Here Come the Girls

Local theatre bucks national gender gap trend with leading female team on its forthcoming Community Musical

The Lichfield Garrick’s forthcoming Community Musical, Once Upon a Mattress, will be showcasing the very best in both female creative and theatre management talent this summer, bucking the national trend of gender inequality in theatre as highlighted by The Stage. The Stage’s article presented that 22 out of the 33 theatres in the UK that it studied throughout the summer of 2017 had a male director leading the work on their stages. The study was taken out as a response to concerns from some SDUK (Stage Directors UK) members that theatre seasons were heavily weighted towards male directors.

In the year that we celebrate 100 years of equal votes for women, the Lichfield Garrick has assembled a brilliant creative team of foremost industry professionals including Director Emily Summers, Musical Director Angharad Sanders, Deputy Stage Manager Tracy Cattell and Head of Lighting Anna Reddyhoff, working alongside the theatre’s Executive Director Karen Foster and General Manager Liz Porrett. The Community Musical itself, Once Upon a Mattress, was also chosen to embrace strong female principal roles partly to coincide with the 100th year anniversary of the Suffragette Movement.

Karen Foster, the Lichfield Garrick’s Executive Director said: “Whilst this year’s Community Musical is a rip-roaring comedy, set in the thriving Twenties, with great music, glamour and glitz, I am proud that the female creative team working on the musical are all exceptionally talented and chosen for their skillset, not their sex. It is, however, wonderful as an independent regional theatre with ambitions to present excellence, to celebrate the achievements of women as creative thinkers in the centenary year since the suffragettes gained the vote for women, and to reflect on the path forward.”

Once Upon a Mattress is a comedy musical with music originally written by Mary Rodgers, the daughter of Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame. The story is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale The Princess and the Pea. The production is the first time Walsall based Actor and Creative Practitioner Emily Summers has directed a production at the Lichfield Garrick. Emily writes and directs for Birmingham Hippodrome Creative, the Old Rep, Farm Park/Scream Park Entertainments and has starred in an array of productions including Educating Rita as Rita and Pygmalion as Eliza Doolittle.

Emily added: “Our three female leading ladies represent a kaleidoscope of femininity, each conforming to a stereotype. Therefore, embracing the comedy of the script to the full and setting the piece in an entirely different era seemed key with rehearsals full of discussion; tackling dated misconceptions and working hard to create substantial characters across the board in the midst of fairy tale madness and mayhem!”

For the third year in a row, the Lichfield Garrick’s now annual Community Musical will be under the musical direction of Angharad Sanders. Angharad is widely known as a Musical Director across both sides of the Atlantic working on shows including the award winning British fringe premiere of Avenue Q, Steel Pier, Billy Elliot and the upcoming UK tour of Madagascar the Musical.

Angharad commented: “2018 sees celebrations across the country of our brave and courageous Suffragettes. It is even more shocking to see that 100 years later, women are so unrepresented in many roles within the Performing Arts industry. With many very visible campaigns, such as ERA 50:50 (supporting Equal Representation for Actresses) and industry leaders opening up conversations in this area, I hope that the future is brighter for any young women wanting to succeed in any role. I am truly proud to be at the musical helm of my third show at the Lichfield Garrick, hopefully showing that gender plays no question in our abilities to stage incredible, creative, and inspiring theatre.”

Behind the scenes, Emily and Angharad are joined by Tracy Cattell, who will be calling the shots as the production’s Deputy Stage Manager. Tracy is the world’s first holder of a PhD in the history and development of stage management and is working in her third production at the Lichfield Garrick. Working alongside Tracy will be Anna Reddyhoff who joined the Lichfield Garrick in 2017 as the theatre’s Head of Lighting. Anna has previously worked on the national tours of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hairspray and Anything Goes. Most recently, the Lichfield Garrick has appointed a new Artistic Consultant, Lucy Nicholls, an artist and creative producer based in Birmingham, which strengthens the theatre’s wealth of creative knowledge and expertise.

The Lichfield Garrick’s production of Once Upon a Mattress has a 50 strong cast of local performers from Lichfield and the surrounding district. Set in the golden era of the 1920’s, sparkling full of glitz and glamour and backed by a wonderful musical score, this hilarious, romantic, raucous and rollicking spin on the classic tale of royal courtship and comeuppance provides for many side-splitting moments. If you thought you knew your fairy tales, you might be in for a big surprise.

Once Upon a Mattress opens at the Lichfield Garrick on Monday 30th July and runs until Saturday 4th August 2018. Tickets start from £13.50 and can be purchased from the theatre’s box office on 01543 412121 or online at