I’M not sure whether they stage a musical spectacular in Heaven every year, but St Peter had better get the auditorium spruced up because Bob Wilson has arrived to get the show on the road.

It was with considerable sadness I learned last week that Bob had died, because another good guy has gone and the local entertainment scene will be so much the poorer. He was appointed MBE for his services to charity and the community and was the man behind probably the most successful amateur musical theatre group Worcestershire has ever produced.

The Midland Musical Theatre Group was founded by Bob in June, 1978, when the business manager of Worcester’s Swan Theatre asked if he could devise a one off Christmas production for the venue, which would otherwise have been in darkness following an early evening children’s show.

Already an established performer on stage – having been introduced to the theatre and music by his father Walter – Bob gathered together some of his friends and the result followed the format of the Black and White Minstrel Show, one of the most popular programmes on television at the time.

The new company was named Midland Musical Theatre Group and The Swan Minstrel Show, as it was called, was literally meant to be its swansong, just one show. But it was so successful, Bob was asked for a repeat the following year.

Bridging the divide with new Severn crossing

Then in 1980 things really took off, the company expanded and with a bigger production moved to Malvern Festival Theatre where it became an established part of the annual programme. There were packed houses every night, tickets were like gold dust. There was even a waiting list from one year to the next.

The wham-bam song and dance formula, fast paced with singalong songs, was a storming success.

Bob said in a 1998 interview: “I think the reason we’ve been so successful is that we just aim to give people a good night out. There’s no great story line, we don’t aim to educate anyone. Just lots of quick changes, good, middle of the road, easy going stuff.”

One year when bad weather stopped a large party from Bosbury, near Malvern, getting to the Festival Theatre, Bob took the whole show to the village hall when the snow had gone. Midland Musical Theatre Group even played the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Right by his side throughout the whole journey was Bob’s wife Sue, an accomplished performer and director in her own right. Together they and their friends and colleagues gave thousands upon thousands of people much pleasure over the years and raised many thousands of pounds for charity.

In 2011 the group’s name was changed to Worcester Musical Theatre Company and the performance venue moved to The Swan in Worcester. Although the cast is amateur, the company has professional musicians, choreographers, sound and lighting engineers, hairdressers and beauticians and superb costumes, so this is amateur musical theatre of the highest quality. Its 2016 show “Walking on Sunshine” won NODA’s best musical award for the West Midlands Region.

Here are just a few photographs from along the way.