The Armidale Drama & Musical Society (ADMS) first came together in the early 1920s and was active until the war years. Reformed in 1963, they have been producing musicals continuously since. Mark Bourne tells their story.
What is your involvement with the ADMS?
My partner and I moved to Uralla in 2008, and I submitted scripts to The Armidale Playhouse’s Favourite Shorts in 2009. My monologue Through the Chair, which I also performed, was runner-up for the Audience Choice Award that year, and I have been involved with theatre in Armidale ever since. I directed Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey in 2010 and following the amalgamation of the Armidale Playhouse and the ADMS, I was elected as a Vice President for the combined society and recently re-elected to this position for a second year. I have also performed in Into the Woods as The Steward and in Urinetown as Officer Barrel, pushing the scene-stealing tumbleweed!
What is the history of the ADMS?
ADMS first came together in the early 1920s and was active until the war years. Reformed in 1963, they have been producing musicals ever since. We also support other organisations with fundraising performances and have been involved in collaborative productions with The Armidale Symphony Orchestra, The Armidale Choral Society, The Armidale Music Foundation and others.
On 15 September 2010, ADMS and The Armidale Playhouse were amalgamated to form ADMS in its current incarnation. ADMS has performed a wide variety of shows over the years, from classics such as HMS Pinafore and South Pacific to more unusual choices such as Urinetown – the Musical and Orpheus in The Underworld.
Tell us about your committee members?
The ADMs committee has thirteen members, who give months of their lives to our productions. We have very tolerant families and partners who support our desire to offer a high standard of amateur theatre to the people of Armidale, even if they do think we are quite mad. Our President, Neil Horton and Vice President/Publicity Officer Marney Tilley have been involved with the Society for around 10 years each and some long-standing committee members, such as Mike Gibson, have been actively involved for even longer. In fact, I think that Mike has held almost every committee position available! Our committee also includes Bruce Menzies, our valued Musical Director and his wife Pam Menzies, our Props Wizard Extraordinaire, not to mention a recently elected committee member, Aline Christenson, who has been active at the Armidale Playhouse since the mid 1960s and produced an earlier production of Blithe Spirit in 1974.
However, the committee is only part of what makes ADMS so successful. Over the years, members such as Denis Wright and Ngaire Lewis have generously lent their talents and passion to the society, and we now award annual prizes to Society members in their honour. The list of people who have been involved with the Society throughout its life is enormous, and their contributions have been invaluable.
Most memorable shows?
Talking to our audiences and members, there are certain shows that get discussed with fondness. Les Miserables in 2002 is often mentioned as a Society highlight and the A Night at the Opera concerts are usually a big success.
Recent shows such as Titanic and Urinetown have had huge audiences, despite being less well-known, and we still get strong audiences for our Gilbert and Sullivan productions such as HMS Pinafore. We like to think that this proves that ADMS really does offer something for everyone.
Your next show is ‘Blithe Spirit’. Where and when will it be held, and what can we expect to see?
The play, Blithe Spirit, is on at The Hoskins Centre TAS from the 30 September to the 15 October.
Charles Condomine has invited the medium, Madame Arcati, to dinner as background research for his new mystery novel. Ruth, his second wife, and their friends Dr and Mrs Bradman, expect the séance to provide some harmless amusement. Little do they know that Madame Arcati will accidentally call forth the ghost of Charles’s first wife, Elvira. Ruth is unable to see or hear Elvira and thinks Charles is going mad, while Elvira decides to have a wonderful time causing mayhem and conflict in Charles’s second marriage.
Ruth wants Elvira gone, but Elvira wants Charles for herself, so the battle lines between the real world and the spirit world are drawn.
Written in just four days in 1941, Blithe Spirit was Noel Coward’s way of offering the British Public a light-hearted escape from the events of World War Two that were unfolding around them and has since proved to be his most well-loved play. It is set in the 1930s, so features some frightfully English accents and one of Coward’s most famous comic creations – the eccentric medium, Madame Arcati.
Is ADMS a not-for-profit organisation?
ADMS is a not-for-profit organisation, so we put the profits from our shows back into future productions and running the Society. Staging a production is expensive, and we always try to set high standards for ourselves.
What an audience sees on the stage is fully funded by ADMS, and as a result we are extremely proud of our reputation in Armidale.
How can people become involved?
ADMS is always looking for people who want to get involved. Being a member doesn’t just mean being on stage. We are always looking for people who are keen to do lighting, sound, costumes, props, even Front of House and hospitality. All of these roles go into making a successful show.