return to the stage

Southwick Opera & SO Musical Theatre return to the stage for the first time since February 2020 with a concert in memory of two treasured members who have passed away, Pete Harrison and Wendy Galleymore.

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 7:05 am
Pete Harrison performing Brush up Your Shakespeare in the company's 1989 production of Kiss Me Kate - on the right in the light suit alongside his friend Pete Murrell

The concert performance at the Barn Theatre, Southwick will be entitled Brush Up Your Shakespeare, a song which was associated with Pete for the past 50 years. Performances are on Friday, November 12 and Saturday, November 13 with tickets available from (Friday 7.30pm and Saturday 2.30pm and 7.30pm).

Company president Yvonne Fair said Pete Harrison, who lived in Shoreham, and Wendy Galleymore, who lived in Worthing, both made an enormous contribution to Southwick Opera over many years.

“Pete was a real character. He was 92 when he died, and he was part of the company virtually right up to the end. He was the most likeable, cheeky, funny wind-up merchant and we all loved him for that. He was just such a wonderful person.

“Wendy was not with the company half as long as Pete. Wendy joined the wardrobe in 2008. She was a tap-dancing teacher and did adult education. That was her love, dancing. She did wardrobe and choreography and she put on shows. She was 78.”

The show will remember them both: “We had already decided that we wanted to do the show for Pete and we came up with Brush Up Your Shakespeare for him and when Wendy passed away we decided that we wanted to do it for both of them. They were both so important to the company and a great loss to the company.”

Yvonne herself will take to the stage. She will be in all the chorus numbers and will also be doing three solo numbers.

“I will be doing Ave Maria from Otello and I will also be doing You’ll Never Walk Alone. Pete asked me to sing it at his funeral and I would always say that I would never be able to do it. When it happened, it was a small funeral and I didn’t get asked.”

She reckons she will cope.

“He passed away in June so I’ve had a bit of time to come to terms with it now. And I will also be doing The Last Rose Of Summer from the opera Martha which Pete and Wendy both loved when I sang it before.”

For the company the concert will be their first show for a year and three quarters: “Not being able to do it was awful, absolutely awful. It is such a huge part of your life when you are regularly doing it, having singing meetings and putting on shows, and we were about a month out from doing Sister Act (when the lockdown came). We kept moving it forward and moving it forward and eventually we just had to come to the decision that we had to cancel it a few months ago. We had moved it forward so many times and we were losing cast and then we were worried about being able to cast it. It is quite a big show to put on and it is a very difficult one. People think musicals are easy. They are not easy.

“The last big production was just before the first lockdown. We did a concert in the February. We know we had no option but to stop. Theatres were not allowed to open and we were not allowed to rehearse. Singing is not like acting where you could have just a few people together. We have lots of people in a production.

“We have had some people that feel that they don’t want to come back yet but we hope that they will come back at some point in the future when we come out of this weird time that we are in. We have lost quite a few people that were supposed to be in Sister Act and have not come back. We do straight opera, we do concerts and we do musicals, and we do tend to get different people for different productions. People move between companies. We have our main production in May and November, and this concert is a way of trying to get back again.”