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Past Productions

1956-1962

There was some doubt, indeed, as to where the next show would be performed but the choice fell on Hitchin Town Hall, where 'The Quaker Girl' was presented in 1956. Just before the first performance on Monday evening, the Thespians received a telegram from Emile Littler, co-author with James Tanner of the book of 'The Quaker Girl' wishing them I great success'. The production was well received as' a triumphant success which audiences have been quick to appreciate'. It was, incidentally, the last appearance as Musical Director of Percy Wells, who found himself unable to continue, and in whose place the Society appointed Peter Cooper, music master at Hitchin Boys' Grammar School.

The new Musical Director's first show was 'Goodnight Vienna', staged in February, 1957, though in fact, as the programme noted, 'Mr Percy Wells' was 'kindly deputising during the indisposition of Mr. Peter Cooper.' Once again the Press was generous. 'As a show it contains almost every clich6 in the musical comedy book, but the artless, enthusiastic way the Thespians put it across makes it a charming evening of escapist entertainment.'

In October, after protracted discussions about the need for repairs to the Old Guild Rooms, in which rehearsals had been held for a number of years, the Committee reported that the directors of 'Old Guild Rooms, Ltd' had offered the premises - 'property and fittings' - to the Society, who were the principal tenants, for the sum of 750. Os.0d. This offer was accepted and the purchase effected the following year.

The next production, in November, 1957, was lrving Berlin's 'Call Me Madam'. 'A smash hit', wrote the critic of the Hertfordshire Pictorial'. 'The Thespians have gone a long way since I first saw them present 'Patience' in 1913 and judging by the warning which Sally repeats in the last scene of Act I of 'Call Me Madam', I would be right in saying, in Sally's expressive language 'that they have gone one hell of a long way!" 'Bless the Bride', in 1958, was followed in 1959 by 'Love from Judy' and in 1960 by the Society's first offering of a work by Rodgers & Hammerstein - 'Oklahoma'.

The new venture made a great impact upon the critics. 'Thespians put the O.K. in 'Oklahoma" ran the headline in the 'Hertfordshire Pictorial'. 'Thespians' 'Oklahoma' a hit' proclaimed another, while a third newspaper reporter declared 'No praise is high enough for their wonderful 'Oklahoma' . . . Having seen it nearly a dozen times myself, I can honestly say that I cannot remember an occasion when I enjoyed it more!' For many years, members' concerts had taken place in the Old Guild Rooms or elsewhere. In June, 1961, the Society gave its first public Choral Concert, in the Town Hall - hardly a major production, but the forerunner of other and bigger concerts to come. It was not quite so well supported as it might have been, but it was enjoyed by everyone who was present. 'Carousel' another show by Rodgers & Hammerstein, and as successful as the first had been, was staged in the Town Hall in November 1961.

In 1962, the Thespians gave a concert version of Bizet's 'Carmen' in March and followed this in November with the first of their two productions to date of 'The Merry Widow', by Franz Lehar.

In April 1962, a group of young singers between the ages of 10 and 15 had performed Humperdinck's 'Hansel & Gretel'. The Junior Thespians were intended to encourage young singers under sixteen - the minimum age for membership of the Society - in choral training and public appearances. Despite the general satisfaction of those involved, the performance, at Hitchin High School for Girls, was not really well supported and the idea of a junior section was put into abeyance.

 

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