The first meeting to form Ipswich Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society was called by Mr Douglas Mayhew in 1954. The following has been taken from an article written by Mr H Spruytenberg in February 1955 who, in addition to being a critic for the Evening Star, was the first President of the re-formed Ipswich Operatic & Dramatic Society. From here, history was born.
In a gentle and unobtrusive fashion history was made in Ipswich last week. When the curtain fell on the last scene of ‘A Country Girl’ in the Art Gallery, when the applause had subsided and the speeches and presentations made, it can be said that musical comedy after a lapse of many years had returned to the town!
There had been operatic societies in Ipswich in the early part of the century, Whaydos (Waterloo House Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society) being one. Strangely, the Grandfather of one of IODS’ founder members, Margaret Morphew, was an active performer with Whaydos.
Disaster struck in 1957. The Society had signed a contract to present ‘Carousel’ at the Hippodrome Theatre. However, with the death of the owner Will Hammer, the theatre closed. Lady Luck smiled on the Society because, although the theatre had been closed for several months, it was re-opened for this final performance.
David Lowe, manager of ‘The Gaumont’ (now Ipswich Regent), contacted the Society and after many discussions managed to convince IODS to take an extraordinarily brave step to present the first amateur musical ‘Bless the Bride’ at the 1,000 seat theatre in 1958. There followed a fantastic relationship between theatre manager and the Society for many years.
Interestedly performers had just five microphones along the front of the stage at the early shows at ‘The Gaumont’, which tended to magnify the sound of feet and scenery shifting in addition to voices! Radio microphones where not used until the late 80s, and then only for principal solos. ‘Ipswich Regent’ has increased its seating capacity over the years to almost double the original number.
IODS has presented most of the major Broadway and West End shows, some of them on more than one occasion. The sixties and early seventies brought great acclaim to the Society when they were chosen to perform four amateur premieres ‘West Side Story in 1963, ‘Camelot’ in 1967, ‘My Fair Lady’ in 1968 and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in 1973. What great times they were, when ‘House Full’ signs were put outside the theatre before the end of the week.
The early eighties was a difficult time for amateur operatic societies throughout the country. Massive increases in costs, coupled with a falling off of audiences, caused many Societies to flounder. IODS was no exception and for a time there was great concern about the future of a major society in the town. However, once again the members ‘came up trumps’ by instigating a sponsored fund raising event to enable the Society to present the next show. Each individual member set up their own sponsored activity, with all money gained passed to the funds.
These ranged from running jumble sales, putting on Olde Thyme Musicals, and many more, some very unusual – such as being sponsored for giving up puddings! The efforts of these members shouldn’t be forgotten – they enabled the Society to continue and grow from strength to strength.
In 1998 IODS won the coveted NODA Best Production Award in the Eastern Area for their production of ‘Crazy for You’, and again in 2001, 2003 and 2004 for ‘Sounds Familiar’, the Society’s autumn revue.
The 2002 production of ‘Evita’ was an East Anglia premiere.
IODS has had several Production Teams over the years, some involved with just one or two shows, others who have stayed with the Society for many years.
IODS has always supported local and national charities. For many years members performed at The Seven Rivers Cheshire Home, at Great Bromley and boxes at The Gaumont theatre were filled by residents of the Home at every Saturday matinee performance. Members of the cast would help them to their seats before the show and walk through the audience to greet them in costume after the performance. Concerts to raise funds for causes such as training and educating blind children in Malawi and other more local charities were (and still are) a regular item in the Society’s programme. The ‘Charity Concert’ page gives details of current endeavours.
Way back in 1966 the Society presented a ‘Midnight Showtime’ concert at The Gaumont in aid of the Aberfan Disaster Fund. A peep at the programme for the above event gives us names of people still actively involved in the amateur theatre in one capacity or another, and two who went on to make their name on television!
The amateur theatre world was going through enormous financial difficulties in the late seventies. IODS was no different. To help provide urgent funds in order to continue producing high quality shows, the Society decided to present a review at Chantry School in Ipswich, and Sounds Familiar was born!
Below is a history of our shows dating back from the 1950s. Our history has been written by one of our longest members and still active within our productions today – Sue Goodall. It has been titled “Through the Eyes of Sue Goodall”.
Director – Ivy Hulme –Welch with Choreographer – Mary Goddard, and MD – David Collins all took place at the Art Gallery, High Street, Ipswich
Director – Ivy Hulme-Welch with Choreographer – Elizabeth Clarke and MD – David Collins all this took place at the Art Gallery, High Street, Ipswich
No No Nanette
Director – Ivy Hulme –Welch with Choreographer – Elizabeth Clarke and MD – David Collins, took place at the Art Gallery, High Street, Ipswich
Director – Ivy Hulme-Welch with Choreographer – Marjorie Mutter and MD – David Collins, the Venue this time was the Hippodrome.
Bless The Bride
Director – Ivy Hulme-Welch with Choreographer – Pat Foulds and MD – David Collins, the Venue – Gaumont Theatre, Ipswich
One Wild Oat (play)
Director – Bernard Quantrill and the Venue – Art Gallery, High Street, Ipswich
Director – Ivy Hulme-Welch with Choreographer – Pat Foulds and MD – David Collins, and the Venue – Gaumont Theatre, Ipswich
Flight of Fancy
Director – Bernard Quantrill with Choreographer – Pat Foulds and MD – Michael Cornell, the Venue – Art Gallery, High Street, Ipswich
ANNIE GET YOUR GUN
This lively Western depicting the amazing exploits of Wild West star Annie Oakley was produced at the Gaumont Theatre by Ivy Hulme-Welch (otherwise affectionately known as ‘Auntie Ivy’. Choreographer was Pat Foulds with her successful specialities. The orchestra was led by MD Cyril Commins, with great music by Irving Berlin.
Presented at the Gaumont Theatre in May by the same production team. This Arabian gem with music based on themes by Borodin was an ambitious production with lavish costumes full of colour.
A difficult musical, both technically and musically enabled the large cast of principals and chorus to be stretched to their full potential.
THE DESERT SONG
Produced at the Gaumont Theatre, this was Bernard Quantrill’s first show as Director, having previously appeared on stage with the Society. Another first for Dennis Lowe as Choreographer and also Donald Carpenter as MD of the Band of the Royal Marines with wonderful melodies of Sigmund
Romberg. The staging of a production of this standard cost approximately £3,000
FLOWER DRUM SONG
From the Canadian Rockies to San Francisco’s Chinatown this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was full of colourful singing and dancing with a very large cast. With the same production team this was to be the last show for Donald Carpenter as MD of the Royal Marines as he moved from the area with the Service.
WEST SIDE STORY
Local critic Diapason wrote in the Evening Star on October 23rd 1963 – ‘Pioneer production a Triumph’. This wonderful show was an ambitious and challenging show for the Society. Directed by Bernard Quantrill, the ‘Provincial Premiere’ played to packed houses. The show opened on the Tuesday and some 9,750 people saw the show with 4, 200 programmes sold. Dennis Lowe was Choreographer (also playing the role of Riff) and the Royal Marines were directed by A.C. Finney. A really special feeling existed amongst the cast which would stay in their memories for years.
Having followed the Society for many years this was my first show on stage. After the drama of West Side Story, this lovable feel-good show played to packed houses with the ‘Full House’ sign standing outside the Gaumont Theatre . Joining Bernard Quantrill and A.C. Finney of the Royal Marines, Pat Foulds was Choreographer with her excellent skills in the dream ballet scene. The horse used duly performed one night, and brought the house down, but sadly failed to repeat his performance on following nights to the disappointment of the cast.
