Published: 06:00, 22 October 2020
It's October 2020 and a vast majority of theatres remain dormant after seven months of Covid-19 lockdown.
However, living in Kent, our county offers a bounty of people and places connected to the world of musical theatre.
Here are a few of these connections and how you can get a step closer to the real life inspirations and creators.
Anne Boleyn - Six
Arguably the best-known of King Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn is certainly one of Kent's most famous historical figures.
Growing up in Hever Castle near Edenbridge from the turn of the 16th Century, her family was one of the most respected in Britain.
With Anne and the king mingling in court, it took seven years of courtship before tying the knot.
Even before they were married, Anne held considerable influence in foreign diplomacy and sat in a coveted seat next to him at banquets.
After an 1532 meeting in Calais - during which Henry and Anne's impending marriage gained the support of Francis I of France - the couple returned to Dover and quickly had a secret wedding on November 14.
The king hoped for a male heir to avoid civil warfare over disputed claims to the throne, however one was not forthcoming.
A plot was then instigated against her, possibly by former ally Thomas Cromwell, then painted her as a lascivious adulterer.
The truth in the charges has been disputed, particularly one of incest involving her brother George.
She was eventually found guilty of these crimes, including treason, and sentenced to death.
For treason she was supposed to be burned alive but Henry commuted that sentence to beheading, which took place on May 19, 1536.
In 2017, a group of Cambridge University students performed their new musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Titled 'Six', it tells the story of Henry's wives in a unique girl-group, pop music competition format, where the queen who suffered the worst gets to be the lead singer of the group.
Anne Boleyn is the featured singer in two numbers and her affair with the then-still-married Henry VIII is heavily referenced.
Six has gone on to attract international acclaim, being nominated for five Olivier Awards last year.
A UK tour was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but will return on November 27 to a socially distanced audience.
The musical is currently scheduled to run at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury from May 18 to May 29 next year.
Annie Oakley - Annie Get Your Gun
Perhaps the most unlikely of connections is that of Annie Oakley, whose incredible sharpshooting skills not only won her a huge amount of fame but also an eponymous musical.
Born in 1860, by the time she was 25 she had achieved celebrity as a star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
Among her incredible abilities was splitting a side-on playing card from 30 paces and putting out a candle by shooting the wick.
In 1890, she used these feats to dazzle the audience at the Royal Oak Hotel - now known as County Hotel in Ashford.
A letter written at the time described the scene: "MARVELLOUS SHOOTING. - At the Royal Oak Hotel Starling Shoot on Wednesday, the company, which included some of the best shots in the south of England, were unexpectedly gratified by having the opportunity of witnessing some of the wonderful shooting feats of Miss Annie Oakley (Mrs. Frank E. Butler).
"This lady, the 'Little Sure Shot' of Buffalo Bill's troupe, which is now at Strasburg, is on a vacation visit for a few weeks to Mr. and Mrs. Graham, of the Royal Oak, they being old American friends, Mr. Graham having shot four or five matches with her during his sojourn in the States.
"Gentlemen will have the opportunity of seeing her performances at the next few meetings, and of taking part against her at her own game at the traps. The feats she performed on the ground seem scarcely credible.
"Thus, if Mr. Butler or Mr. Graham held out in their hands a visiting card, edgeways to her, at a distance of from ten to twenty paces, she invariably hit the edge of the card with a bullet from a pistol.
Thomas Edison's footage of Annie Oakley was among the first dozen films shot at the inventor's world-first movie studio
"With a Holland .320 bore double rifle she hit successively with bullets two marbles thrown in the air, and with a 10-shot repeating rifle she split, at the first shot, a piece of brick as it was thrown up, and then knocked to pieces with a second shot, one of the fragments as it descended.
"Half-pence and coins the size of a sixpence were also struck with bullets in the same way. Over a dozen sweepstakes were subsequently shot off, and a pleasant dinner party afterwards sat down at the Royal Oak."
