Musicals from Movies

This is a topic that can be a little bit of a love-hate situation!

While we, along with many others in the musical theatre community, would love there to be a slew of brand new stories out there, with completely original scores, the reality is that a lot of producers are unwilling to get behind this brand new work. Slowly this landscape is changing, with ever increasing amounts of new work being premiered in Leicester and Manchester, for example, but at the same time we continue to see adaptations of movies for the musical stage.

In the past year we have had 9 To 5, Waitress, and Heathers in the West End; Big has just opened (to mixed reviews) and Nativity is due to tour again just before Christmas. Add to this the upcoming West End premiers of Pretty Woman and Frozen, it can seem that our theatres are filled with movie to stage adaptations.

Yet there is new work out there. OK, some of it is derivative of other sources (And Juliet is a ‘what if’ retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with a jukebox score of 90s pop hits) but you also can’t deny the popularity of the queens of Six, about to embark on a national tour alongside their West End counterparts.

For every Six success, though, there are the shows that just don’t quite find their audience. British composers Stiles and Drewe write fantastic musicals but the reality is that audiences are not often drawn to them, especially when performed by amateur companies. At GDS we are big fans of Honk!, in particular, but it can be a hard sell to local audiences who, on the other hand, will happily shell out the cash to see another production of Hairspray or Legally Blonde.

When choosing a production we have to balance what will sell and allow us to cover our costs. It would be amazing if more amateur companies could help nurture the work of emerging composers but unfortunately our bank balances cannot sustain it. So the movie adaptations increasingly become our bread and butter, which is nothing to be ashamed of. We are proud of our recent productions of Hairspray, Sister Act, 9 To 5, and now The Wedding Singer. Maybe one day we will have an economic climate where our audiences can afford to take a chance on something they don’t know rather than just something they already know they love!


Writing 9 To 5 the Musical – what a way to make a living!

Laura secured an exclusive online interview with 9 To 5 scriptwriter Patricia Resnick! Read on to see what she had to say …

Anyone who has ever seen the movie “9 to 5”, starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, will know that the script is absolutely hilarious.  It is also witty, poignant and full of realism, drawing heavily from the experiences of countless women in the workplace.

Patricia Resnick wrote the script for the original movie and the book for the musical, meaning that the style and humour from the movie have been retained and the characters are true to their original incarnations.

Patricia has written numerous movie and TV scripts throughout her career, including the Dolly Parton and James Woods comedy “Straight Talk” and “Quintet”, starring Paul Newman.  More recently she was nominated for a 2015 Writers Guild of America Award for Television (Dramatic Series) for her work on the hit TV show “Mad Men”.

As well as film and TV writing, Patricia has also written extensively for theatre. Her long-running relationship with Lily Tomlin began with writing sketches for Lily’s first one-woman Broadway show, “Appearing Nitely”; she has subsequently created a stage musical adaptation of her own PBS movie, “Ladies in Waiting”.

Her work on “9 to 5 The Musical” earned Patricia two Drama Desk Award nominations in 2009; one for Outstanding Musical and the other for Outstanding Book of a Musical.

Writing for the stage is very different to writing for the screen and we were really interested to find out how the creative process worked in bringing “9 to 5 The Musical” to life.  We got in touch with Patricia to find out some more about her experience of getting Violet, Judy and Doralee to the stage and are delighted to share her answers with you!

Have you always been interested in musical theatre, or was it the “9 to 5” project that drew you into that world?

I grew up in Florida but the majority of my family are New Yorkers so we spent lots of time in the city. My parents introduced me to theatre when I was young and I fell in love with musicals. I was lucky enough to see the original productions of everything from “Cabaret”, to “Follies”, “Company” and more!

The original movie is a classic and the title track is famous the world over. What inspired you and Dolly Parton to turn the movie into a musical?

I had a meeting with Robert Greenblatt who was a TV producer at the time (he now runs NBC) and he mentioned that he always thought “9 to 5” would be a great musical. The first thing we did was fly to Nashville to try and get Dolly involved and luckily she said yes.

You were reunited with Dolly on the movie “Straight Talk”, which is brilliant.  How does the writing process for the stage show differ from your usual approach to writing a movie od TV script?

Thanks for the compliment on “Straight Talk.” There are definitely some things that I had to learn in terms of writing for the stage. One was, since you can’t cut, if you want someone to do something like appear onstage in a different costume you need to physically give them the time to change offstage. It seems like a small thing but it led to Roz’s song “5 to 9” because we needed to get our leads offstage and changed and had to come up with something to be going on up there. The other thing was the use of sets. Bringing on something like Mr. Hart’s office is a big deal so onstage I couldn’t just put a tiny scene in his office, then go to another set and then come back to his office.

