Northampton theatre company bringing sunshine to the Derngate with South Pacific debut

Three generations of NMTC Emile De Becques: (from left) Cliff Billing, Matthew Berrill and Bryan Hall
Three generations of NMTC Emile De Becques: (from left) Cliff Billing, Matthew Berrill and Bryan Hall

The Northampton Musical Theatre Company (NMTC) made their debut at the Derngate theatre for the first time in five years last night as they performed the opening night of the classic romantic musical South Pacific.

Founded 115 years ago, the company has performed some of the best known shows on Broadway, and a few more besides, in venues around the town. However, last night marked the first time the group have performed the much-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein show since 1979.

NMTC treasurer, Matthew Berrill, who is also taking up the lead male role, Emile De Becque, said: “We began performing at the Royal & Derngate when it opened in 1983 and having the opportunity to come back has been great.

“Northampton has a fantastic facility here, run for the town and the local people.

“While we have had funding issues in the last years that have made us unable to perform here, through working with the theatre we have been able to return and we hope to go from strength to strength.”

Dan Hodson, playing the central comic character, Luther Billis, added: “South Pacific is an ideal musical for our return to the Derngate because it’s a classic, great show, we have a great cast and a professional producer from Northampton. We really take what we do seriously.”

Leading lady Rachel James who plays Ensign Nellie Forbush, joined the company almost as soon as she moved to the town 10 years ago.

She said: “Being at the town’s main theatre is great for us to grow as a company. We are really excited to start showing some of the new release shows so that the people of Northampton will see our name next to the titles they really want to see.”

The company plan to perform Sister Act on the Derngate stage next year. NMTC director, Martyn Knight, said: “There really is nothing like performing on a real stage in a big venue and, for most amateur actors, this is the closest they can possibly get to being on a professional stage.

“The Derngate staff have been brilliant and have helped us a lot. We really hope to be able to continue performing here every year.”

Last night’s show was attended by Mayor of Northampton John Caswell, as well as the NMTC president Cliff Billing, who has been a member of the company for 65 years and played the role of Emile De Becque in the company’s South Pacific production in 1964.

South Pacific will run at the Derngate until Saturday, November 1.

- To book tickets, call the box office on: Northampton 624811.

See this week’s Chron for a full feature about NMTC’s history.