It was in Ashford on December 20, 1890 that she learnt of the death of her friend Chief Sitting Bull.
She was very fond of the legendary native American, as evidenced by a glowing tribute in KentOnline's sister paper the Kentish Express.
Twenty years after her 1926 death, Annie would be immortalised by the musical theatre genius Irving Berlin in Annie Get Your Gun.
Loosely based on her life, the show features such Broadway standards as 'There's No Business Like Show Business' and 'Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)'.
Charles Dickens - Oliver!
Go anywhere in Kent and you're sure to find references to the great Victorian author Charles Dickens.
He stayed there with his family until the age of 11, but Kent always held his fascination throughout his life.
Some of his most notable works, including David Copperfield and Great Expectations, were partially set in the county and many places featured in his books can still be seen today.
Once his earnings reached a sufficient level, Dickens bought his childhood dream home of Gad's Hill Place in Higham where he would live out the rest of his days.
With dozens of published works, it's no surprise that a musical or two has been adapted from them.
By far the best known is Oliver!, the lyrics and music for which were written by Lionel Bart.
The classic show premiered in 1960, and only eight years later the film version starring Ron Moody scooped six Academy Awards including Best Picture.
The Broadway premiere won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Original Score.
Performed continually throughout the world, Oliver! is a favourite among school productions and features many hit musical numbers.
Lesser known is The Mystery of Edwin Drood, based on Dickens' last and unfinished novel of the same name.
The central setting for the novel and show is Cloisterham, a thinly veiled version of Rochester.
Despite being not too well-known nowadays, the 1985 production was revolutionary for being the first Broadway musical with multiple endings - decided by an audience vote.
Interestingly Rupert Holmes - known for writing and performing the Pina Colada song - wrote the book, music, lyrics, and full orchestrations for the show.
Critics adored the highly conceptual adaptation, and Drood won five Tony Awards out of eleven nominations including Best Musical.
Somewhat less long-lasting is the 2008 Broadway adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities, which only ran for 33 previews and 60 performances.
However the production was nominated for and did win a handful of awards.
Another adaptation called simply Two Cities has not been reprised since its debut in 2006 and never transferred to the West End.
Based on The Pickwick Papers, which is centred around London and Rochester, 1963's Pickwick hasn't been revived since the 1965 Broadway version two years after its Theatreland debut.
The musical is maybe best known for its breakout tune 'If I ruled the world', which has since been covered by numerous top artists including Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Jr.
Thomas Paine - Hamilton
He may not get a large mention in the smash hit musical Hamilton, but Thomas Paine is arguably one of the most influential writers of the last 350 years.
Born in Thetford in 1737, Paine apprenticed his corset-maker father until becoming a privateer.
Returning to England in 1759, he then became a master corsetmaker and opened a shop in Sandwich.
In September of that year, he married Mary Lambert but business dried up and he shut the shop.
Now having a baby on the way, the couple moved to Margate where Mary went into labour - unfortunately neither her nor the child survived the birth.
He left Kent and worked his way up the customs and excises ladder - an important and respected position in the time of the British Empire.
Meeting Benjamin Franklin through a mutual friend, the future founding father suggested emigrating to the United States.
Paine would later write a number of highly influential pamphlets, the best-known being Common Sense (1776), The American Crisis (1776) and Rights of Man (1791).
All three laid out the groundwork for the American Revolution and the early days of 'The American Experiment'.
Virtually every revolutionary - both in the United States and France - read these pamphlets, and Common Sense remains proportionally the all-time best-selling American title.
In 2002, he was voted the 34th greatest Britain in a nationwide BBC poll.
Despite the huge impact he made on the revolution, Paine's appearance in Hamilton is surprisingly short.
The only reference in the lyrics comes in The Schuyler Sisters, when Angelica raps:
'I've been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine, some men say that I'm intense or I'm insane...'
But the revolution and consequently the blockbuster musical, may not have been successful had Thomas Paine - a one-time corsetmaker in Kent - not existed.