KISS ME KATE
This great score of Cole Porter gave the Society another change of style and had some wonderful melodies. Dennis Lowe returned as Choreographer to join the team, as well as playing one of the male leads. Sadly from an audience point of view it played to poor houses in comparison to ‘Oklahoma’. Maybe Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew had something to do with it. Nevertheless a wonderful company show.
THE STUDENT PRINCE
‘I’ll walk with God’ and ‘Drinking Song’ are just two memorable gems from this great Sigmund Romberg score. With the same production team this show was an operatic treat with fine ensemble singing. Of its time a popular show.
October 12th 1965 headlined ‘Another landmark set by South Pacific’ in the Evening Star by Critic Diapason. A very popular show that saw some of the cast visit a chilly Felixstowe beach for publicity photos. Very successful production with Keith Turton joining as MD of the Royal Marines.
Yet another Rodgers and Hammerstein blockbuster. First presented by the Society in l957 at the Ipswich Hippodrome. This production saw Yvette Graves elevated from the dancers to join the production team as Ballet Mistress, playing Louise in the Ballet. A wonderful ensemble show with many tear-jerking moments.
THE KING AND I
Staying with Rodgers and Hammerstein and the same production team, this proved to be a theatre jewel. Beautiful songs, dancing, costumes and numerous cute and talented children. It’s right when they say ‘never work with children or animals’.
This Lerner and Loewe production was the ‘Southern Amateur Premiere’ of this musical. It was very nearly the ‘National Premiere’, but two other amateur companies pipped the Society by a mere seven days. As Critic Diapason said ‘it was the most lavish and sumptuous show in the Society’s history’. With Bernard Quantrill again directing , the Choreographer was Sue Macer and for the first time a professional Capriol Orchestra of London under the direction of Roy Budden. The cast took a trip to Orford Castle for publicity photos and with original costumes from Drury Lane, this truly was a spectacular show. The Souvenir Programme was One Shilling.
GUYS AND DOLLS
Damon Runyon‘s story of gambling, gangsters and dolls was a world away from King Arthur. This fast moving sleazy world mixing with the Salvation Army contained showstoppers such as ‘ Luck be a Lady’ and ‘Sit down you’re rockin the boat’ , to name but two. Joining Bernard Quantrill and Roy Budden on the production team was Christine Clarke as Choreographer. Sadly, as with ‘Camelot’ the show financially was not a success and with losses made, Peter Carley, Chairman, said it was vital to make sure the next production was a success for the continuous existence of the Society.
MY FAIR LADY
This was an amateur premiere for the Society shared with two other companies. A great boost for the Society to be granted permission with some 200 applications to NODA wanting to stage the show. What a show! Bookings went well and ‘House Full’ signs were on show again. One of the highlights was the Ascot Gavotte scene dressed entirely in black and white, which earned great applause from the audience each night when the curtain opened. Another great production by Bernard Quantrill and the Capriol Orchestra. It attracted a record attendance of 10,250 and earned a record gross income of £4,250. It cost a record breaking £3,750 to produce.
THE NEW MOON
A nice change to Sigmund Romberg’s show full of melody and colour. This show had a revolutionary flavour with lots of tough guys involved in brawls alternating with dances by pretty girls. Bernard Quantrill and Roy Budden were joined by Carole Wilden as Choreographer. Stephen Ball, the Society’s Business Manager, told the Evening Star that the Society expected to lose about £300. This, he said, was caused by two main factors, one being rising costs and the other being no increase in ticket prices.
THE MERRY WIDOW
This classic show with the music of Franz Lehar contains eight-part harmony and truly was an ensemble gem. In hi s very detailed critique Diapason praised Bernardo’s production pointing out that many amateur companies were reluctant to embark on a show that contains such good singing and acting. With Carole Wilden and Roy Budden on board the production team, this was a glamorous and successful show. The souvenir programme went up to one shilling and sixpence.
Based on Thornton Wilder’s famous play ‘The Matchmaker’ this is the story of Dolly Levi’s efforts to arrange a marriage for Horace Vandergelder. Margaret Leeke joined Bernardo Quantrill and Roy Budden as Choreographic Assistant as well as playing the part of Minnie Fay. The cast took a trip to Ipswich Station for publicity photos as well as visiting The Crown and Anchor Hotel with Dolly and the waiters.
Second time round for this Arabian gem. Last produced in 1961. This production cost £4,000 and Lesley Jones, Miss Anglia TV, paid a visit to rehearsals to promote the show. The production team of Bernardo Quantrill and Roy Budden was joined once again by Carole Wilden as choreographer. With an orchestra of over 20, including a harp, the cast and production team numbered over 80.
This show is a dancer’s paradise. With music by Cy Coleman and book by Neil Simon it has 11 dance routines. Each one took choreographer Carole Wilden a fortnight to create. Such wonderful numbers such as ‘Big Spender’, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ and the show-stopper ‘Rhythm of Life’. It was a long hot summer of rehearsals and knee pads were a must. It was exhilarating to say the least. With seats at 35p-75p and a box costing £3, the Society offered 2 seats for the price of one on the Monday night.
SONG OF NORWAY
Edvard Grieg, the Norwegian composer, is the subject of this enchanting musical. With the same production team in place and a large cast, there was Corps de Ballet, trolls and an abundance of wonderful ensemble singing. Special mention to pianist John Butler for his great contribution instrumentally with some fine solo playing, particularly in the finale, based on Grieg’s piano concerto.
SOUND OF MUSIC
Back to Rogers and Hammerstein for this family favourite. The show ran in October and back in June a staggering 114 youngsters auditioned for the seven Von Trapp children. The understudies performed in the Saturday matinee. Bernardo Quantrill’s production set a new attendance record. Over 11,000 people saw the show putting the Society in a very healthy financial position at this time.
CAVALCADE OF MUSIC
Performed at The Town Hall, Ipswich on the 25th October 1972 this concert was for the 1972 Season of Music and the Arts. Devised and presented by Dennis Pennock and assisted by Bernardo Quantrill, the Master of Ceremonies was Barry Marshall. A programme of song and dance. A cheque for £50 was presented to the Ipswich Society for Mentally Handicapped Children.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Playing to almost full houses each night this show was not only a success in audience attendance but for the wonderful feeling of camaraderie for the cast. A story of tradition fast becoming eroded by new ideas and values leading to the Russian Revolution. Great music with ‘If I were a Rich Man’ leading the way. Bernardo Quantrill’s sensitive handling of the production was a great success.
HALF A SIXPENCE
Based on the novel ‘Kipps’ by H G Wells, this production gave some of the younger members of the Society their chance to shine. This was a completely light frothy piece and Carole Wilden as choreographer produced some dynamic dance routines. Great stamina required by Kipps who is barely off the stage. The Society was now proving to be fully competent of performing a wide range of shows for audience appeal.
With music by Johann Strauss ‘Pink Champagne’ is adapted from ‘Die Fledermaus’. Some imaginative touches to the production by Carole Wilden, choreographer, with her impressive Corps de Ballet who appear in one scene, after heavily drinking, as pink elephants in tutus and white mice with pink ears and long tails. Great principal and ensemble singing left the audience humming down the street.
One of the most popular Westerns and everyone loves Doris Day. Good family entertainment full of cowpunchers, bullwhackers, trappers, Indians, saloon girls and soldiers. The cast took a trip to the Running Buck in Ipswich, ideally suited for publicity photos. ‘The Deadwood Stage’, ‘Windy City’ and ‘My Secret Love’ are just some of the great numbers from this show. Bernardo Quantrill directed along with Carole Wilden, choreographer and Roy Budden MD.
The 21st Anniversary of the Society and the second time for ‘South Pacific’. Bernardo Quantrill had great success with the 1965 production and along with several others of the original cast again delivered a success. In celebration of the 21st year the Society announced that this year it was seeking the key to its own door and set up a building fund for new premises. Just how fantastic would that be! Alongside Bernardo again this year was Carole Wilden and Roy Budden.
