Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
October 1947
Cast List
The Duke of Plaza-Toro
Don Alhambra del Bolero
Marco Palmieri
Giuseppe Palmieri
The Duchess of Plaza-Toro
Drummer Boy

Notes on this performance

18. The Gondoliers

Back to G&S…

Although the Committee was keen to return to G&S, the membership was split and at the AGM The Rebel Maid actually gained more votes - this decision was over-ruled by those with the final say and The Gondoliers was selected as the next show. Those members wanting to explore the world of musicals were reminded by Mr Mitchell about the unwritten agreement with SMS ensuring that they would steer clear of G&S shows whilst SAOS would mainly confine itself to the Savoy Operas.

Despite the financial success of Merrie England, the choice of venue was not obvious, the Guildhall seemingly had ‘dead spots’ where the music could not be heard but the Committee did resolve to return there in preference to the Avenue Hall by a vote of 4 – 3.  At his interview for the position of Producer, Mr Edwards had declared that he was only interested in directing one show but he must have enjoyed the experience as he was now willing to continue in that role - Mr Williams also remained as the MD.

Unfortunately, Mr Edwards thought that 42 women members were ‘too many to absorb into The Gondoliers production’ so it was decided to re-audition all of them and as a result eleven ladies were put on a ‘reserve list’. He was also concerned about the irregular attendance at rehearsals of the previous producer, Mr Mitchell, and a ‘strong’ letter was sent. Meanwhile, understudies, Messrs Hick and Cockshoot, requested that they should be permitted to ‘stand in’ for a performance, but Leonora Budden pointed out that ‘the Society should offer the public the best cast available.’

There was also concern about the length of The Gondoliers as finishing in time for the last bus or tram was an important consideration, so it was resolved to start all performances at 7:15 and to ban all encores (except the Gavotte) – a sentence was included in the programme to this effect, along with a plea that the audience remained silent during the playing of the overture ‘in respect of Sullivan’s music’.

The Echo reviewer was pleased to see G&S back on the menu, ‘What a contrast between Gilbert’s perfect rhymes and the slovenly concoctions that pass for rhymes in many present-day songs,’ and didn’t seem to mind Mr Mitchell’s lack of rehearsals, ‘George W. Mitchell, who has been delighting Southampton audiences for years in Savoy operas (and other productions) was a most successful Duke of Plaza-Toro in the true Savoy manner.’

Making her stage debut in this show was 16 year old June Pickup (later June Greenwood, who remained a member until her death in 2014) - she recalled that back then SAOS was full of cliques and that she was ignored by everybody!

The Gondoliers made an impressive profit of £503 11s 6d (£503.58) and £50 was donated to the Southampton Little Theatre Fund. It was suggested that SAOS used its reserves to buy a house or a hut as a rehearsal venue – it was a feasible suggestion and, if it had been acted upon, subsequent generations would have been very grateful.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Gondoliers

Central quartet: Ronald Bottley (Marco Palmieri), Jill Thomas (Gianetta), Winifred Thorne (Tessa), Tom Judd (Giuseppe Palmieri)

Photo of Ducal Party

George W Mitchell (The Duke of Plaza-Toro), Marjorie Kennedy (The Duchess of Plaza-Toro), Marjorie Pearce (Casilda), Sydney Egerton (Luiz)

 LB books dog

Hopefully coming to you in early 2021!