The family boasting four generations with the Congleton Musical Theatre

One Congleton family has played a major role in the town's 75-year-old musical theatre group Photography by John Cocks

Noel Coward knew a thing or two about musical theatre but a Congleton family with acting in the blood have ignored his advice about not putting your daughter on the stage. Four generations of the family have performed with Congleton Musical Theatre, meaning there has been at least one of them stage for most productions during the group’s 75 year history.

There are now 10 members of the family involved in the society, which was known until 2009 as Congleton Amateur Operatic Society, including Sue McAllister, who first trod the boards as a teenager.

‘We have always been a very musical family,’ Sue said. ‘My mum’s father was in choirs and sang oratorios, she joined him and has always been musical. I got involved with the Operatic Society when I was about 14 and my mum watched me develop and go into shows and that encouraged her to join me on the stage for a few years and she then moved on to be ticket secretary for 40 years.’

Although she has retired from her role with the group, Sue’s mother Mary, now in her 90s, is still a member and her great-grandchildren have now stepped into the limelight.

After making her bow on the Congleton stage, Sue moved away to train at the Royal College of Music in London and to work as professional singer with the D’Oyly Carte in West End musicals. When she returned to Cheshire she stepped back into lead roles with the society before moving off stage into directing and her current role as front of house manager.

‘I do miss being on stage but it is nice to see some of the younger ones developing,’ she said. ‘The older ones have the experience but we need the younger ones. There is a lot of talent here. Congleton is a reasonably small town but there are a few societies and a lot of very exciting talent.

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‘To make that leap from amateur to professional you have to be very committed to that urge to be somebody else on stage and to give of yourself all the time, not because of the money because the money is not brilliant unless you are right at the top of the profession. Audiences can sense if you don’t want to be there.’

The group produces one show each year . The curtain has just come down on their latest production, Oliver, at the Daneside Theatre – and they have been nominated for nine Operatic and Dramatic Association awards in the last eight years.

Rehearsals will begin for next year’s show in April and the group is always on the look-out for new members, particularly men. Anyone interested should contact society secretary Cath Lilley on

The print version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Cheshire Life 

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