This Latin American musical was written with amateurs in mind and contained 13 principal parts and plenty of chorus work. For the Society it brought out new talent in the Company and for the audience hits such as ‘Mexican Hat Dance’ and ‘La Cucaracha’. Continuing with the same production team, Carole Wilden arranged the speciality dances.
THE DESERT SONG
The second time of this production by the Society and the greatest scene stealer of all was Worthington, an endearing donkey, whose brief appearance added a touch of magic. This was the 27th production for Bernardo Quantrill and along with Carole Wilden and Roy Budden ‘was a triumph’ according to the Evening Star.
A review written and directed by Bernardo Quantrill which ran for 2 nights at Ipswich Corn Exchange. This was a light hearted collection of sketches, dance and song. Music was supplied by John Butler on piano, George Sirett on organ and Lionel Ford, percussion.
MY FAIR LADY
Some 9 years since the first production this show cost in the region of £5,000. With TV stepping up an alternative form of entertainment all amateur theatre groups were suffering. This show saw the departure of a professional orchestra and welcomed Bernard Reader, a well known Suffolk musician and conductor, as MD using a locally formed 23 piece orchestra. Head of music at the Civic College, Bernard felt local musicians being available for more rehearsals was a great advantage.
After only one production last year the Society was adventurous in selecting this show as Ipswich was in fact only the second amateur society in the country to stage this delightful musical play. An attractive visual piece capturing the atmosphere of Paris at the turn of the century. Souvenir programmes now selling for twenty pence.
THE VAGABOND KING
Chosen by the Society for its 25th Anniversary so that as many members of the Society could be involved. The cast numbered 70. This was Bernardo Quantrill’s 30th production and he had the strong support of Bernard Reader and a large orchestra and Carole Wilden as choreographer. An abundance of rousing chorus numbers with romantic and stirring music by Rudolf Friml. An extravagant production and with rising costs and a very bad week for weather, this show did not go down well and lost a lot of money.
This was a new venture for the Society to raise funds and keep one major production a year at the Gaumont. Compiled by John White with musical arrangements directed by Bernard Reader, it was produced and costumed by Pam White. It took place at Chantry School, Ipswich with tickets at 90p and 50p. On a low budget this revue enabled more members to have the chance to step forward and develop skills and experiences. It was also taken to Wickham Market and Saxmundham.
Chosen to hopefully fill the Gaumont and give talented children in the area the chance to shine. The cast numbered 85 with tickets at £2, £1.80 and £1.50. This was Bernardo Quantrill’s last production with the Society having decided to retire after 20 years due to his work commitments as House Manager at the Corn Exchange. He was presented with a silver plated engraved tray on stage after the Saturday night performance.
After last year’s successful Sounds Familiar, this was more of the same but this year for 2 nights at Westbourne School, Ipswich and later in the year at Martlesham Post Office Telecommunications Centre Theatre. Continuing to be popular.
Second time round for this popular Western last produced in 1964. A new director on board, Allan Austin, drama advisor to schools in Ipswich with Pat Foulds as choreographer with her special skills for ballet. Bernard Reader directed a superb 13 piece orchestra. David Lowe, Manager of the Gaumont reported in local press that he was more hopeful of increasing live entertainment in the town but financial help to improve stage and dressing room facilities was needed.
ANNIE GET YOUR GUN
Another repeat for the Society last produced in 1960 and this time Martin Dye joined the production team as director. The Society still not in the best of financial health with rising costs. Tickets now at £3.00, £2.50 and £2.00 and souvenir programmes up to 30p.
In response to popular demand this took place for 2 nights at Westbourne High School followed by 1 night at Copleston High School. A great way to raise funds at this crucial time along with members setting up their own sponsored activity ranging from ‘giving up puddings’, putting on Olde Thyme Music Halls and running jumble sales. The efforts of these members should never be forgotten because they enabled the Society to continue and grow from strength to strength.
HALF A SIXPENCE
As a result of all the efforts made by members this show was able to take place at the Gaumont Theatre. Joining Bernard Reader this time on the production team was Ken Smith, having been involved with many shows in Colchester and Clacton along with Doreen Matthews, also from Colchester as choreographer adding her slick and colourful dance routines. A letter from Tommy Stele wishing the cast a wonderful success appeared in the programme and having been make or break time the good news was ‘see you next year!’.
The opening involved ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ and with the show now running 4 nights at Westbourne High School it seemed to epitomize the feeling that we were ‘on the up’. Compiled and directed by John and Pam White the show was going from strength to strength.
Last performed in 1957 and 1966 the current production team injected all the colour, immaculate chorus singing and imaginative dance routines needed in this wonderful melodic show with a plot nevertheless a little light on laughs. The press revues were good and the audience left humming down the street.
By now a great favourite with the audiences. This year saw two nights at Westbourne School followed by 2 nights at Northgate High School. Rehearsals through the summer produced sparkling selections from Cole Porter, Simon and Garfunkel, Camelot, Kismet and Rose Marie. Something for everyone.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
How costs have risen since our last production in 1973. Now with the biggest budget ever of £10,000.00, ticket prices up to £4.00, £3.50 and £3.00. As well as directing the company, Ken Smith took on the task of playing leading man Tevye. Evening Star headlines ‘Magnificent singing, remarkable dancing’. A great ensemble success.
Getting bigger and more ambitious all the time, this year saw a move to the Corn Exchange for 2 nights including a matinee on the Saturday. Ticket prices £2.50 and £1.50. Included in the programme ‘42nd Street, ‘Showboat’, ‘Snoopy’, ‘Chicago’ and the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
THE MUSIC MAN
Having staged most of the popular shows more than once this was a welcome first for the Society. Written by Meredith Wilson it is most famous for ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ and tells the story of Harold Hill, a travelling salesman out to con the folk of River City. A happy colourful feel-good show but in the present climate still very difficult to fill the Gaumont Theatre and break even.
This year’s show was produced by Mary Meredith and took place at Northgate High School. Bernard Reader beautifully arranged a selection of Carpenters songs and he was also MC. Critic Carol Carver wrote in the paper about the value for money, a show full of good and glamorous selections.
Last staged in 1970. This time tinged with some sadness as Chairman Peter Taylor wrote in the programme that this could well be the last show we stage at the Gaumont due to decisions made by the Rank Organisation. He stressed we would be putting every effort into saving the Theatre for live entertainment. The Society and thousands of other Suffolk people set out to fight the decision.
A move this year to the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe for 2 nights, and hoping our supporters would make the trip to the seaside. With no available venues in Ipswich, this was certainly a step-up in terms of facilities. A production team this year consisted of Pam White, Mary Meredith and Margaret Mudd. The cast rose to the occasion.
KISS ME KATE
Our first major show at The Corn Exchange and whilst sad to leave the Gaumont we looked forward to the challenge of the future. Last staged in 1964 this production saw 2 new members to the production team, Pat Taplin as director and David Cawdell as MD, both with considerable experience. Pat’s artist daughter Helen designed built and painted the scenery in a barn in Trimley. The stage at the Corn Exchange without a proscenium arch is not ideal for musicals.
Running for 3 nights this year at the Spa Pavilion. Directed by Mary Meredith with choreography by Margaret Mudd, we welcomed Alan Humphrey as MD leading a 5 piece band. Alan was well known to us as a string player in the orchestra. Getting more polished as each year passes this is a firm favourite with the membership of the Society.
HELLA TOROS – CORN EXCHANGE – OCTOBER 29TH
This was a show featuring the words and music of Jerome Kern and featured the singers of the professional Hella Toras Company. We were honoured to be asked to form the singing ensemble and rehearsed with the music before the show with Alan Humphrey. After an afternoon of rehearsal with the professional MD we had very successful evening and truly rose to the occasion.
