Entertaining audiences for more than a century, BMOS Musical Theatre Company, founded in 1886, is the oldest theatre company in the region and one of the oldest in the UK
Aside from its great history, one of the triumphs of BMOS is its talented people and the company’s ability to adapt. Once known as the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society, hence BMOS, the company changed its name to reflect its more contemporary leanings.
Where previously there were Gilbert and Sullivan operettas performed at the Birmingham Institute, there are now dynamic, modern productions of hit musicals, such as 9 to 5 and Guys and Dolls, all performed to a professional standard at the Alexandra.
The history of the company is extraordinary. For instance, through the war years they provided entertainment in barracks and hospitals across the region before getting back to the stage at the city’s Theatre Royal in 1955, followed by a move to the Hippodrome in 1957. The current relationship with the Alexandra began in 2013 and is a happy collaboration. For the cast it’s a thrill to perform in such a wonderful venue and for audiences they get to see a fantastic production at a reasonable rate.
What’s equally remarkable is the fact that this is a hobby for company members, although admittedly not your average hobby. It’s a uniquely intense past time particularly in the run-up to show time. Ordinarily, rehearsals happen one or two evenings per week but this cranks up to two evenings plus a Sunday rehearsal in the few weeks leading up to the performance.
Since the company is largely made up of people with day jobs, it’s quite the commitment. Rehearsals are accompanied by a piano, in fact, the company only rehearses with the orchestra two days before the first performance – gulp! They use the Midland Concert Orchestra run by Phil Johnson for each show though, so they know the drill.
JUST THE TICKET
Seven committee members work tirelessly. The company is a voluntary organisation so people give their time freely. Costs associated with putting on a production such as sound, lighting and the orchestra need to be covered by ticket sales, so a well-supported show is crucial.
They’ve had one production that was touch and go just after the pandemic, but generally ticket sales are healthy. As an extra revenue stream the company also performs at corporate functions and, in addition, the treasurer applies to relevant arts organisations to secure funding. There are also sporadic donations from past members which is fantastic when it happens but it’s not a regular income, so more support is always welcome.
The company likes to give back to the city and supports Free At Last in Nechells – a charity that is committed to helping local young people find opportunities that will improve their lives. BMOS worked with them on their Big Balloon Project initially, but they’ve kept the relationship going and now offer places for talented teens to get involved in the company which is working well.
The company has also produced some stars such as Jon Boyden who played the lead in Jersey Boys in the West End and Margaret Preece who appeared in and was the voice of Carlotta (Minnie Driver’s character) in the film version of the Phantom of the Opera.
This year, there are two BMOS shows to get your teeth into. First up is 9 to 5 which opens later this month – expect funny, fast-paced and quirky with some incredible performances, particularly the solos we’re told. Then there’s classic Peter Pan in November.
And if you’re interested in treading the boards, BMOS are always on the lookout for more talent. They seem like a friendly bunch, so get in touch.