THE MUMBLE : Hello Heather, so where ya from & where ya at geographically speaking
HEATHER : I’m a primary school teacher by day and a producer and choreographer by night with both groups. I was born and bred in Prestonpans but now live in Gullane.
THE MUMBLE : So you are a co-founder of the Musical Youth Project & Encore, when did you first set these up
HEATHER : Musical Youth was set up in 1992 then Encore was begun after the parents of the youngsters wanted to join in the fun.
THE MUMBLE : What is it about Musical Theatre that makes you tick
HEATHER : Musicals make you feel good! You should come away singing or humming the tunes with a “beautiful feeling that everything’s going my way!” Musical Youth and Encore are a big family who support each other. For example, our leading man in “Oklahoma” – Kevin McConnachie – helped in Musical Youth’s recent production of “Footloose” by playing the key role of the Rev Shaw, the minister. In return, Musical Youth are helping out Encore by providing some dancers for “Oklahoma”. Also, our leading lady – Jen Harris – is a former Musical Youth member who has now performed several leading roles with Encore. We have several mums and daughters in Encore as well as husbands and wives and even a gran and grand daughter.
THE MUMBLE : What do you get personally from watching the youngsters flourish under your wing
HEATHER : Overall, it is rewarding to see the blossoming confidence of the young people who come along to Musical Youth.
THE MUMBLE : Have any of your youngsters continued in the Musicals business
HEATHER : Over the years, we have had several members of Musical Youth and Encore who have performed on the West End stage. Ashleigh Gray was a founder member of Musical Youth and she recently played the lead role of Elphaba in “Wicked” at the Edinburgh Playhouse. It was a great delight to see her talent take her to the top of the musical profession. Also, Sandy Moffat – who coincidentally played the role of Curly in Musical Youth’s production of “Oklahoma” – has performed leading roles in “Jersey Boys” and “Rock of Ages”. Colin Carr, another founder member, and many others have taken the next step to becoming professional actors.
THE MUMBLE : You are just about to produce Oklahoma at the Brunton, why this particular piece
HEATHER : As someone who grew up watching the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, it is such a priviledge being able to take part in them and to share their stories and music with others.
THE MUMBLE : What does Heather Antonelli like to do when she’s not putting on musicals
I love singing and dancing so my spare time (!?!) is filled with more of that including pilates and ball room dancing. This year I have been asked to be a professional dancer in East Lothian’s charity Strictly Come Dancing evening where local celebrities are taught to dance. This year’s charity is Leuchie House near North Berwick which is a place both groups visit every year in conjunction with Longniddry Rotary. Personally, I find the most rewarding aspect of performing is when we visit places like Leuchie House or other care homes and you can see the power of music stimulate memories and it makes people smile and join in. In the world that we’re living in, that is a great gift to give!