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
Our second major show at the Corn Exchange directed by Pat Taplin, choreographed by Doreen Matthews and on board the team Alan Humphrey as MD. With 14 principal parts this was a great show for the younger members of the Society who visited Sproughton House Stables for publicity photos. A truly colourful and fun show for all the family. A cheque for £500.00 was presented to the Cystic Fibrosis Children’s Dream Holiday Fund.
By now well established at the Spa Pavilion, this year included the music of Jerry Herman, Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” and Bernard Reader’s arrangement of Barry Manilow’s music for the Stand and Sing item, by now a firm favourite with the audience. The company staged a 12 hour rehearsed marathon on a Sunday to raise more money for the Cystic Fibrosis Disney World fund. Members arranged their own personal sponsorship forms.
Another venue move and this time to the Wolsey Theatre, where we were made to feel welcome by all concerned. The set was built by our willing team in the Wolsey Theatre workshop and then transported to a barn for painting and finishing. Keeping the continuity of our Production Team, Carol Carver, a critic for the Evening Star wrote ‘This is the first time the Society has been able to perform in the Wolsey Theatre and they have shown themselves a credit to the professionals’. The show was virtually a sell-out.
CURTAIN UP – JULY 14TH
A revue at the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe provided by all the groups who regularly perform there. The Society performed a great selection from’Les Miserables’ arranged by Bernard Reader. All proceeds went to refurbish the Spa.
This year’s selections included ‘Chorus Line’, ‘Carousel’,’ Barnum’ and an Abba stand and sing. Now attracting coach loads, tickets rose to £4.00 and £3.50.
WEST SIDE STORY
A second time for this wonderful show with probably one of the most difficult scores. Sets for the Wolsey Theatre built again by our talented crew. House Full notices were put out. The society was very grateful to be performing on the prestigious professional stage but the downsize limited numbers. Despite being a brilliant success, money was lost and the deficit hopefully would be made up by ‘Sounds Familiar’.
CURTAIN UP – JULY 13TH
A repeat of last year’s revue with Spa Users raising money for refurbishment. This year we performed our stand and sing ‘Abba’ selection.
This year for the first time the programme included a Gilbert and Sullivan item and members of the cast took to Felixstowe beach in their ‘Pirates of Penzance’ costumes for publicity photos. Other favourites this year were ‘Miss Saigon’,’ Grease’, Elton John and a finale of Hollywood Movies.
The Society returned to their old ‘home’ in the recently re-opened Regent Theatre. Now run by Ipswich Borough Council and revamped as a regional live entertainment venue. Our Society had fought hard along with the Co-op Juniors and many others to keep it from being closed. ‘Blitz’, a story of Eastenders during the Second World War was written by Lionel Bart and has a large cast including children. David Lowe, former Gaumont Manager, came out of retirement to become House Manager and was a welcome familiar face. Some of the cast took a trip to Colchester Garrison’s Cavalry Barracks to be drilled by a Sergeant Major who didn’t hold back when he bawled at the cast in his best parade ground manner. Highly amusing. A stunning wartime show with BIG scenery. The technical crew must have wondered if they had bitten off more than they could chew with a very very late technical rehearsal and dress rehearsal, but all came good in the end.
CURTAIN UP – 28TH JUNE
Two performances this year at 2.30 and 7.30pm. This fund raising showcase of local talent proving to be very popular and the contribution from us was the very popular ‘Miss Saigon’ selection.
13 – Unlucky for some but despite a badly broken leg John White was wheeled on stage by a variety of in-house ‘nurses’ to compere the show in his usual relaxed way. An extra night was put in this year to accommodate our audiences. Selections this time round included ‘42nd Street’, ‘Children of Eden’, ‘Snoopy’, James Bond and a stand and sing of ‘Queen’ arranged by Bernard Reader and always a highlight of the show.
GUYS AND DOLLS
Last performed in 1968 at the Gaumont, this year the Society decided to take the show to the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, our usual home for Sounds Familiar. Still a very uneasy time in terms of venue for the Committee to decide with size, rising costs and the need to prolong the life of the Society. The strong production team of Pat Taplin, Doreen Matthews and Alan Humphrey continue to produce the most polished shows at whatever venue.
CURTAIN UP – 25TH JULY
Continuing to raise funds the Society decided to perform their James Bond selection. New stage curtains had already been purchased and the suggestion for this year’s money was new radio microphone equipment.
Directed and choreographed by Margaret Mud assisted by Stephanie Malton and Mary Meredith. The show included ‘HMS Pinafore’, ‘South Pacific’, ‘Sondheim’ selection and the music of Neil Diamond for the stand and sing. Carol Carver wrote “The voices over the years have got stronger, fuller, rounder, and the sounds this Society make are now better than ever. A collection of £793 made went to Save the Children Fund. Sold out this year.
Back to the Wolsey Theatre for this happy musical, bubbling with fun and a lot of good songs. Not a well known musical it was written by the team who gave us ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and is based on the Al Capp Strip cartoon and the lovely folks of Dogpatch, USA. With an imaginative set built by Richard Rumbellow, joining the cast were some gorgeous, muscular, bronzed and fit body-building fellers! With numerous companies now producing shows it was becoming very difficult to make a choice but this show was a very happy and successful one performed in heat wave weather. Those dressing rooms certainly were hot!!
Each year it gets bigger and more ambitious and more names now added to the Production Team to spread the load. Always popular the whacky policemen entertained with Pirates of Penzance alongside memorable selections from’ Carmen’ and’ Sunset Boulevard’.
CELEBRATION CONCERT – 40TH ANNIVERSARY
“A truly fabulous fortieth celebration” was Carol Carver’s headline in the Evening Star. Taking place in the Grand Hall, Corn Exchange and presented in association with BBC Radio Suffolk, it was compered by David Webb. David was associated with the Society in the 60’s appearing on stage before he went professional with his twin brother, so it was very fitting for us to have him head up our special evening. Joining us were Margaret Morphew and Dennis Pennock, still singing solos and they were presented with a gift of silver to mark their long association with the Society. A packed Corn Exchange audience enjoyed a feast of music. BBC Radio Suffolk recorded the evening and the concert subsequently went out over one or two Sundays during the Easter period. Here’s to the next 40 years!!.
A CHORUS LINE
The celebrations continue with the East Anglian Premiere of this show, and joining our long serving production team were Kerry Walker and David Hockley as assistant choreographers. This show is one of the most difficult the Society has tackled with a tight cast required to be multitalented in singing, acting and dancing, but with the talent around it was not hard to cast. It was a stunning show well suited to the Wolsey Theatre and a triumphant success in our 40th year.
The 16th edition of this revue in our 40th year and following the show at the Spa the company visited the Park Pavilion, Dovercourt and the Riverside Theatre, Woodbridge. On offer this year Fred and Ginger, Rolf Harris, The Desert Song, Copacabana and the music of Stevie Wonder.
HALF A SIXPENCE
Chosen for the third time by the Society this production at the Wolsey Theatre proved to be a great success and was almost totally sold out. The show worked well at the Wolsey not only for the new look our production team brought to the show but also for the talent we are fortunate to have in the Society.
ORCHESTRELLE – CHRISTCHURCH PARK
On Saturday 8th June as part of ‘Sounds of Suffolk’ about 30 members of the society joined other local musicians and singers in performing on the large domed stage in the first part of the show an hour before the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This was a grand evening which ended in a spectacular Fireworks Display
Directed by Margaret Mudd and assisted by six others this year. Carol Carver wrote ‘For colour and wit there is The Mikado, for beat a Motown selection, for rousing sparkle Strike Up The Band, for hilarity the Jailhouse Policemen and for brilliance and originality T.S. Eliot’s’ Cats’. Now that’s entertainment!
