A cast of more than 50 will be staging a powerful musical to Bedford audiences later this month - with author Michael Morpurgo among those to see his novel come alive.
Friend Or Foe is based on the novel by the author, whose more famous work was War Horse, and was first performed locally in Turvey when Michael also visited.
Producer of this new show, Ben Lusby, said the successful performances enjoyed by more than 500 people has inspired this new project involving children from aged eight in a compelling wartime story.
He said: “It was loved by people so much we decided to produce it on a larger stage and invite Michael Morpurgo to see it again.”
Friend Or Foe The Musical will run at Bedford Theatre, at Bedford School, from Wednesday, February 19 until Saturday, February 22, with Michael attending the matinee on the Saturday.
Ben added: “Our hope is that when proved in performance, Friend Or Foe The Musical will be taken forward to the city stage.”
Adapted by Ben’s daughter Ruth Lusby-Yentis, a teacher at Daubeney Academy, and Tim Brewster, the story follows two London schoolboys David and Tucky who are evacuated to North Devon during the Second World War.
The boys witness a German bomber crashing on the moors and, although a search by locals finds no trace, the boys continue to look alone, during which time David falls into deep water while crossing a stream.
He is plucked to safety by the hand of a German airman who, along with a comrade, need help only the boys can offer. The two are confronted with an awful dilemma - whether to make known the airmen’s hiding place, or to assist an enemy.
The lead roles are taken by Peter Barrington (David) and Thomas Mullen (Tucky), and Theo Diedrick will appear as a very able under-study for Tucky on the Thursday evening.
Natalie Smith plays David’s mother, and Jonathan Reynolds and Jo Duchemin play Jerry and Anne Reynolds who take in the evacuee boys.
Simon Jackson plays Tomas Schmidt the Luftwaffe pilot, with Tom Lusby, Gurt, his co-pilot, and Rod Petty is Captain Franks.
Among a group of 70 local people to have worked to bring this production to the stage are co-directors Ruth Lusby-Yentis and Charlotte Lucas, musical director Tim Brewster, and producer Ben Lusby.
Michael Morpurgo said of the Bedford production: “I’m so excited about the prospect of this production of Friend Or Foe. I can’t wait to see it on the stage. There are some great songs, and the adaptation is both inventive and inspired.
“It’s been a book, a film, a play and now a musical. How wonderful and lucky is that!”
The shows will start at 7.30pm with the Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets are £12, concessions £10, available from the box office on 01234 718112, Number 13 in Bedford on 01234 718044, or online at www.bedfordtheatre.co.uk