The creation of a musical inspired by Darly – Darlington Building Society’s magical little train – has reached an important milestone.
The musical by West End composer, Stuart Brayson, will be part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the world’s first passenger railway.
The Society and Darlington Borough Council commissioned Stuart in the summer to write songs for the time-travelling musical, marking the bicentennial of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
And he has now unveiled the score for the show, which will be premiered as part of celebrations that are expected to generate international interest in 2025.
Stuart, fresh from collaborating with Sir Tim Rice on the West End hit, From Here To Eternity, said: “As a North-East lad, it’s a joy to work on a musical celebrating such an important part of North-East history. This is a project close to my heart and it means a lot to see the positive initial reaction to the songs. Thank you to Darlington Building Society for coming up with such a great idea.”
The musical is based on a children’s book, Darly’s Magical History Tour, about a magical little train who goes back in time. The book was written by journalist and author Peter Barron, a former editor of The Northern Echo, and now non-executive director of Darlington Building Society.
The character of Darly was created by the Society as an innovative way to encourage children to save. When they open a junior account, they get a Darly train moneybox and can add carriages when they reach savings milestones.
The musical score was unveiled to a select audience at the Hullabaloo children’s theatre, in Darlington, with two songs performed live by musicians from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, which is an educational partner in the production of the musical.
Experienced music teacher Steve McGarvey, who is working on the arrangements, was joined by student Daisy Buxton on vocals, Sam Kennedy on guitar, and Max Barron on drums.
Steve said: “The musical has huge potential because it has something for everyone. The songs are really catchy and will appeal to children and adults.”
Andrew Craddock, chief executive of Darlington Building Society, a key sponsor of the bicentennial, said: “It’s really exciting to be involved in the creation of a new musical that celebrates the area’s railway heritage, and I can’t wait to see how it progresses.”
Darlington MP Peter Gibson was among those who heard the first airing of the songs. He said: “I was blown away by the quality of the songs and I’m convinced this is going to be a real showstopper as part of the 2025 celebrations. It’s fantastic for Darlington and, who knows, the West End could be the next stop, so I’m definitely on board!”
Theatre Hullabaloo chief executive, Ben Dickenson, added: “What I love is that it opens up great opportunities for young people, due to the connection with the college, and the songs are so memorable.”
Stuart Brayson, who hails from Gateshead, will now continue working with the college, and other partners, to produce the musical ahead of the premiere in Darlington in 2025.