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
Only recently having been released for amateurs we were very proud to be performing one of the greatest of all musicals at the Wolsey Theatre. It tells the story of a major film studio Monumental Pictures’ struggle to turn its latest film ‘The Duelling Cavalier’ into an all-talking and singing musical. With filming on location in Christchurch Mansion and Ipswich Town Hall this show emphasizes the number of unsung heroes working backstage. The crew had their work cut out getting the rain effect onstage and working. News appeared in the programme about the Junior Group recently set up for two groups, one for 7-11 year olds and the second for 12-16 year olds. A new venture to encourage youngsters, with the aim of taking part in the main productions in the future.
A deviation from Sounds Familiar this year, this was a more static form of production. Having performed a major show in midsummer, the rehearsal time was cut short for October. This show concentrated very much on ensemble singing. It was the perfect opportunity to showcase our vocal talent and had been requested by many following our successful Celebration Concert in 1995. With just a few changes of costume we had Bernard Reader’s arrangements of The Beach Boys, Bohemian Rhapsody, Neil Diamond and A Selection for Square Eyes arranged by Andrew Burke. We ended with ‘Martin Guerre’ and the lovely number ‘Bethlehem’.
CRAZY FOR YOU
How proud we were to be given the East Anglian Amateur Premiere of this show and to be back home at the Regent Theatre for this large scale magical Gershwin piece. We had a pit choir of 7 to help with the vocals alongside a 14 piece orchestra certainly at their peak. Alan Humphrey decided to repeat the Overture at the end of the show and most of the audience just stayed in their seats to listen to it. David Henshall wrote in the East Anglian Daily Times “What a cracker, Ipswich Operatic have surpassed themselves and there can be few amateur companies who could better this absolute fizzer of a show”. The show won Best Show in the Region awarded by NODA, whose region extends from the Thames to the Humber. Sadly, after 11 years of directing, Pat Taplin decided it was time to hand over the reins. She bowed out on a memorable triumph.
A return to Sounds Familiar again this year and welcoming David Bolton as MD. Such a successful formula this year proved once again nothing is taken for granted. The programme included Blues Brothers, Al Jolson, Porgy and Bess and a stand and sing of Mamas & Papas. A cheque for £804, raised from our raffle, was presented to the Children’s Ward, Ipswich Hospital.
Continuing at the Regent Theatre and hoping ‘We’re in the Money’ with this tap dancing gem of a show. We welcomed Steve Wooldridge as Director, joining Doreen Matthews, choreographer and Alan Humphrey, MD. The show also welcomed several new faces from ‘First Stage’, our new Youth Group, and it was pleasing to see them ‘graduate’ to the main company. Tickets now cost £7.50 to £9.00. Bill Thorne was on hand in his front of house role, dressed as a commissionaire, meeting and greeting the audiences. This show was another financial success.
David Bolton again joined our production team of Margaret Mudd, Mary Meredith, Stephanie Malton and David Hockley. David Henshall wrote “This show simply oozes class. The group’s annual review of song, dance and comedy is always goods but this one is exceptional!” With Noel Coward, the Vaults of Heaven, Five Guys Named Mo and Sinatra, this was yet another boost for the funds.
CELEBRATION 2000 – A CONCERT FOR THE MILLENNIUM
On the 28th and 29th January in the Grand Hall of the Corn Exchange. Our Compere for the Millennium Celebration was again David Webb, BBC Radio Suffolk (probably best known as one of the Webb twins who appeared for eight years in the BBC TV series ‘Hi De Hi’). With a century that had begun with music hall, the evening progressed through jazz, swing, blues, wartime, jollity, romantic ballads, rock and wonderful challenging musicals. The concert was compiled by Alan Humphrey, John White and Mary Meredith and Alan lead a five piece band. A truly musical feast. A donation of £1,000 was made to Hospice 2000.
Another celebration on the 5th March at the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, along with other local companies. The Society’s contribution was a selection from ‘Les Mis’.
MACK AND MABEL
With the Millennium Theme all around, the Society was thrilled to be awarded the East Anglian Premiere of this lovely Jerry Herman show. With Steve Wooldridge directing again the show was enhanced by the funny fast black and white film created by Mike Kwasniak. Another boost to the chorus work was a pit choir of 8, with super songs from probably one of the best scores in the business. As David Henshall wrote in his review in the East Anglian Daily Times “Mack is big on style”.
Ending a very busy year with the annual trip to the Spa Pavilion. With a very wide mix of styles this year it included the Nuns, American Civil War, Sondheim, Man of La Mancha and Queen.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
Performed at Henley Community Centre on Saturday 17th March and Sunday 18th March. Produced by Mary Meredith and Judy Wadman it was hosted by Simon Bowen. Parents and Grandparents flocked to see our youngsters strut their stuff and the weekend was a great success.
After a summer of workshops in the absence of a major show in the Spring, it was back to the Spa for our 21st production of Sounds Familiar. 21 years of glamour in song and dance but this year with John White sadly unwell. Compere for the show was Alan Humphrey with David Bolton as MD. A favourite this year was the Irish selection of dancing and singing and also the melody of Simon and Garfunkel as the stand and sing. We won the prestigious NODA Eastern Area Award for Best Production.
How excited we were to be given the East Anglian Premiere. Only 15 groups nationally were given the rights to perform this wonderful Lloyd Webber/ Rice show. Our established production team of Pat Taplin, Doreen Matthews and Alan Humphrey worked timelessly to perfect all involved and the children in the show were all from our youth group Fist Stage. In excess of 8,000 people attended the show. Rave revues and such a tight cast this really was ‘Oh what a circus, oh what a show’. In the audience on the final Saturday night was a very special person. Gravely ill Bernardo Quantrill, with permission from the hospital was brought to the Theatre to see Stephanie Malton play Evita. It was his final wish. Sadly he died a week later and will be remembered for his wonderful enthusiasm and creative ability. Bernardo really was a true friend to everyone. He would have been so proud to know that we won the NODA Eastern Area Best Production Award.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
Moving to July this year at Henley Community Centre, Martyn Wilding joined Mary and Judy on the production team. Another successful 2 shows with our youngsters continuing to gain confidence and experience.
Another major show at the Regent Theatre in place of our usual trip to Felixstowe with Sounds Familiar. With fabulous music by Barry Manilow the Society welcomed a professional director/choreographer, Jeremy Tustin. This was a terrific experience for the cast to work with a professional. Alongside stunning costumes and dance routines there was music and passion in abundance.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Yet another wonderful Lloyd Webber/Rice production and another amateur premiere, with professional Jeremy Tustin directing again. In his absence it was Simon Bowen and David Hockley he relied upon to rehearse the scenes into shape. A very powerful show and difficult technically, handled expertly by our very experienced backstage crew. The show was attended by an overall audience in excess of 6,400 and was a total triumph for the Society. A collection for Genesis during the run raised £560.96.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
Another successful 2 performances in July at Henley Community Centre. Wendy Gosling joined the production team and it was an even more ambitious programme this year, thanks to the dedication of the team throughout the year.
After a break of one year it was back to the Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe. We welcomed Mike Wren as MD and Phil Cory and Mike Henderson as hosts for the show. At the dress rehearsal a flight of steps holding about 35 people suddenly collapsed whilst the cast were posing for a formal company photo. It was a bit of a shock with people crashing into a heap on top of each other but apart from bruising thankfully no-one was seriously hurt and as they say “the show must go on”. It made news in the Evening Star. High spots this year were Dixie songs, James Bond Themes, Music Hall and the Bee Gees. We won the NODA Eastern Area Award again for Best Production.