Do you have a favourite musical?

That’s so hard. Probably “West Side Story” and more recently “Hamilton.”

Are there any musical theatre performers who you really admire?

Angela Lansbury, Christine Ebersole, Alan Cumming, to name just a few. I admire theatre actors so much. It’s an incredibly difficult job.

The message in “9 to 5” is one of inspiring and empowering women, not only in the workplace, but also in life. These themes are just as relevant now as they were in 1979 when the show is set, particularly the corporate glass ceiling.  Does it frustrate you that, 38 years after the original movie was released, women are still struggling for equality in the workplace?

Yes, it drives me crazy. Sexual harassment is still happening, the men are just quieter about it, equal pay for equal work has still not been reached and here in America I worry that our reproductive rights may be tampered with.

Which is your favourite track from the “9 to 5” musical score and why?

I love the whole score but I guess my favorite is still “9 to 5”. I hear that opening beat and my pulse starts to race.

The script for “9 to 5 the Musical” is very similar to the movie, but there have been some changes.  Which is your favourite scene from the movie that didn’t make it onto the stage?

Hmmmm. I don’t think I have an answer to this. At this point the movie and musical are so mixed up in my mind.

The three of us playing Violet, Judy and Doralee have really enjoyed setting the Maui Wowie scene and the three dream sequences during the last couple of weeks. Do you have a favourite scene in the stage show?

This is sort of like being asked to name your favorite child. You love them all for different reasons.

“9 to 5” is packed full of strong female characters, especially Violet, Judy, Doralee and Roz.  Do you have a favourite character out of these and what makes her most special to you?

Remember that favorite child thing? See above. Honestly, Violet has always had a special place in my heart. She’s just so good at what she does and so unappreciated. But shhhhhhh, don’t tell the other characters. I do really love them all, even Roz!

Thank you do much Patricia for sharing your experiences with us, we really appreciate it!

Find out more:  Straight Talk  Quintet  Mad Men








Working 9 To 5, What a Way to Make a Living …

Yes, you read that correctly – GDS are proud to announce their production team for our next musical, the Dolly Parton classic, 9 To 5.  We will be performing at the Central Theatre, Chatham (home of our last musical production, Sister Act) in October 2017.  Tonight we would like to introduce you to our production team.

You can watch our video promo on our YouTube channel, or read more about the team below.

Director: Rachel Ann Crane Herbert


Rachel has appeared in theatre, both professionally and in community productions, since the age of 8. Rachel Graduated with a BA (hons) in Drama from Aberystwyth University in 2006. This is Rachel’s sixth show with GDS, having previously played Motormouth Maybelle in our 2014 production of Hairspray, Fairy Good Fortune in Snow White, Ida in Honk! and The Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella. Most recently she played the wonderfully funny Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act.

Some of her favourite roles include Sophie (All’s Fair) National Tour, Crystal (Little Shop of Horrors) Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Brooklyn (Goodnight Mrs Calabash) Upstairs At the Gatehouse London, The Enchantress (Robin Hood), Fairy Godmother (Cinderella), 1st Cover Mary Sunshine (Chicago) Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Hortense (The Boyfriend) The Coliseum, and Mrs Beaver (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe) Theatre Y Werin.

Rachel was a professional singer for 8 years singing in concerts as a solo performer and as part of Harmony group ‘Sgarmes’. Rachel now teaches English at The Hundred of Hoo Academy and has settled down with her fabulous husband and step son in Gillingham.

Choreographer: Amy Allen


Amy was sent to ballet from the age of two to give her parents some peace on a Saturday morning and hasn’t stopped dancing yet! She attended the Central School of Ballet in London, and then went on to complete her training at Laine Theatre Arts where she graduated with a diploma in Musical Theatre. 

Amy then went on to perform professionally onboard various cruise ships and ferries, as a member of the show team, lead vocalist and even as entertainment manager. From there, she followed her dream of opening her own dance school, AACTS, which she currently runs in Walderslade. Amy decided to join GDS to keep up her performing skills, where she will soon be taking the lead role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, having also portrayed Tina in Sister Act, the Prince in Cinderella and appearing in the ensemble of Honk! Amy is thrilled to be taking up her first choreographer position with the company.

Musical Director: Owen McColgan


 Owen has worked with a number of companies as musical director, and has been a regular member of the band, and rehearsal pianist, for GDS productions.

His current projects are Avenue Q for Airbrush Productions at the Hazlitt Theatre in May, and Cats for Stage Theatre Society at the Hazlitt Theatre in July 2017.

Previous shows for Airbrush Productions have included Fiddler on the Roof , The Full Monty, Jesus Christ Superstar, Whistle Down the Wind, and Buddy the Musical.

