Anne Hailes: World's a stage for Peter Corry and Belfast School of Performing Arts
IRISH NEWS – MONDAY PAGE 8th April 2019 – ANNE HAILES
PIC : CAST OF MARCH SHOW ‘INTO THE WOODS JR' AT STRANMILLIS COLLEGE THEATRE and
WE MEET in the Titanic Drawing Office. He swings in looking chic in a burnt-orange jacket, turning heads. Image is important to Peter Corry – not because he's a show-off, rather because presentation is the essence of his life.
This is one thoroughly nice man who has taken all the stagecraft he has learned through the years to teach young people in his Belfast School of Performing Arts. The school holds classes at a number of venues, Methodist College, Ashfield Girls and Knockbreda Primary in Belfast, Ballymena Academy, Pond Park Primary Lisburn and Glenlola Collegiate Bangor and at present boys and girls living in these areas are working on future shows including Guys And Dolls, The Wizard of Oz and Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat.
BSPA, with Peter Corry as artistic director, has been on the go since 2011 and currently 600 pupils from three years to 19 are enjoying the magic of theatre – and they have a real treat in store over Easter week. Thanks to his friendship with Julian Reeve, music director for the US tour of Hamilton The Musical, Peter has arranged for four members of the touring company to take workshops from April 22 to 26 at Ashfield Girls school in Belfast, a rare privilege as this busy musical continues breaking box-office records wherever it goes.
“This is a very special opportunity for our young students to meet these professionals who look forward to talking about theatre, discussing the chances of breaking into the profession, even holding mock auditions to give them an idea of what to expect if they do decide to take their ambitions further," says Peter
"We're not in the business of turning out stars,” he adds. “Certainly, if at a certain age they are interested, we'll sit with them and discuss the possibilities, explain that musical theatre is a hard business, with more actors out of work than in, but at the same time, if they show promise it's important they follow their dream and we'll support them.
"It might not be to the West End or Broadway; however, there are plenty of outlets here at home because theatre in Northern Ireland is vibrant and there are opportunities for young people to get involved and if they have been tutored by actors from a Broadway show they will have a unique insight into the business.”
As Peter points out, the discipline of theatre can benefit people in all walks of life, improving self-esteem, organisational skills, confidence, memory and interaction with others. It might not be acting and singing; there are plenty of jobs behind the scenes – set design, wardrobe, stage management, lighting and the rest – and these will all be part of the Hamilton work shop experience and Peter's ongoing tutoring.
And he's in a position to know all about youth theatre. When he was 16 he made his first major public appearance in the Royal Albert Hall singing The Mountains of Mourne with the Salvation Army rock group and he hasn't looked back since.
Interestingly many musical theatre stars have grown from a Salvation Army background – Roy Castle, Bruce Forsyth, Michael Crawford and James Cordon. Peter went on to play euphonium and French horn in the Belfast Youth Orchestra but it was in 1999 that the springboard of the UK production Les Miserables shot him to fame in the West End and his exquisite singing of Bring Him Home from the show as George Best's coffin was carried into the Grand Hall at Stormont brought him into the homes of people all over the world. Please watch on Youtube.
This is a man who reaches for the stars. He's passionate about encouraging young people to perform. In the past he has mounted ambitious youth productions including Oklahoma! and Les Miserables, which played at Belfast's Odyssey Arena.
His company, PC Productions also staged One Enchanted Evening and The Night of 1,000 Voices, again at the Odyssey Arena, starring David Essex, the cast of Riverdance and Sir James Galway.
It's impossible to encapsulate this international performer. He's a man of many talents, whether it's on stage, television, radio or record. As a director, producer, writer, composer and mentor, the world is his stage, be it a stately home or Carlisle Memorial Church where he put on the memorable Jesus Christ Superstar with his youth theatre; throughout the UK and Ireland and from the Netherlands to Las Vegas, he demands perfection.
It's a busy summer ahead for BSPA, with a number of productions culminating at the Theatre At The Mill with the seventh year of Music Box. And for Peter himself the spectacular The Showman Is Coming, in Wallace Park this month and in The Lodge Hotel Coleraine and the Grand Opera House before moving to the National Concert Hall in Dublin next month.
And the big news is Peter's new record Here Stands A Man, which shows off his sensational voice of to its best.
But even more exciting is the visit of the Hamilton production members and the unique opportunity for both the youngest boys and girls who will have their specific three-day course and for the older children who will enjoy a week-long workshop.
Tina McVeigh, director of BSPA, also points out the value of being part of this school: “We build up confidence in young people and recently we were told how much children who find it difficult to socialise enjoy and learn from the experience where they can come and just be themselves.”
Musical theatre appeals to everyone and in our mixed community Belfast School of Performing Arts knows no barriers and that's why it's such a vibrant group of young people who support each other and get a positive look at life through the wonder that is theatre.
:: For more information about BSPA and the Hamilton Masterclass Workshops thebspa.co.uk/event/hamilton-masterclasses