Region served United Kingdom
|Type Arts and education charity|
Founder Jeremy James Taylor OBE
The National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) is an arts organisation in the United Kingdom providing pre-professional education and musical theatre stage experience for young people. Based in London, it is constituted as a private limited company (originally named Children's Music Theatre Limited) and as a registered charity. NYMT was founded in 1976 by director and playwright Jeremy James Taylor. Since its inception, it has produced over fifty productions at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, premièred thirty new musical theatre works, toured several times outside the United Kingdom, and had runs in the West End and on Broadway. Amongst the many alumni of the National Youth Music Theatre who have gone on to careers in the performing arts are Jude Law (one of its patrons), Jonny Lee Miller, Sheridan Smith, Connie Fisher, Idris Elba and Matt Lucas. Alumni have also included directors such as Jo Davies, and songwriters such as Tara Mcdonald.
The NYMT's primary activity is the education of young people in theatre production and performance. It produces and commissions musical theatre works in which young people between the ages of 11 and 23 perform as actors, musicians, and stage crew under the guidance of theatre professionals. The company tours both in the UK and abroad performing established musicals such as Sweeney Todd and Oklahoma!, as well as new works specifically written to be performed by young people. Amongst the thirty new works which the NYMT has commissioned and/or performed for the first time are Howard Goodall's The Dreaming and The Kissing Dance, and Alan Ayckbourn's Orvin - Champion Of Champions. The NYMT also runs residential and day workshops in various aspects of theatre production and performance. The company has no core funding and relies upon participants' fees, ticket sales, and fundraising. Young people who participate in the NYMT's productions and workshops do so as amateurs and meet their own expenses and fees, although the company provides bursaries in cases of need.
1976 to 2003
The NYMT had its beginnings in 1976, when its founder Jeremy James Taylor, produced The Ballad of Salomon Pavey in a tent on the lawn of Belmont School in Mill Hill, North London. The musical, performed by twenty boys at the school, was based on the life of the 17th century boy actor, Salomon Pavey, with a book by Taylor and David Drew-Smythe. Taylor then took the production to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where it won a Scotsman Fringe First award. Appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe in other musicals performed entirely by school children followed in succeeding years with Helen Come Home, or Achilles the Heel (1978) and Tin Pan Ali, or The Sesame Street Racket (1979). The company became known as the Children's Musical Theatre and in 1980 was registered as a private limited company and as a charity. In 1985 it changed its name to the National Youth Music Theatre and began holding residential workshops in addition to its summer productions.
In 1986, The Ragged Child by David Nield, Frank Whately and Taylor, along with Let's Make an Opera, was performed on the Edinburgh International Festival. The Ragged Child went on to Sadler's Wells in Spring 1987 and was filmed for BBC TV a year later. It became one of the company's flagship productions. With its 1998 production of The Ragged Child, the NYMT also became the first touring company to perform at the new Glyndebourne opera house. October's Children by the same team of Nield, Whately and Taylor played on the International Festival in 1990 and in the following year at Sadler's Wells and the Swan Theatre, Stratford. Pendragon by Peter Allwood, Frank Whately, Joanna Horton and Jeremy James Taylor won a Scotsman Fringe First Award in 1994, followed by a tour to the Far East and then a week at the New York City Center where it was given the accolade of New York Times Critics' Choice. By 2003, the company had presented 53 productions at the Edinburgh Fringe, premiered 29 new music theatre commissions, held eight foreign tours, and had runs in the West End and on Broadway.
Over the years, the NYMT's main funding had come from private sponsorship, initially from the Nationwide Building Society and then from Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as grants from the Department for Education and Skills and Arts Council England. When Lloyd Webber's sponsorship ended in 1999, the company's financial position became increasingly precarious. By early 2002, it was operating at a deficit and facing the threat of closure. In October 2003, the National Youth Music Theatre closed its performing company and offices in order to avoid insolvency. Most of its staff were laid off. Later that month Jon Bromwich, who had been the General Manager of NYMT, and other former staff set up a new organisation with similar aims, Youth Music Theatre: UK. Meanwhile, NYMT's lengthy negotiations with the Arts Council to obtain a recovery grant proved unsuccessful. However, the NYMT remained active, concentrating largely on its workshop programmes while seeking alternative funding.
Relaunch – 2005 to the present
In October 2005, with its debts cleared, the company announced a relaunch with a Royal Charity Gala, attended by the NYMT's president, the Earl of Wessex. It also collaborated with the Ambassador Theatre Group to perform excerpts from three Disney musicals for children before an audience of teachers, youth leaders and directors. In 2006, the NYMT returned to full productions with Howard Goodall's The Dreaming at the Tonbridge Arts Festival. In the following years they performed Fiddler on the Roof and Little Me (2007), Whistle Down the Wind and All Above Board (2008), and The Hired Man and Totally Over You (2009). Productions of Sweeney Todd were staged in 2010 and 2011. The company marked its 35th anniversary at London's Vaudeville Theatre in April 2012 with a concert featuring some of NYMT's alumni who have gone on to professional acting careers, including Matt Lucas, Gina Beck, Amy Nuttall, Lara Pulver, Michael Jibson, and Ian Virgo. In August 2012 Jason Robert Brown collaborated with the NYMT to produce the West End première of his musical 13. The NYMT's production, directed by Brown, ran for six performances at the Apollo Theatre. Earlier in the month, Sarah Redmond directed the company's production of Brown's first musical theatre piece, Songs for a New World, at the Bridewell Theatre.
Jeremy James Taylor, NYMT's founder, had retired as Artistic Director in 2004 but directed the company's 2006 production of The Dreaming, the first full production after its relaunch, and went on to direct the NYMT's performances of the show for the 2012 International Youth Arts Festival. In the 2010 New Year Honours, he was awarded an OBE "for services to young people and to musical theatre."
In addition to their live performances, the NYMT has been the subject of three BBC documentaries, Overture and Beginners (Scottish Television, 1982), Kaleidoscope (BBC Radio 4, 1982), and The Making of Bendigo Boswell (BBC Television, 1983). The company's complete performances of Bendigo Boswell and The Ragged Child were also televised by the BBC. The Ragged Child and Pendragon were each the subject of ITV documentaries. Other NYMT productions which were broadcast on television or radio include The Ballad of Salomon Pavey (ATV, 1977), The Roman Invasion of Ramsbottom (Granada Television, 1980), Witches! (Granada Television, 1981), and The Factory Children (BBC Radio 3, 1994).
The following shows were all produced by the NYMT with the exception of The Indian Queen (King's Consort production); Born of Glass, Four Walls, Nos Vie En Rose, and Spider Dance (Generator Theatre productions); and The Goblin Market, The Late Sleepers, and Such Sweet Thunder (regional productions).
Concerts and galas
In addition to their own concerts and fundraising galas, NYMT has performed musical theatre excerpts on various other occasions, including:
Alumni and past members of the National Youth Music Theatre include: