BELFAST teenager, Katie Shortt will be taking to the Grand Opera House stage playing the part of Marta in the iconic Stephen Sondheim ‘Company The Musical’ in the latest step towards a career treading the theatre boards.
Running from May 1-4 the musical will see the schoolgirl play the feisty and fiery Martha, love interest for the leading character of the bemused bachelor Robert.
The Dominican College student has been cramming rehearsals in with revision as well as auditioning for drama schools in London to take on a degree at the prestigious colleges.
However, it was a chance casting at primary school that gave Katie (17) the taste for the stage
“I was actually cast as Aladdin in my primary seven play despite there being boys in the school,” she said. “Looking back on it it’s pretty embarrassing but it definitely bit me with a bug for acting and theatre.”
Taking to the stage for Company will not be the first time Katie at the Great Victoria Street venue.
“I performed there in Les Miserables as well as twice in the Grand Opera House Summer Youth project- in Oliver! as Widow Corney and in The Wizard of Oz. It’s a fantastic project that has enabled me to gain such valuable experience on NI’s most prestigious stage.”
And, she embraced the experience.
“I love the scale of the theatre. It’s such a beautiful building, especially looking out from the stage at the gold and red seats and balconies.”
The Belfast schoolgirl is eager to take on her role in Company.
“Marta is one of Bobby’s girlfriends in the show,” she explained. “She is the youngest, and to me, represents how Bobby is trying to avoid accepting his age – he is too old for the young people and too young for the old people. Marta and Bobby are completely unsuited for each other but they both endure as there is a passion and excitement there to dating someone older/younger than themselves. She is feisty, adventurous, pretentious and overbearing.”
But Katie adores Marta’s other traits of her character.
“She’s mental! She’s off-the-walls crazy, knows it and loves it. There isn’t anybody that’s going to destroy her mood.
“Bobby to her is just another man in a string of flings as she searches for a partner that thrills her just as much as she thrills herself.”
Katie’s ambition reflect her commitment to acting. After attending the Fortwilliam Musical Society youth and performing with them for many years she is committed to her development.
“Most of my time goes into training in acting and musical theatre,” she said “I take dance classes at the JH Academy of Performing arts in Ballet, Tap and Jazz under Sarah Johnston and train in Acting at the Lyric Theatre Belfast Senior School.”
That commitment has see her perform as Morticia in The Addams Family, Madame Giry in Phantom of the Opera and Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables.
For such a young talent Katie is keep to pay tribute to those who have helped nurture her talent,
“I look up greatly to my teachers who perform regularly themselves – Kelly Brown and James Huish,” she said “They are phenomenal performers who have taught me significant career and life lessons.
“Clare Donnelly, who is Stage Managing and Choreographing ‘Company’ is such a pro at what she does and is the backbone of this show. Performers Rachel Tucker and Laura Donnelly who are Belfast-born and ‘made it’ in this business are my entire inspiration for pursuing this career- they’ve proven that with hard-work, skill and determination you can do this.”
First unleashed on the world in 1970 Company showcased Sondheim’s comedic take on the evolving nature of relationships amongst the Baby Boomer generation, as the Hippy movement was challenging traditional marital status.
Darren Gardiner of LSFX Productions said Company was a show he had longed to bring to the Belfast stage.
“When Sondheim released it, Company confronted so many assumptions about what was considered the norm in America at the time with his typical aplomb,” he said. “To shake up the middle classes in the United States he used wit and music.
“And, the messages still hold true today. I’m sure that all our cast, under the direction of James, will bring the production values of the West End to the Opera House stage.”
Director James Huish, whose previous sell-out Les Miserables show in 2016 at the Great Victoria Street venue earned critical acclaim, is determined to showcase the many facets of Company.
“On one level we follow the 35-year-old Robert as he ponders whether to be happy alone or try to conform and find a romantic partner,” said James. “On another level Sondheim challenges what we understand about the traditions that we take for granted.
“But above all, no matter what messages you take from it, Company is great fun with great songs.”
Including ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’, ‘Side by Side, by Side’ and ‘Sorry – Grateful’ all the tracks will be familiar, but all are woven into the contemplative life of Robert with the mishaps and mayhem of himself and the anarchic relationships of his friends.
More information – including how to book tickets – can be found at: https://www.goh.co.uk/whats-