Across the country, the fight for survival among amateur dramatic and singing groups continues, and Mill Hill is no different.

Battling both dwindling membership, film and TV, and the likes of gaming and social media, well-established societies face the spectre of a merger with other groups - or even bringing down the curtain permanently.

But one local am dram and musical group is using its 60th season to fight back.

Mill Hill Musical Theatre was formed in 1954 as Mill Hill Amateur Operatic Society. This was a time when TV was new, popular radio was in its infancy, and live entertainment was the order of the day. It quickly became a hit, not just with local audiences but also with singers – those keen to develop their skills as well as those who enjoyed the camaraderie and excitement of meeting like-minded people and performing live.

The society put on a wide range of shows, with the popular works of Gilbert and Sullivan providing the backbone of its repertoire. Works by Strauss, Lehar, Offenbach, Coward and Novello were also staged, with locals flocking to see these classics.

In the past decade or so, however, the types of shows audiences went to see changed, as well as the kind of material performers preferred to sing. In a bid to shake up its output and bring in new blood as older members retired or moved away, the group staged Guys and Dolls in April 2009 and Kiss Me Kate in October 2012. Thankfully for the society’s bank balance, most performances for the two productions were sold out.

Another shift to adapt to the 21st Century was a new name – the Mill Hill Musical Theatre Company was born in 2013.

“We felt Mill Hill Musical Theatre Company was more appropriate for what we wanted to achieve long-term,“ says chairman Christine Hubbard. “After a long deliberation and consultation with our members, it was agreed that having ‘operatic’ in our title wouldn’t appeal to potential new members or audiences brought up on TV talent shows like X Factor and The Voice and stage shows like The Lion King and Wicked.“

In its 60th anniversary year, the company is to stage Oliver!, pinning its hopes on Lionel Bart’s smash-hit musical to both draw in younger singers and fuller houses.

“This is crunch time for us, but we are soldiering on,“ continues Christine. “Oliver! is a big musical and will take a lot of hard work to pull off.“

The show features child actors for the first time in the group’s history, with 11-year-old Barnet resident Ruben Pursey in the title role, 13-year-old Justin Jacobs, from Mill Hill, as the Artful Dodger, and Sidney Mittleman, 11, from Borehamwood, as gang cohort Charley Bates.

Oliver! will take place in its home theatre, Hartley Hall, where it had been based since 1954 until the venue closed for two years for refurbishment, giving the company the added headache of having to find alternative venues.

“We stage two shows a year – a special performance for patrons in the spring and a main show in the autumn,“ adds the group’s president, Grant Graves, whose parents Richard and Margery formed the society 60 years ago. “However, we haven’t been able to put on our big show since Kiss Me Kate as venue options are scarce.

“However, we’re determined to make Oliver! a big success. With the changes we have driven through, we believe we are giving it our best shot at still being around to entertain Mill Hillians for another 60 years.“

  • Oliver! is at The New Hartley Hall, Flower Lane, Mill Hill, from Wednesday, October 29 to Saturday, November 1, 7.30pm and 2.30pm on November 1. Details: 01923 269923,