For Stage Theatre Society Owen has worked on Loserville, Singing in the Rain and West Side Story.

Gotta Dance!

Today’s guest blog is brought to you by Emma Hodge, who has been a member of GDS for over ten years, and is one of our repeat choreographers.  Some of Emma’s most notable choreography could be seen in Oklahoma, Honk!, and Sister Act.  She is currently collaborating as co-choreographer for our 2017 pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.

Hi everyone, I’m Emma Hodge. I have been dancing for 30 years and choreographing for most of that time, too. A particular fave was Here Comes the Rain Again by Eurythmics circa 1992, but I digress!

I have been choreographing for musical theatre for about 15 years, and choreographing for GDS in particular for 9 years! For 9 years (with a couple of breaks) this company have let me put them through their paces, show after show.

There is no secret to choreography to be completely honest, not one that I have found out anyway. Anyone who is trained in dancing or movement can choreograph, I think! They might not want to, but that is a different kettle of fish ….


Everyone has different styles of choreography which is actually what helps to tell us apart. My particular style, or way of choreographing, is that I like to listen to the lyrics in songs before I start, getting to know them fully; that way, I can make sure a particular move is on a particular word, or make sure the person or dancer on stage is in place for when a piece of music arrives at a specific point.


We choreographers may also have a signature move that we like to place in dances; mine is a classic: the box step. I try and stick these in whenever I can as they look complicated from the audience’s point of view without actually being too complicated for a dancer to perform (although some less natural dancers still struggle – you know who you are!).

There is something so brilliant about seeing what’s in your brain come to life on that stage. Those moves that you thought up and put together all those months ago, being performed right there before your eyes. The people with whom you have worked tirelessly and who have, in turn, worked so hard to use their bodies to interpret that vision from your brain; there is just nothing quite like watching and experiencing that!

That, for me, is what makes all the stress, anxiety, sometimes anger and frustration (and sometimes even tears) all worth it.

Charity Begins with GDS

Giving back: How GDS uses its talent and generosity to benefit others

Laura explains how GDS supports a wide variety of local charities in order to give back to the community that are so supportive of us.

We are extremely lucky that the GDS company and its audiences are made up of a large number of very big-hearted people. Most of this generosity manifests itself as giving up time: time to attend rehearsals, time to direct and choreograph shows, time to source costumes, time to chaperone our under 16s, time to publicise the show, and time to be on the committee.

But being part of the GDS family is about more than giving up time, especially to be part of something we love and want to make successful. Our members and audiences have done a lot of other generous things in the last couple of years. Here are just a few examples:

* Kaitlin, Chloe and Mel have raised over £1,400 and donated a combined 42 inches of their own hair to the Little Princess Trust, a charity that makes wigs for children undergoing cancer treatment;

Katie before.
Katie before.
Katie after.
Chloe and Mel before.
Chloe before.
Chloe and Mel after.

* Dani recently completed her first Royal Parks half marathon, raising £360 for the Scout Association and has now had her place confirmed in next year’s London Marathon, hoping to raise £500 for Breast Cancer Now;


* A small group of members took part in the Eddy Austin Memorial Fun Day in Sittingbourne last June, performing some musical numbers to help raise over £3,500 for Cancer Research UK and the Sittingbourne, Milton and District Scouts;


* We do an annual Christmas charity collection at rehearsals during December and donated £85 to Diabetes UK in 2015 and £75 to Help Ruby Laura Smash Cancer in 2014. Julie from our wardrobe team is actively raising money for new children’s cancer charity My Shining Star, our chosen Christmas charity for 2016;

That’s a staggering £5,500 in the last few years! This year, we have decided to take this generosity even further.

Help GDS to raise money in support of Ronald McDonald House Charities

GDS Productions are delighted to announce their continued support for Ronald McDonald House Charities. The charity runs 14 houses across the UK, situated in or near hospital grounds. Staying at one of the houses enables seriously ill children to have their families close by when they are undergoing treatment and to maintain a degree of normal family life. Ronald McDonald House Charities provide a place to stay for more than 7,000 families with children in hospital every year.

During our 2016 pantomime “Cinderella” we helped the staff at the local McDonald’s restaurants to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities, by having collection buckets at each of our performances. We were very lucky to have support from the McDonald’s Restaurants in Medway this year to help us to publicise our productions in return. To say thank you to the staff of McDonald’s Team Medway, we have decided to dedicate our Friday evening performance of “Beauty and The Beast” to raising money for this very worthy cause.