WEST SIDE STORY
It’s in everyone’s list of the five best shows and for many it’s simply the tops. A third time for the Society and joining Alan Humphrey as MD were James Hayward as director and David Hockley as choreographer. Under the baton of Alan, a top flight orchestra of 21 musicians, one of the largest orchestras for us in the Regent Theatre. David Henshall’s revue in the East Anglian Daily Times read ‘Dancing left the audience breathless’. A pit choir of 10 added to the quality of sound. With ticket process by now up to £12 and £10 the show was a tremendous success in every way with 5559 people attending.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
Yet again a tremendous success for the youngsters who now so look forward to their 2 days at Henley in July of each year. They continue to blossom in their show which contains song, dance and comedy routines. This year contained Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’.
The formula doesn’t change much, it just gets better. We all feel at home at the Spa. With Simon Bowen heading the production team this annual revue has now been going for 23 years. Phil Cory and Mike Henderson cemented the show together. A Yuletide finale this year included White Christmas, complete with falling snow. Unfortunately the show failed to attract capacity audiences throughout its run. Is this the sign of the times with perhaps so much choice now available? However, we won the NODA Eastern Area Award for Best Production.
A great show for our Golden Jubilee Year with the sensational music of Cole Porter. Our very talented production team of James Hayward, David Hockley and Mike Wren put together a colourful feast of song, stunning dances and a shipload of fun .Auditions were held this time for a pooch, and an eight year old long-haired Chihuahua from Kesgrave called Jasper duly won the hearts of the panel. He took to the stage like a duck to water and was very cute. Ticket prices were now up to £12.50 and £11 certainly reflecting the last 50 years. Our history is littered with memories of talented people past and present who have made the Society the success it is today. The show was awarded NODA Best Performance.
SOUNDS OF CELEBRATION
A special Charity Concert to mark our 50th year took place at St Mary-Le-Tower Church in Ipswich on Saturday 11th June. Tickets for £7 included cheese and wine. The concert featured long standing members as well as the younger contingent.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
How quickly a year comes round and this year the show was produced by Lesley Rawlinson with assisted helpers. Simon Bowen continues to host and it gets bigger and better each year.
The 24th Sounds Familiar and in our celebration year our Host is James Hayward. Simon Bowen heading the production team along with Mike Wren, Mary Meredith, Margaret Mudd and David Hockley. Together they pulled out all the stops this year to produce a musical extravaganza. It would be amiss to ignore the sterling work of Andrew Burke who transforms the splintered ideas into seamless musical selections. One of the highlights of this year was the beautiful haunting music of the Irish selection along with the stunning dancing. David Henshall wrote in the East Anglian Daily Times ‘An orgy of stunning song and dance splashed with exotically colourful costumes. The show featured music from 48 of the Society’s productions.
The year started off with the sad passing in January of John White. After more than 30 years with the Society John, also a long time Treasurer, will be most remembered for “Sounds Familiar” which was his ‘baby’ and his knowledge of music was second to none.
This show gave everyone such a buzz. A little part of London was brought to the Cornhill when a famous London Bus parked in the town for promotion photos. Directing this bright and breezy showcase this year was Simon Bowen with David Hockley choreographer and Mike Wren MD. Originally made famous by Cliff Richard the youngsters shone. The show is pure theatrical escapism and the audience left the theatre with the feel-good factor.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
Yet again another successful 2 shows at Henley and all the hard work throughout the year pays off. How lovely to see the youngsters progress through the ranks and make the ‘Big’ show as was the case with Summer Holiday.
GOTTA SING, GOTTA DANCE
Ringing the changes this year with a new style production. Written especially for the Society by James Hayward assisted by Lynne Mortimer, it told the story of a failed theatrical star in her twilight years. James directed the cast along with Margaret Mudd as choreographer. Alan Humphrey returned as MD. Andrew Burke enhanced with his musical arrangements. There were songs from six decades and some skits on favourite entertainment personalities.
TITANIC THE MUSICAL
It opened on Broadway in 1997 and was a smash hit. It won five Tony Awards. Tackling one of the most tragic disasters in history doesn’t seem the obvious choice for an amateur theatre company. The story of people’s hopes and dreams through the classes is told within a magnificent score and you could hear the swell of the ocean as the orchestra played. Our director James Hayward did momentous research and with the whole cast playing real people the feeling was incredibly intense. Even our President Graeme Kalbraier was on stage for this one (First Class of course). With David Hockley’s creative choreography and Alan Humphrey bringing out the best of a particularly evocative and emotional score there were tears as the audience left the Regent Theatre. Some 4,000 people saw the show. Tickets by now up to £14.00 and £12.00 and programmes £2.00. Yes, the show lost money but from a Theatrical point of view the show was an absolute gem. The Society should be proud of its diversity.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
Yes it’s July again and great excitement at Henley Community Centre. Simon again hosts and interacts with the youngsters and after months of rehearsal another polished production comes to fruition.
THE FULL MONTY
How diverse can we get. This October we had a change from our usual routine of variety with a book show to hopefully boost the funds. With Simon Bowen on board as Director along with Mike Wren as MD we welcomed Alan Flay in the role of choreographer. Anticipation was high when the audience arrived at the Spa, Felixstowe and they weren’t disappointed. The show is entertaining, funny and moving and although set in America as opposed to Sheffield it remains a night of exuberant fun. Hats off to those who bared all, the show was a great success and the hen parties were out in abundance.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
Last presented at the Wolsey Theatre in 1997, this time at the Regent Theatre. David Hockley back as choreographer again to join Simon Bowen and Mike Wren and the show had all of the Gene Kelly magic and golden glamour. Simon played Don Lockwood in the 1997 production and his experience of what was required ticked all the boxes. Not an easy show with all the silent filming needed and attention to detail was paramount. The audience waited patiently for the tap dancing rain scene and were not disappointed. Credit to the backstage crew who handled the large ‘truck’ with confidence and yes with fingers crossed, it did rain every night!!
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
The annual concert at Henley comes round again and would not be possible without the dedication of those behind the scenes who add their contribution to making it happen. Lighting, sound, props, costumes, chaperones etc. who work tirelessly. A lovely show compered as usual by Simon Bowen.
After two years away we return to the Spa for our 25th Edition with Simon Bowen heading the production team. Our host for this year was Dean Wales. Dean is well known to Felixstowe audiences as an accomplished performer himself. Highlights of the evening were the music of Cole Porter – our tribute to John White, last night at the Proms and a Sinatra selection, not to mention the finale of ‘We Will Rock You’. The show won NODA Best Musical of 2008 in the district category and was also named Best Production in the district, putting the Society in contention for NODA’S Smart Cup – the regional award for best production.
Enthusiasm ran high for this East Anglian Premiere by Mel Brooks at the Regent Theatre with show business, gays, Nazis, ridiculous accents and sex-starved little old ladies. James Hayward directed this highly popular, albeit somewhat controversial, show which won 12 Tony Awards, assisted by David Hockley, choreographer and Mike Wren, MD. A trip to Hotel Elizabeth, Felixstowe for publicity photos was made and the highlight of the rehearsal period was the visit of John Barrowman, who had appeared in the London production, and duly asked us to sing ‘Springtime for Hitler’. This visit was to surprise Sam Horsfield for his television show ‘Tonight’s the Night’, and it truly was a memorable night. John was very friendly and we have many photos with him to look back on. The show with a strong cast was stunning but sadly the theatre was nowhere near full. The Felixstowe review’s last paragraph read “Snatch the opportunity to see a top line show in a very professional venue by a company whose only connection with the word amateur is the fact that none of them get paid for it”. With tickets up to £16.00 and £14.00 this year perhaps it was not to the taste of all our audience or were they all on holiday as we were late this year and performed in June. The show won a prestigious NODA Best Production Award.
