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West End musical director returns to where it all began ... in Watlington

Nigel Lilley with the Young Watlington Players at Jubilee Hall
Nigel Lilley with the Young Watlington Players at Jubilee Hall

He has travelled the world in his career, including many engagements in London’s West End.

But Nigel Lilley has never forgotten the support and encouragement he was given as a youngster by his West Norfolk village drama group.

And at the weekend, he returned to the home of the long-established Watlington Players to give current day members some of the benefit of his wealth of experience in the world of musical theatre.

Nigel, who comes from a musical family, helped lead workshops for the village’s Young Players.

They are working on the Musical Theatre International Junior version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance and Nigel spent time encouraging them to improve their singing and led exercises in voice production.

Later, he worked with the senior members of the Players currently busy in rehearsal for their forthcoming production of the musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which is to be presented in June.

The sessions also included a question and answer interlude when Nigel was asked about his own career in musical theatre.

Penny Cooke, a leading member of the Players and dance teacher, said she was delighted that Nigel was able to give up time from his busy schedule to spend the day with the Players.

She thanked him for leading the workshops and said his contributions and advice were most appreciated.

As a child, Nigel took part in various junior Players productions and is particularly remembered for his roles as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol and the musical, Oliver!.

He later took on the role of pianist and musical director for some of Watlington shows

After achieving impressive exam results from Downham Market High School, Nigel studied music at King’s College, London, and then to the Royal Academy of Music. He was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy in 2013.

Nigel has been either musical director or music supervisor for many leading productions.

His career includes shows like Bend it Like Beckham, Sweet Charity, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Go Between and he has just completed work on Follies with Imelda Staunton.

It was while conducting that show last year that Nigel felt it was time he returned to Watlington and share his experiences with the Players.

He said: “It is important to take a moment to remember those people who helped give you a good start at the beginning.

“There are so many people, Kate Carpenter and Penny Cooke, to name just two, who give up so much of their spare time for the good of the village.

“It is great to see the Watlington Players is thriving and inspiring a new generation of performers.”


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