It was almost two years ago when Creative Industry in Salford (CRIS), first staged Steph Pearce's World War II musical, Pack Up Your Troubles, at The Lowry to critical acclaim.
Now CRIS has morphed into its new brand, Morphic; the musical drama has been re-invented; and many of the young Salford people who took part, and those who have joined since, are intent on serious acting careers. So much so, that the stage has moved from The Lowry to the Royal Northern College of Music to accommodate a cast of forty.
"The cast has doubled and the Royal Northern's stage is bigger" says Steph Pearce "It's now a different show too. It still follows the Appleton family but it has become darker, the music has changed and it's more about the relationships between the women on the street.
"The young people have really taken it on board" she adds "They've had two weeks intensive rehearsals and they've been singing, dancing and acting for over eight hours a day."
Set in Salford in 1939, Pack Up Your Troubles is a dramatic musical adventure that follows the Appleton children, who find their lives blasted by the Nazis in a blitzkrieg of bombs, songs and excitement.
"All the women are positioned through different aspects of the War, from the little ones to the ladies they all cope in different ways really" says Fran Tither, a professional actress who appears in the play again as jovial Betty Selby.
"It's nice to work with the same young people" she adds "and lovely to see how they've progressed over the years."
Also starring in the play is professional actress and singer Stella Grundy, who is usually to be found running creative workshops for CRIS… "This is like a very full on, disciplined stage school for Morphic, and I'm finding it difficult, so it's got to be enriching for the young people" she explains "I'm not used to this kind of performance art, so it's a learning curve for me as well. Hopefully we'll all do a brilliant job."
Indeed, Pack Up Your Troubles, as well as being a top production, is also a showcase of Salford talent, with the aim to present a show to professional standards. After working with CRIS/Morphic on productions like Docks Law (last year) and Pack Up Your Troubles (two years ago), everyone in the cast we spoke to wants to take up acting a serious career option.
"I took part in Docks Law and have worked with Steph before" says Sophie, who plays Pauline Grimshaw in the play "The character I play is a very confident person and the complete opposite to me. You've got to have a lot of confidence to do it but everyone supports you."
Lauren has also been in previous shows, and in this takes the same part, Sally Thompson, as in the original Pack Up Your Troubles… "She's a mummy's girl but likes to get her mum (Stella Grundy) aggravated, annoyed and more nervous. I think this production is darker than the last one."
Cadie has also worked with the company on Docks Law and Pack Up Your Troubles, and takes on the difficult role of troubled Maureen Dansen in the latest carnation… "She's from a broken family, gets beaten and takes the mother role in her family to her younger sister."
The characters in this new version of Pack Up Your Troubles are more complicated than the original, stretching the young actors' skills. These kind of productions used to be about the community giving it a go on stage. Now it's all becoming serious performing.
Meanwhile, Pack Up Your Troubles may be darker than the previous version but there's still plenty of classic songs, warmth and humour as Salford goes off to war… Don't miss!
Pack Up Your Troubles
Friday 12th – Saturday 13th April
2:30pm and 7:30pm
Royal Northern College of Music
Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9RD
Tickets are normally £8 or £5 concessions. Salford Star readers can get any ticket for £5 by quoting MORPHIC 5 when booking through the RNCM Box Office – 0161 907 5555 or 0161 907 5200
Further details at www.rncm.ac.uk