Basics Junior Theatre School in Burnley prepare for blockbuster Miss Saigon production

Basics Junior Theatre School

Basics Junior Theatre School - Credit: Archant

Rob Gemmell checks up on Basics Junior Theatre School in Burnley as they prepare for their Miss Saigon and Annie productions.

On Tuesday 3rd December 2013 the Basics Junior Theatre School in Burnley will open perhaps one of the biggest musicals they have ever attempted throughout their 27 year history when they perform “Miss Saigon”.

I spoke to principal Andy Cooke about the history of the group and how it is helping to nurture the talents of the North West’s best young musical actors including a former finalist of TV’s “Britain’s Got Talent”

Basics Junior Theatre School is a non-profit organisation founded by Mr. Dennis Murtaugh who wanted somewhere for the youngsters of Burnley to go where it was safe and allow the freedom to express themselves in musical theatre.

The affordable monthly fees all go back into the company to allow for use of the mill where they rehearse and to cover running costs. Any surplus amount of funds finabce the hire of the theatre and the costs to cover the production. Miss Saigon, for example, will cost the school £26,000 to perform and they are relying heavily on tickets sales to cover those costs.

The school offers theatre direction to youngsters aged between 6 – 19 years old, with a lot of the students studying for their GCSE’s at the same time, they are proving their dedication and commitment to their love of musical theatre by juggling their studies with rehearsals.

The school produce dance, drama and vocals and perform three shows a year. To end the year the Junior group will be performing a rendition of “Annie” and the Senior group will be tackling the popular West End smash, “Miss Saigon”. They are one of the few schools in the country to be given the rights to perform the show (school edition) and are rehearsing hard to ensure the show is a hit and that they once again leave the audience full of praise and admiration for the students.

Most Read

Set in 1975 during the final days of the American occupation of Saigon, Miss Saigon is an epic love story about the relationship between an American GI and a young Vietnamese woman. Orphaned by war, 17-year-old Kim is forced to work as a bar girl in a sleazy Saigon night club owned by a notorious wheeler-dealer known as ‘The Engineer’. John, an American GI, buys his friend Chris the services of Kim for the night. That night will change their lives forever…

Basics Junior Theatre School introduce us to the cast of Miss Saigon.

Brandon Incles has been in Basics for two years. He says the role of the Engineer has been very a challenging experience but he has taken his own interpretation of the character and thanks Richard Sanderson for the many hours of direction he has been given. Brandon hopes to pursue a career performing on the West end Stageafter completing his performing arts studies at The Manchester College.

Jess Parkinson who is playing the part of Gigi, has also been in Basics for 11 years and started dancing at the age of 3. Jess says if you are a music lover and enjoy a good storyline this is one show you will not want to miss.

Lydia Cooke is 15 years old and has been dancing since the age of 2. She loved playing the role of Anytime Annie in 42nd Street last year and feels very fortunate and happy to be performing in Miss Saigon and hopes to study performing arts after leaving school next year.

Charlie Birtwistle and Harry Cross will play the Little Tams on alternate evenings.

Charlie age 8, goes to Wellfield Primary school and is in his 1st year at Basics following in the footsteps of his mum who played Annie in Basics a ‘long, long time ago’. Charlie who is also in Basics production of Annie the week after Miss Saigon, loves to perform and hopes all his family and school friends will come and watch him.

Harry, 6 years old and also in his 1st year at Basics, attends St. Peters school in Simonstone and is labelled a true professional. He will take up a role of an orphan in the Annie production.

The leading lady in “Miss Saigon” is Georgia Salkeld age 16, she is in her 11th year at Basics. She has had vocal tuition from Chris Broughton the vocal coach for 9 years and is currently studying her first year on a musical theatre course at Manchester College.

The promise from Basics Junior Theatre School is that they will continue to uphold the professional standards that they have demonstrated throughout their 27-year history and that they continue to impress audiences with the amazing young talent for years to come.

Former students include Joshua Steel who left the school three years ago to study at Italia Conti and is now starring in the West End in “Mama Mia” and former “Britain’s Got Talent” finalist, Hollie Steel.

Since appearing on the show Hollie has moved to London and now attends the Sylvia Young Theatre School and starred in a professional touring company in “The Sound Of Music” at the Palace Theatre in Manchester last year.

The objectives of the school are admirable. There is a wealth of talent out there from all ages and the opportunities offered by the school are certainly ensuring that the future of theatre is bright.

Miss Saigon is being presented by Basics junior Theatre School from Tuesday 3rd December - Sat 7th December. Performances nightly 7.30pm.

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday evening performances : All seats £10 (no concessions)

Friday/Saturday Evening performances : All seats £12 (no concessions)

Book tickets online at or can buy tickets from Discover Pendle at Boundary Mill stores in Colne.

For further information people can e-mail. Andy Cooke at or visit their Facebook page