Our history – a Weston-super-Mare institution with a 110-year heritage.
Est 1908. Multi-award-winning amateur musical theatre company & home of ‘The Oppitts’ Youth Theatre. Weston-super-Mare.
Founded in 1908 with its first production, “The Pirates of Penzance” performed in 1909, the Society has gone from strength-to-strength. It performed a show every year since, with the exception from 1914 – 1920 and 1940 – 1947 on account of the Wars. Despite the outbreak of war, the society was still able to provide some entertainment for the people of Weston with a production of “Iolanthe” at the beginning of 1940.
Since its return in 1947 the society flourished. The membership grew and some very well-known and influential members of the community were members. In 1961 the society performed two shows “South Pacific” and “The Mikado” and has been staging two full productions a year ever since, along with smaller groups performing concerts and cabarets on request.
During the 1980s and 1990s, a weekly cabaret show was performed at The Playhouse by request of the Town Council to provide entertainment for holidaymakers. For the last few years, the Society has also staged intimate yet successful productions at its rehearsal space-cum-theatre, St Jude’s, during the summer months.
Following the formation of our youth group, The Oppitts, we realised there was a gap for the in-between age groups of 14 – 18 where the children needed a more adult type of show to showcase their talents. Nesta Shearman, an accomplished actress, singer, musician and long-standing member of the Society; Joline Alexander, who was the Society’s Choreographer and the head of the Alexander School of Dancing, and Bee Beasley, a long term friend and associate of Joline, therefore decided to form The Youth Theatre Workshop. Nesta acted as Musical Director, Joline as Choreographer, and Bee as director. Altogether 14 productions were staged at St Jude’s; including shows such as ‘Smike’, ‘The Boyfriend’, ‘Love from Judy’, ‘Godspell’, ‘Pippin’, ‘The Card’ and ‘The Match Girls’ all with casts of between 15 – 25.
Their successful collaboration continued over many years during which time many youngsters went on to train at London Stage Schools. Others were happy to stay in Weston and become members of the main society, where they remain to this day – some with their own children who are now members. Sadly, Joline’s untimely death whilst on a cruise brought an end to this partnership and the ‘Workshop’, as it was affectionately known, was eventually disbanded.
The Society purchased St. Jude’s Hall in 1978, with many members, both past and present, raising funds for its purchase. Considerable refurbishment took place over the following years, to make St Jude’s what it is today.
The Society today
Based at St. Jude’s, we’re a registered charity, and multi-award-winning musical theatre outfit. Our aim? To continue to bring musical theatre to people of all ages throughout Weston-super-Mare and across North Somerset. We perform a wide variety of shows for the public, both well-known and lesser-known that theatregoers may not always get the opportunity to see. Our show venues include Weston’s Playhouse Theatre, The Blakehay Theatre, The McMillan Theatre, Bridgwater, and our own, beloved St Jude’s.
Our youth group ‘The Oppitts’ ranging from 6 – 16 years have performed a number of productions including ‘Cats’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and ‘Bugsy Malone’, and many of the children have also appeared in our main adult productions at the Playhouse Theatre, featuring prominently in shows such as ‘Oliver’, ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘The King and I’, ‘The Music Man’, the multi-award-winning ‘The Secret Garden’ and Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s ‘The Likes of Us’ – not to mention our huge 2017 success ‘Half A Sixpence’.
Alongside our main shows we often have smaller productions performed at St. Jude’s Theatre throughout the year. These include cabaret shows, staged musicals and a Christmas celebration. There is also our annual 200 Club cabaret performed to members and patrons of the Society. Offstage, we hold an annual Dinner & Dance alongside other social and fundraising events. We also have an amazing back-stage team making props and building scenery, as well as working front of house.
Suffice to say there’s always a lot going on and we’re always happy to welcome new members, for both on- and off-stage. Drop us a line if you’d like to be involved.