Have you got a bucket list? Is there something you’d really love to do, a passion, maybe an obsession, that no-one else really understands? I have a guilty secret, I’m a huge fan of Abba and the music written before and since Abba by their songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.
I’m best known to most people in Manchester as the Manchester City commentator for BBC Radio Manchester. Seeing me fulfil a dream by appearing on stage in my favourite Musical, Chess, must have been a big surprise for those who saw the wonderful staging of the show at the George Lawton Hall in Mossley recently.
It started with a casual facebook chat with a friend of mine, Martin Ogden, who I know from Bury football club, but who’s also the photographer for many of the Amateur productions around the North West.
Martin and I travelled together to attend the Albert Hall concert version of Chess, featuring Josh Groban, Idina Menzel and Marti Pellow (among others). I even had the good fortune to meet Sir Tim Rice, the lyricist for the show, when we were outside the venue.
Martin was telling me that Dukinfield Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society were going to stage Chess, I casually commente that I’d love to be in something like that, but couldn’t, because of my work schedule (and lack of talent!)
He persuaded the director, Martyn Preston, to show some flexibilty and let me be in the “on stage” choir. I attended all the rehearsals I could get to and performed on stage, with the amazingly talented cast, from tuesday to friday.I missed out on the two final shows on the saturday, as I was commentating on West Ham against Manchester City.
What an amazing experience. I cried, happily just out of sight of the audience, every night, particularly during “Anthem” a song about a man leaving his country, but not through choice, which resonates to my very soul because my father-in-law was a refugee from Ukraine, at the end of the war, who “crossed over boarders, but I’m still there now.” Perfect words for him, which I printed out and buried with him when he passed away a couple of years ago.
All the principal cast were utterly amazing, and Lucy Page, who played Florence, has a voice that could shatter glass. The passion, energy and skill of the dancers, singers and everyone behind the scenes was truly awe-inspiring and I had that ultimate rollercoaster ride of emotions, including an unexpected send-off after my last performance. It was an unforgettable experience. The real star of this show is, and will forever be, the melodies written by Bjorn Ulvaeus and the genius that is Benny Andersson.
Musical theatre in Greater Manchester is alive and well in our fantastic City, my son Steven has embraced it too, I can’t wait to see him as Seymour in “Lttle Shop of Horrors” in March 2014 by the Heywood Am/Dramers.
If you’ve got a dream, go for it, you only live once!
– Ian Cheeseman