I was 9 years old. It was me, my Grandad and my little sister. We went to see a Christmas production of 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves' at The Free Trade Hall, Manchester. This was my first experience of live theatre and from the moment I set foot in the venue, I was transported to a magical world that would change my life forever! It was at this production I knew this world was for me. My calling was in the world of live theatre because I realised this was a place where you were allowed to dream out loud.
I had a taste and I wanted more. I soon filled my evenings and weekends learning the basics of every discipline in the arts at my local theatre school. My parents both had their own businesses so life was always on the go. From them I realised that it was up to me to grab hold of my destiny. I did every class under the sun which included tap, jazz, ballet, singing & acting. When I wasn't at school or helping mum out in her salon, I'd be practising in my very own theatre which my dad created for me in the cellar of our house. I used the ladies from the busy salon upstairs (sometimes with rollers in their hair) to be my audience and my poor (but always supportive) little sister as stage management. Reviews were always glowing funnily enough and soon after, I moved into a real theatre. As a child I appeared in many shows such as the Bill Kenwright production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat', an array of pantomimes, 'The Ken Dodd laughter show' and an appearance with Rudolf Nureyev at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.
Aged 14, one of the professionals I was working alongside in a show gave me the advice to get myself to London to train. It took 2 years of convincing my parents, getting my GCSE's and spending a summer as a blue coat at Pontins holiday park before I was en route to my first ever visit to London with my mum and an audition bag. Success! I gained a place at the Italia Conti Academy and at the age of 16 moved to the big smoke all by myself. The most exciting thing for me? My very own cheque book and access to every West End theatre (although I needed to earn some money to do more than window shopping). So I was finally in London but I knew the hard work was just about to begin.
Step 1. Get some money. I got a Saturday job straight away at the academy teaching tap and quite simply worked my butt off as I needed to see EVERYTHING on stage! The vibe of London was unreal and exactly what I had dreamed of. I was fortunate to see some of the greats from Frank Sinatra at the Docklands Arena to all 8 nights of the residency Dame Shirley Bassey gave at the Royal Albert Hall! Whilst all of these amazing shows were great to see, it taught me a lot about producing and the management of talent, as I always had one eye on the stage and the other on everything going on around it. This curiosity is still with me today as there is always something new to learn.
Step 2. Get on the stage. Within a few weeks of joining the academy, I appeared in the 'Children's Royal Variety Performance' at the Dominion Theatre which aired on BBC1. And it didn't stop there. I went onto performing at the Hackney Empire and then the Palladium whilst still training.
After a year at Italia Conti, I went on to further my studies under the personal direction of Doreen Bird at the Doreen Bird College. I worked towards many advanced examinations in dance culminating in various teaching qualifications. In my third year, things took a big step forward. I auditioned at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End for a production of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley starring Ronnie Corbett. Little did I know the choreographer had two Equity cards to give away during the production to two people whom the team felt were worthy of a golden ticket to a future in theatre. I was one of them! The Equity card opened lots of doors for me and led me to many auditions and opportunities.
During my final few weeks at college, I successfully auditioned for 'Me and My Girl'; a show I wanted to be in after seeing it as part of 'step 1'. Two happy years were spent tapping and singing round the UK in this touring show and led me onto a long line of many more musicals, pantomimes, sound track recordings and TV appearances.
Having seen the UK, I was left wondering what next......the world! My highlights; being taken to New Zealand in a musical review, performing for the Qatari Royal Family and spending many years working with Disney to spread their magic across the globe. I realise I've been fortunate to travel the world doing a job I love and especially as I have gained the most incredible friends and experiences along the way.
I'd proved to myself that I could make a success on stage and I wanted to pass that knowledge to youngsters who were as eager to learn as I was. The Sylvia Young Theatre School is where I had this opportunity and I spent the best part of 18 years (whilst continuing to build my career) working with some of the most talented youngsters I've ever met, and having a great time in the process.
Alongside teaching, I wanted to push myself further. The bank of shows I had under my belt gave me exposure to some of the most inspirational creative teams around the world and enabled me to learn the ins and outs of the 'business'. This got me thinking about the next steps in my career and moving off the stage and onto the other side of the curtain. I started as a Choreographer undertaking a number of different jobs which included eleven years as part of the creative team, building the home grown pantomime at Cambridge Arts Theatre. I actually featured in one of the shows as an ugly sister but that's a story for another time! Although I had a great time choreographing, the moment came when I decided to hang up my dance shoes and take a seat in the directors chair. I spent a few years wearing my directors hat and putting on a number of shows at some wonderful venues across the UK.
My producing debut arrived in 2015 at the Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham with a production of Treasure Island. How wonderful to have started at the oldest repertory theatre in the country, originally established as a breeding ground for nurturing young talent in the theatre, before the days of theatre schools. Enjoying the success here, I produced the following years Christmas show in 2016 at the Old Rep with an interpretation of 'The Wind in the Willows'.
Scott Ritchie Productions doesn't stop here though. We hosted The Three Degrees live in concert in 2016 and The Northern Soul Tour in 2017. We also produced 'Aladdin' in 2017 at The Broadway, Peterborough which was the first Christmas production at this historic venue in 10 years.
In 2018 we produced a brand new touring production of 'The Wind in the Willows' to critical acclaim. 2019 saw a new touring production of 'Alice in Wonderland' which played in 30 beautiful theatres across the country, adding more venues to our ever growing portfolio! The end of 2019 saw us producing the first resident Christmas show in the world's first Garden City.
A potential Christmas season for the end of 2020 is currently being planned. This will incorporate lots of new ways of working and identify areas of our business model which will essentially need restructuring to cope with the current climate. Having spent my entire life working in show business, I feel it is important now more than ever to remain focused, strong, resilient and creative. This will enable SRP to continue to grow from strength to strength for many years to come.
2021 is currently shaping up to be a busy year. We are taking a new production of 'Rapunzel' out on the road, which will tour throughout April, May and June. This production will see us returning to many beautiful theatres around the country where relationships with our loyal audiences and venue management continue to build year on year.
My motivation for all of this? I want to recreate the magic I experienced when I was 9 for everyone that comes to one of my shows. And honestly?...it makes me happy.