by John Harbron, Founding Member
The old Methodist Church, built in 1835, was in terminal decline, suffering from the ravages of floods, age and unsuitable for use in the late 20th Century. In 1980 the members decided to replace it on the same site with a modern church, which of course required massive fund raising. They finally moved out of the church building in July 1982, worshipping in the mornings at All Saints and in the evenings at the Welsh Congregational Chapel in Milford Road.
After a service on a pleasant autumn evening, a few of the members along with their minister, Rev Derek Bedford, started singing some Gilbert & Sullivan songs on the steps outside the chapel. Fundraising!! Why not put on Trial By Jury?
Coincidentally, St David's Church needed to carry out some essential improvements, so the Rector, Rev Bryan Jones, was also interested in this fundraising venture. Their organist, Trevor Hughes, was willing to be Musical Director so the idea was launched. Steve Beech, the Administrator at the newly-opened Theatr Hafren was keen for it to be staged at the theatre. The last Thursday and Friday of May 1983 were set for the performances. Local churches, press, friends, relatives were all contacted. Early in 1983 all those interested met at All Saints on a Sunday evening and the show took off.
Gwynfryn Evans, a woodwork teacher at Brynllywarch School, Kerry, used the construction of the scenery as a project for his classes. The members of the orchestra gave their services to the project. The theatre hire fees were kept to a minimum and so many people helped to make it a success.
Thus something was born that would become a permanent part of Newtown.
The first half of the show was Gilbert & Sullivan Love Songs, devised and directed by Urenah Hayes with Bill Hopkins as compère. The second half was Trial By Jury in modern dress, the occupation of each person being recognised by the costume - Edwin the Defendant being a CND supporter. A great time was had by both performers and audience that the magic of the musicals performed live was an experience to carry on.
The fundraising? We raised £600 which was a large amount then. But the enjoyment the project has given over the years is priceless.
Thus began in 1983 what was originally known as 'Newtown & District Churches Amateur Operatic Society' - the name being simplified to 'Newtown Operatic Society' in 1989.
The Society continued to perform Gilbert & Sullivan for many years, interspersed with other operettas, starting in 1986 with The Gipsy Baron.
In the 1990s the Society took a revolutionary step and branched into Broadway musicals, starting with Oklahoma! in 1993 (which was very successfully staged again in March 2005). This was such a success that the Company stayed with Broadway right through to 1999, when another operetta (a second showing of The Gipsy Baron) was performed.
At this point it was decided - after length debate, naturally - that the name was a little unrepresentative and the new title of 'Newtown Musical Theatre Company' was born for the new millennium. This was not to exclude the possibility of staging operettas - indeed three Gilbert & Sullivan operettas have been performed since then.
In the same year it was decided that the Company would go biannual, by adding a smaller scale autumn show to the now traditional main spring show. Many concerts had been performed in the summer months throughout the years, but it was felt that the single show each year was not giving enough opportunity for all those who wanted to take principle roles in shows.
The first autumn show was Sing For Your Supper, held in October 2000 at Newtown High School. Since then Patience, Salad Days, The Mikado, Magic of the Musicals and The Boy Friend have been held in October in Theatr Hafren.
The total number of stage performers over the years exceeds 250.