The cast of “Beauty and the Beast” will take part in an evening gala performance at 7pm on Friday 17th February 2017 at The Brook Theatre, Chatham. We will be fundraising during rehearsals and donating a share of our takings from the show. We have already set up a JustGiving page, with an initial fundraising target of £500, which we are hoping to smash!

If you would like to help us to reach our fundraising target, you can donate either online at or by text using the information provided below. Please help us to sell out our gala performance and book your tickets for “Beauty and the Beast” too! To find out more about Ronald McDonald House Charities visit


Thank you so much for your support from all of us at GDS Productions!

Donate online by clicking here.

Book tickets for Beauty and the Beast online by clicking here.

9 Reasons We Love Pantomime!

Since you last saw us on stage for Sister Act, we have been busy auditioning, and beginning rehearsals, for our February 2017 pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.  Soon we will be bringing you some backstage insights but, in the meantime, let us share with you our top 9 reasons for loving pantomime!


The Music!

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that we here at GDS enjoy a good old song and dance routine.  The best thing about panto is that we get to combine classics from the world of Disney and musical theatre, alongside upbeat pop and rock songs, and even the odd novelty song.  Even better: the audience always get at least one opportunity to sing along :).


The Classic Fairytale Storyline

Most traditional pantomimes are based on a classic fairytale, such as last year’s Cinderella and this year’s Beauty and the Beast.  There are now a wide range of pantos based on other stories, but at heart they all follow the typical fairytale structure, featuring a love story, a conflict, some kind of misunderstanding, and a final resolution.


The Good Fairy

Speaking of the conflict, there is always a fairy on hand to guide the hero or heroine on their way, stepping in with a little magic where necessary.  Sure, they might not always be the brightest of the bunch (Fairy Bow Bells, we’re looking at you!) but they always have the best interests of the goodies at heart.


Wickedness Always Gets Vanquished in the End

And of course, it would be no fun if the fairy and the goodies didn’t have a fantastic villain to go up against.  From the Wicked Witch, to the Evil Queen, the Bad Fairy to Kind Rat, they will do all in their power to thwart the path of good.  But we love the chance to boo and hiss as they do their best to taunt us.


Getting to Play the Opposite Sex

Traditional pantomime evolved from a combination of theatrical styles, and this meant that women were cast as Principal Boy as well as Principal Girl.  A typical ‘breeches role,’ a principal boy would not be living up to his name if there were not a little thigh slapping taking place.  Then we have the panto dame.  Flamboyant frocks, terrible puns … need we say more?


It’s Behind You!

The audience participation is yet another classic feature of pantomime, and where better to exercise that right than in the ‘ghost gag’ scene?


The Pantomime Horse (or other creature…)

While not present in every pantomime, it goes without saying that a panto animal is the perfect opportunity to introduce some nifty four-legged footwork into the proceedings.


The Juvenile Chorus

Our main musical productions don’t often feature children, particularly those who are under 10, so we love having the youngest GDS members to join us for pantomime, adding the perfect ‘aaahhhh factor’!


The Costumes

And last, but not least, we love the costumes.  The bright colours, the fabulous theming, plus all the sparkle, add up to make a spectacle not to be forgotten.


We hope you have enjoyed hearing about some of the reasons we love pantomime.  Why not share some of your own thoughts in the comments?  If you have enjoyed this article, please share it within your social media networks to spread the love :).


Sister Act in Pictures – Act 2!

Following on from our post, Sister Act in Pictures – Act 1, here are a few of my favourite images from Act 2 of the show.  Photo credits: Rich Lehmann, The Other Day Photography.


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Sister Act in Pictures – Act 1

Well, Sister Act has been and gone, with a successful run at the Central Theatre, Chatham.  Here are a few of my favourite images from the show.  Photo credits: Rich Lehmann, The Other Day Photography.


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We will be back soon with our favourite pictures from Act 2!

Did you hear the one about the Funky Nuns …

We have been very quiet here for the last couple of weeks but that is because our rehearsals have reached their climax: tomorrow is Get In Day at the theatre, which marks the beginning of Sister Act!

Last weekend we had our Sister Act sitzprobe (band call) where we got to hear, and sing with, our incredible band. MD Peter Bailey has done a fantastic job bringing this talented group of musicians together to play this brilliantly demanding score. They were absolutely on point with the funk, disco, soul and gospel inspired music.

You can hear a sneak preview of the sound on our Sister Act Promo Video on our YouTube page.

We also used our Instagram page to share photos from the day, alongside mini videos, in our ‘story’ feed, which was a lot of fun:

My aim is to post another blog after our dress rehearsal but the next few days are going to be very hectic. If I forget, forgive me father for I have sinned! There will certainly be updates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, though, so come and follow us on those media as well. 

In the meantime, get your tickets booked for The Best Production in GDS History (TM 😉).