Sheila Hannington sings the praises of BSMTC as the curtain falls on her stage career
Bishop's Stortford Musical Theatre Company's 2018 show Oklahoma! finished its six-night run at the weekend - and the close-knit troupe said farewell to its eldest member.
Sheila Hannington joined BSMTC 14 years ago when she was 65. At that time, she had retired from working at St Elizabeth’s Centre, the school, college and care home in Perry Green which provides education, care and medical support for people with epilepsy and other complex needs.
Sheila, a Manuden parish councillor, recalled: “When I left St Elizabeth’s I thought ‘Where is the nearest group I can belong to?’”
Coincidentally, her last show was the same as her first. She explained: “I started with Oklahoma! when we did it at Harlow Playhouse. Isn’t that strange that it’s gone full circle?”
Sheila has always loved singing and performing on a stage. While she worked at St Elizabeth’s, she organised the social activities and planned plenty of musical and theatrical workshops for the service users.
During her time with BSMTC, she has mostly starred as a chorus singer, but in the 2017 production of Sister Act she played the part of Sister Mary Theresa.
Her favourite production, however, was 2009’s My Fair Lady. “The music was so bouncy and bubbly,” she said.
Sheila is leaving the company with a heavy heart. Next year she will turn 80, which means that BSMTC’s insurance will no longer cover her.
“There are a lot of wires and things on the floor with the lighting,” she said. “They can’t insure me after a certain age.”
But Sheila does not want to leave her BSMTC cast-mates entirely – she hopes to be able to be involved in future shows, helping behind the scenes with promoting, fundraising and in any other way she can.
“The company themselves, they’re so nice, such lovely people. It’s been a real pleasure to work with them,” she said.
“When we did Carousel in 2013, I lost my husband. Without them I don’t know how I would have coped. They were so supportive.
“I’ve never been hugged so much in my life. You just feel enveloped with people caring about you.”
Sheila was married to Roger for 43 years. After he died, she missed only one rehearsal. Roger had always encouraged her to perform and she knew that he would have wanted her to venture out and sing with her friends.
“It’s been 14 good years that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed,” she said.
Sheila has made countless happy memories with the BSMTC ensemble and added: “If you can sing, join.”