Theatre for rising stars closes in cash crisis

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The National Youth Music Theatre, which gave actors such as Jude Law and Jonny Lee Miller their first big chance, has been forced to close because of a financial crisis.

The five full-time staff have been made redundant and workshops cancelled after the board said "drastic steps" were necessary to tackle financial difficulties which left the company in danger of trading while insolvent.

A corporate troubleshooter has been brought in to advise the NYMT, which has struggled to find sufficient funds since Andrew Lloyd Webber ended his sponsorship four years ago.

The directors issued a statement which said: "NYMT, a registered charity of some 25 years standing, has a track record of successfully mounting programmes and productions with the aim of engaging young people in musical theatre.

"The company has been unable to secure sufficient funding to maintain a planned and historical level of activities. The offices have been closed and a proposal is being constructed by the board which, it is anticipated, will offer a return to creditors."

The charity, which helps several hundred talented children a year to perform in live musical theatre performances during the holidays, has an annual budget of £600,000. It receives nothing from the Arts Council but received £55,000 in 2001-02 and £206,000 in 2002-03 from the lottery-funded National Foundation for Youth Music.

But Maggie Semple, the board chairman, said that was not enough if the NYMT was to subsidise living expenses so that no child was excluded from joining one of its residencies because of a lack of money.

Although there was no intention of winding up the company, she said it was "a really good time to pause".