© 2024 - Michael Wooldridge
Michael as Musical Director and Producer
Theatre Shows

Michael In The Pit!

Michael has always loved seeing live theatre, especially musicals. This was much encouraged by his mum, who herself loves to see a good live show, and started when she took him to see a production of Camelot, which he loved for the first half and enjoyed sleeping through for the second half, but he was only about four years old! From this start, it was no surprise at all that Michael should find himself playing in the orchestra pit to accompany shows, both professional ones with star names and for some of the local amateur dramatic and operatic societies, when they choose to have the luxury of a professional band to support them. When he was young, he became a great fan of the Black and White Minstrel TV Show, which he used to watch with his Grandmother, and it was the fabulous stage version of this show, at London’s Victoria Palace, which was the first West End show he saw. He was thrilled when, in 1990, he was asked to play for The Minstrel Stars Summer Season at Eastbourne’s beautiful Royal Hippodrome Theatre and he relished every moment of working with the people he had so admired on television, including Bass Bob Hunter, Tenor Ted Darling and the King of the Mitchell Minstrels, Dai Francis. The Minstrels became a recurring theme for Michael, as he went on to work with them from time to time in other show and cabaret formats, even on a boat to Holland and back and in 2004 they were the initial motivating force behind his involvement in the foundation of That’s Entertainment Productions (TEP), a company which went on tour productions to great acclaim throughout the UK. These included a show they devised called Liberace – Live from Las Vegas starring the UK’s number one piano entertainer, Bobby Crush, in the lead role, and children’s show, The Amazing World of Professor Nutty. In this time they also Co-Produced and Michael worked as Musical Director for a major tour with Eurovision Song Contest legend Dana. TEP’s very first show was Memories of the Black and White Minstrels and this proved so successful that they devised a follow-up show called Music Music Music, both with the original stars and original glittering costumes from the Minstrel Show. TEP went on to become a major provider of Summer Seasons and Pantomimes, so much so that Michael found he no longer had sufficient time available to devote to the good of the company, whilst still continuing his own performing career, so after eight very enjoyable years, he has passed the reins on to a new team. In those eight years he and his business partner had staged summer productions for the Royal Hippodrome Theatre in Eastbourne, the legendary North Pier Theatre in Blackpool, the Pier Theatre in Bournemouth, the Whitehall Theatre in Dundee and for three consecutive years, the West Cliff Theatre, Clacton. Michael retained the Production Rights for the Clacton Summer Show and, now under the banner of his own company, Merlin Theatre Productions, staged three more very enjoyable summer seasons and two well received Christmas shows there, all produced to provide high quality family entertainment and all completely live. Michael has played for dozens of shows, sometimes as Musical Director, sometimes as principal musician, sometimes just playing keyboards in the orchestra. Past titles have included Chess, Carousel, My Fair Lady, Annie, Fiddler on the Roof, Cinderella, It’s A Swing Thing, Guys and Dolls, Glitz, Return To The Forbidden Planet, Half a Sixpence, Call Me Madam, Hans Anderson, Annie Get Your Gun, A Christmas Carol, Babes in the Wood, Oklahoma, The Boy Friend, The Minstrel Stars, Kismet, The Wireless Years, As Happy as a Sandbag, Bugsy, Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Melodytimes, We’ll Meet Again, Hello Dolly, The Will Rogers Follies - A Life In Review, Aladdin, Variety Startime, Variety Bandbox, Oliver and Blitz. In rehearsal, he has played for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Sound of Music, and for an anniversary production of Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Sir Tim Rice’s very first musical, The Likes Of Us. Michael very much enjoys the family feel of working on pantomimes and, aside of his involvement with those he has produced, he has enjoyed working for other producers as Musical Director for several seasons in Barrow-In-Furness, plus Boston, Brighton and a few dep jobs here and there, standing in for the resident MD just for a performance or two. If you are staging a show, cabaret or concert and require a first class accompanist or Musical Director, contact Michael now. When he works his musical magic, the audience will think you have a whole orchestra!