Theatre-goer's fury after being told to stop singing during Motown show at the Sunderland Empire

A group of concert goers say they left the Empire Theatre after being made to feel “really uncomfortable” by staff who asked them not to join in with songs at a musical.

Monday, 21st October 2019, 11:15 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 11:13 am

Lesley Powell, 53, attended Motown: the Musical with her daughter Natalie Johnstone, 31, sister Lee Wyatt, 52, and cousin Christine Mackley, 51, having spend about £100 on their tickets.

They assumed that audience participation was welcome. But a few bars into Reach Out I’ll Be There they were told to be quiet by theatre staff.

They then felt obliged to leave the show after 30 minutes as their evening had been spoiled.

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Shhh! Lesley Powell was one of four women told to stop singing at Sunderland Empire's Motown show.

Lesley, an assistant school cook from Pennywell, said: “We were really looking forward to it.

“We thought it was just music, but it’s a story too and obviously we were quiet during the talking parts. When they started singing on the stage, we joined in.

“But a member of staff said ‘Can you be quiet’.

“We weren’t dancing, we were sitting down.

Lesley Powell says her evening was spoiled when she was told to stop singing at Sunderland Empire's Motown musical.

“It wasn’t a health and safety issue.

“A bouncer kept walking past us and made us feel really uncomfortable.

“A woman in front of us asked what was going on.

“When we told her we’d been told to stop singing, she said ‘You’re joking’”

Lesley is a regular visitor to the Empire, but said she has decided against going to future shows after her experience.

“I’ve said I’m not going any more,” Lesley added.

“My other daughter was going to see Thriller in February, but she’s not bothering now.

“The people on the stage don’t want you sitting there with your arms folded.

“The supervisor in the foyer said we were welcome to go back in, but we told her we weren’t enjoying the show because of what happened.”

She added: “We’re not that bad at singing.

“We sang a few songs in the pub instead and no one told us to shut up there.”

The theatre’s manager, Vicki Medhurst, said: “As per venue policy, if any customer is talking through a performance (or in some instances singing), and it is deemed to be potentially spoiling the experience of others, they will be politely asked to refrain from doing so.”