THE SPA PAVILION 1909 – 2009 VARIETY SHOW
The100th Birthday of the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe and local companies took part in this variety show held on 27th June. After ‘The Producers’ such a short rehearsal time, but a few members took part and our selection was ‘Musicals of the New Millennium’. A lovely ensemble evening culminating in a finale with the whole cast singing ‘Bring on Tomorrow’ from ‘Fame’ under the direction of Richard Healey MD and Suzie Lowe, choreographer.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
What a busy schedule and back out to Henley Community Centre for the annual concert by the Youth Group. Always full for both performances the youngsters certainly know how to entertain their extended families.
Back to the Spa again to present our 30th Anniversary Edition with Dean Wales as host. Heading the production team this year was Stephanie Brown. A production close to her heart since Mum & Dad, Pam & John White first conceived the idea of putting on a revue style show back in 1979. Highlights this year were ‘Wicked’ The Roaring Twenties, Second World War (always popular with our audience), the IODS constabulary still going strong and a fabulous finale of ‘Can’t stop the beat’ from ‘Hairspray’.
CHILDREN IN NEED CAROL CONCERT
Presented by BBC Radio Suffolk at Snape Maltings Concert Hall on Saturday 5th December. The Society was invited, along with other local organisations, to be part of this concert which was recorded and highlights were broadcast on Christmas Day. For our contribution we sang ‘Stille Nacht’ , Our Christmas Selection and ‘Bethlehem’ from’ Martin Guerre’. A wonderful venue in which to perform and enjoy singing carols and it was the end to an extremely busy and fulfilling year.
THE FULL MONTY
The show returned by popular demand and this time at the Regent Theatre. After financially suffering with ‘The Producers’ it was felt that we could repeat this popular show at a bigger theatre. With Simon Bowen returning as director and Mike Wren as MD we welcomed Laura Dickons as choreographer, having been involved with the Society since 1997 and now running her own Theatre School in the town. Some new faces this year in the brave men’s line up, and all concerned enjoyed having a second bite at the cherry. Audience wise, well, you can’t go wrong and for the cast just a bundle of fun.
DUNKIRK CELEBRATION CONCERT
On a very windy Sunday the 30th May we took part in the Dunkirk Celebration at the Waterfront in Ipswich. We opened the show with our costumed Second World War Selection and in the second half we performed the Last Night of the Proms selection. We were joined by a new pianist, David Weale, for this adventure and it was a very competent debut for him.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
Our annual trip comes round again at Henley and an ever more ambitious programme. This year produced and directed by the group’s leaders, Mary Meredith, Wendy Gosling and Judy Wadman. A great family atmosphere and a packed two performances.
This year’s extravaganza at the Spa, directed by Stephanie Brown again along with her new team, celebrated 25 years of Les Miserables and we were lucky to have Martin Warden, who had appeared in the London production, get permission to perform a wonderful selection which he directed. Martin also appeared in this year’s show backed by the ensemble. Other highlights were ‘Sister Act’, Andrew Burkes’s arrangement of Frankie Valli and a selection celebrating the 80th Birthday of Stephen Sondheim with a powerful arrangement of his music by Richard Healey. Some challenging music for the company but with Dean Wales pulling it all together as Host it certainly paid off.
150TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT
This year saw the 150th Anniversary of Museum Street Methodist Church and on Sunday 17th October we took part in a variety performance, together with other organisations. With a short rehearsal period our contribution was the Frankie Valli selection and ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’
Last presented back in 1974 it’s back to ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’ and a welcome change to a Western this time. It’s increasingly difficult now to choose a show in the present climate with an abundance of groups now staging musicals. We were delighted to welcome back James Hayward as director along with Laura Dickons and Mike Wren. Some of the cast made a trip to Valley Farm, Wickham Market for publicity photos and all involved in the show had a whip- cracking week. Despite good reviews there were disappointing numbers through the door resulting in a financial loss. There were at least four other choices for audiences in Ipswich that week and it just highlights how vulnerable we all are.
FIRST STAGE ON STAGE
Following last year’s concert Mary Meredith retired as Group Leader and sincere thanks was extended to Mary who has worked tirelessly with the youngsters for many years. This year Lesley Rawlinson. Leading Judy Wadman, Wendy Gosling and Darren Nunn produced and directed the show with both performances selling out very quickly. A nice change this year was the children introducing themselves and compering the show. Performance pianist Andrew Burke ably accompanied another very successful production.
Our annual ‘get in’ at the Spa this October was somewhat different. In soaring temperatures more likened to July, we trundled along with our costumes through a packed Felixstowe, cars everywhere and a beach full of sunbathers and swimmers. Stephanie Brown led the Production team for a third time ably assisted by Mike Wren, Martin Leigh, Margaret Mudd, Laura Dickons and Catherine Roberts. Our compere this year was Norman Rutterford pulling together a wonderful variety of selections. Highlights included a powerful arrangement by Richard Healey of Phantom of the Opera, celebrating its 25 fantastic Years, along with Disney, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hollywood, Chess, Andrew Burke’s arrangement of John Barry numbers and our ‘Old Biddies’ number now becoming a regular feature. After five successful performances we left the theatre on the Saturday night in a somewhat cooler temperature but, hey, what a bonus that heatwave was! Sounds Familiar subsequently went on to win Best Musical in region 12 and also the Shield for Best Production in a category that includes musicals, Pantomimes and Plays, so well done to all.
Last performed at The Regent Theatre by the Society in 1980 this popular show has all the ingredients to put ‘bums on seats’. With James Hayward, Mike Wren and Laura Rimmer (nee Dickons) on board as Production Team again, this show was staged beautifully with a very strong cast all putting in their own ‘oom pah pah’. Very fitting indeed in the year celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the birth of England’s Greatest Novelist Charles Dickens. Dickensian London never looked so good. The 25 Children, Many from our First Stage group, excelled themselves and were a treat to work with. Mention must be made of Dolly the bull terrier who was such a joy to be around. This show leaves you with such a feel-good factor in so many ways, not least of which has to be financial, so here’s to the next production!
FIRST STAGE – YEAR OF THE ALIENS
A change in format this year as our youngsters tell a story of a family of Aliens who visit our planet and are informed through music, dance and dialogue of life on Earth. The show was written, directed and produced by Lesley Rawlinson and Judy Wadman, assisted by many helpers. Well done to all involved on stage, behind the scenes and front of house. Another successful and sell supported weekend in Henley.
ONE NIGHT ONLY
On Saturday 8th September some of us joined eight other companies, all users of the Spa Pavilion, in a Variety Show to raise funds to help the Spa open. With Suzi Lowe producing there were two performances on the day, and with no long term solution yet in sight, the money raised would be donated to charity. Our contribution was Licensed to Thrill, a tribute to John Barry and the performances were well received by the audiences. Long Live the Spa Pavilion!
A move away this year from our usual Sounds Familiar with a concert presentation of timeless music and song. With the uncertainty of the future of the Spa and whether our date would be honoured it proved a welcome change. It was a broad spectrum from our repertoire and included Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein together with Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Queen. Mike Wren was Director and was assisted by Stephanie Brown and Bridget Jackaman, with wonderful arrangements by Andrew Burke. Several members of the cast took turns to introduce each section which proved very successful. There were four performances this year from Thursday to Saturday and attendance was disappointing. However, in the economic climate it is not surprising the Spa is struggling to keep its doors open. Many of us felt that maybe this really would be our last production after so many wonderful years.
On the 6th January the doors closed at the Spa Pavilion. After treading the boards for so many years I felt the need to see the last performance of Aladdin by the Dennis Lowe Theatre company. It was an emotional afternoon with speeches at the end of the performance on stage and many of the cast were in tears. Now with the doors closed and boarded up we can only hope that it is not the end of an era and there will be a new beginning.
THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK
A new musical score for us all to learn with this wonderful, modern, exciting and devilish show. Alongside Director James Hayward and MD Mike Wren, we were delighted to welcome Mark Connell as choreographer bringing his years of West End experience to the team. With the dedication of our stage crew and also the Regent’s own team we were able to ‘Fly’ our three gorgeous talented witches creating a magical moment at the end of the First Act. The whole cast thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the music and choreography especially in the ensemble numbers. The Evening Star review headed up ‘Entertaining take on Devilish and risqué tale’ and perhaps the ‘risqué’ element kept our audiences away as sadly we played to small houses resulting in a financial loss. Despite this it was a great theatrical success and the challenge of filling the theatre remains an ongoing situation.
FIRST STAGE – ALONG THE BOOKSHELF
The year our two days at the Henley Community Centre in June featured well – known children’s books brought to life. Lesley Rawlinson and her team should be congratulated on all their hard work throughout the year encouraging and coaching the children. The programme included ‘Charlie and the chocolate Factory’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’, ‘Harry Potter’, and many more. As always another two successful well-supported performances.
SOUNDS FAMILIAR IN CONCERT
With the closure of the Spa Pavilion in January a new and exciting change of venue this year to the Seckford theatre in Woodbridge. The ambience and intimacy of this theatre worked very well with our format which consisted of last year’s concert style adding splashes of Sounds Familiar Movement. The theme running through was most popular and awarded material across theatre and film, plus some additional items to enhance a varied programme. The Production Team was headed by Martin Leigh, ably assisted by MD Mike Wren, Stephanie Brown, Kelly Head, Bridget Jackaman and Martin Warden. Through a warm summer the cast enjoyed rehearsing ‘Showboat’, ‘Chorus Line’, Disney, ‘Hair’ and the Golden Years of MGM, to name but a few. With a smaller theatre and less seats available we opened on Tuesday and our six performances were fairly well supported, picking up on Friday and Saturday. Our first time at Seckford was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone and we look forward to carrying on what we love to do next year.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Last performed at the Regent Theatre by the Society in 2003 we return to that wonderful Rock Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber again. Always popular with audiences, this time we had in board two ex-West End performers at the helm. Martin Warden as Director and mark Connell as Choreographer, along with our resident MD Mike Wren. With their wealth of experience the cast rose to the occasion both creatively and vocally in what is a challenging score to say the least. Our brilliant back stage technical crew were ably assisted by a fully qualified company who came in to oversee the staging and hanging of Judas which was particularly crucial to the visual effect. We played to good houses and in the financial climate it gives the Society a longer lease to continue with future productions for the enjoyment of all.
FIRST STAGE SCHOOLSICAL
Another wonderful opportunity for our youngsters to perform this specially written script by Ben Akers. It centred round the school where both the younger and older pupils staged very amusing auditions. Thanks as always to Lesley Rawlinson and her team for their hard work, with a special mention to Emma Haggar, Rehearsal Pianist and Andrew Burke who played for the two performances.
SOUNDS FAMILIAR IN CONCERT
Our Second year at Seckford Theatre and a lovely varied programme to suit all tastes. We welcomed several newcomers this year and with the Labour Club temporarily out of action we found ourselves settling in at Norbridge Social Club and Larchcroft Ascension Hall to rehearse. It was strange at first after so many years in the Labour Club. This year the Production Team was led by MD Mike Wren, assisted by Stephanie Brown and Bridget Jackaman. Margaret Mudd and Tony Gomez provided administrative help. They put together a wonderful selection of Music Hall, Remembering the Great War, Broadway and Miss Saigon with a few comedy touches. Thanks to great publicity our audience increased this year and hopefully we have established our move to Woodbridge.
As we celebrate our 60th anniversary year, this legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber show is a fitting and challenging choice in terms of musical score and staging. With the West End’s production 20 years ago using a magnificent two-tier stage, we had a lot to live up to at the Ipswich Regent Theatre. Mark Connell as Director and Choreographer and Mike Wren as Musical Director certainly stretched us creatively, and vocally to our limits. The show is led by four strong principals along with ensemble pieces adding some lighter relief to the drama of the show. Our 15 strong orchestra excelled playing the incredible haunting score with beautiful songs. Sadly number through the door were small and disappointing. However, despite this, for all those involved and those who did support us it was a brilliant success with the Evening Star declaring “another triumph for Ipswich’s much loved amateur group.” It seems the choice and availability when choosing future shows for the society remains the single most challenging decision for the year ahead. Subsequently, the show went on to win “Best Musical in the District”, “Best Production in the District” and our very own Stephanie Brown won “Best Actor” for her portrayal of Norma Desmond. A huge congratulations to everyone involved.
FIRST STAGE – “Lights Are Out”
This year for our youngsters a tale of a family of children visiting their grandparents on a Sunday afternoon who experience a power cut. This orginal show was written by Elicia Gilbert who is one of the leaders of First Stage. The children had to make their own entertainment and performance pieces from TV shows and musicals with the use of backing tracks. This was the first time the First Stage group used backing tracks in one of their performances. Over 230 people attended over the two shows at Henley. A huge thanks goes out to Darren Nunn and his co-leaders who continually work hard throughout the year, and all who worked backstage in some way to make this a memorable weekend. The raffle raised a total of £225.
SOUNDS FAMILIAR – A DIAMOND CELEBRATION
To continue with our 60 years of entertainment, this year’s production at Seckford Theatre covered as many numbers from our repertoire over the decades as possible. We started in the 1950s and travelled up to the present day with a multitude of vocal styles and a dash of comedy too. This years artistic directors, Stephanie Brown and Bridget Jackaman worked tirelessly alongside our Musical Director Mike Wren, with Tony Gomez and Margaret Mudd providing production assistance. Since 1955 the society has tacked everything from ‘The Merry Widow’ to ‘The Full Monty’ and this years production was a wonderful showcase to display our range of talent from those of us who have been around for decades to our ever growing number of talented youngster who have so much to look forward to. Nearing the end of our 60th Year we look forward to our forthcoming Diamond Anniversary Meal at Ufford Park Hotel on Saturday 14th November.
We last performed this first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein in 1981. Previous to that, the society’s first production of “Oklahoma!” in 1964 was my first show so I fond memories of playing with House Full signs on display. Things have moved on a long way from those days and our production this year with that wonder number “The farmer and the cowman” and all it’s rivalries, pit across a strong message that everybody should work together towards a better future.
This is very relevant in today’s world. Mark Connell joined us again as Artistic Director and Mike Wren as our Resident Musical Director. They were joined by Rosie Fuller and Catherine Roberts taking care of the choreography. We were able to use our Principles in the ballet which was such a bonus to the continuity of the production as these are usually replaced by dancers.
Eight children from First Stage also joined us on stage and completed the community feeling the ensemble members. Lesley Rawlinson lead our team of wardrobe helpers this year and sourcing costumes. These costumes being mainly locally sourced, made a considerable saving in that area which contributed to the show making a profit this year. History was made once again with this production.
However, members through the door were again disappointing, but the production was very well received by all who attended and we look forward to our next production at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich.
FIRST STAGE – ALICE IN WONDERLAND
A lovely choice for First Stage to embark upon this year with loads of scope for both groups to get their teeth into. It was entertaining with lots of laughs and the music sung beautifully. Thanks again to all the leaders who give so much of their time throughout the year and indeed to all the many helpers backstage.
There were 3 performances at Henley this year and it gave the children that added bonus. Another very successful weekend.
WIZARD OF OZ
*COMING SOON* – Learn more here
DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS
*COMING SOON* – Learn more here