Manx Gilbert & Sullivan Society

A member of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA)
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History 1997-2000
History 2001-2017

The Manx Gilbert & Sullivan Society - a potted history 1987 - 2000
The pictures against each year are the programme covers. Click on a picture to see it full size


During the Winter of 1987/88 a small group of people got together in a little office just off the quay in Ramsey to try and sing Gilbert & Sullivan music and in 1988 put on their first show which was Trial by Jury performed in Ramsey. In 1989 they presented "The Mikado" for one night only at the Gaiety Theatre.




In 1989 Bill Corlett became the Chairman. Bill was a visionary and had a dream to take the Society on tour. After the success of "The Mikado", the Society ambitiously attempted to put on "The Gondoliers" for 4 nights at the Gaiety Theatre




Building on the Success of "The Gondoliers" the Society engaged the services of a professional director, David Gardiner. A publicity stunt went wrong with wonderful consequences. It was suggested that if we write to Buckingham Palace and ask for a real Yeoman to attend the theatre, we should receive a polite refusal. We intended to publish this refusal in the local paper for publicity. We received an acceptance and gained the attendance of 2 real yeomen from the Tower of London. They stood in the foyer before the show and walked on stage during the curtain call to tremendous applause. They were also well received at the local schools during the daytime.


1992 was a sad year. Our Secretary, Judy Cross died. She had been a tireless worker and a wonderful inspiration. The Society remember her by presenting an annual award for the most memorable moment in each year's show. David Gardiner returned to direct Iolanthe for us. Yet another ambitious production was achieved with flying fairies. Olwen Smith won the first Judy Cross award as the Fairy Queen for flying into the scenery and bouncing back on stage.


1993 brought another change of director, Jonathan Clift. He came to visit us for two weeks in May but did not return for his planned visit in October just before the show. The show was polished by our Assistant Director, Linda Grainger who even appeared on stage as a dragoon wearing a moustache in order to make the numbers even.



Bill Corlett, forever ambitious, had been to the Buxton G&S Festival in 1993 and had met John Reed. He somehow managed to persuade him to direct us in "Pirates of Penzance". At first we were in awe but soon came to regard John and his manager, Nicholas Kerri as good friends of the Society. John worked us hard but gave us all an experience we shall never forget. The Production was so well received by both cast and audience that it was natural to invite John and Nikki to become our presidents.



1995 was an exhausting year for us. We took John's production of "Pirates" to the Buxton G&S Festival, thus fulfilling an ambition of our Chairman's. We were pleased at our performance and our Major-General won the award for best character part. With the Festival at the beginning of August and our regular show at the end of October, we were hard pressed to put in the rehearsals for "The Mikado". There were only 2 principles who appeared in both shows which is a tribute to the standard of our singers. John Reed again directed us and gave us an excellent production. Our Chairman now had a new ambition - to compete in the G&S Festival in America!


1996 was another sad year for the society when our Chairman, Bill Corlett died. He had been a visionary and had worked tirelessly for the Society. Another award was created in Bill's memory, a quaich which is an ancient cup of friendship, is to be presented to the most useful chorus member in each show. John Reed directed us again for Ruddigore but owing to ill health was not able to return in October to finish off the production. We relied upon our Assistant Director, Rene Savage, and Musical Director, John Elliott, to put us through our paces.


As John was not well enough to direct us in "Gondoliers", he recommended Cynthia Morey, another ex D'Oyly Carte stalwart. Once again our audiences were enthusiastic about our production. A lasting memory of the show was during the Cachucha when one of the enthusiastic chorus colided with a flat during the dress rehearsal and knocked it over.



Trying to save some money as all society's have to do from time to time, we decided to let our previous Assistant Director, Rene Savage, and our Musical Director, John Elliott, direct "HMS Pinafore". We arranged for the Sea Cadets of the Training Ship Manxman to join us onstage and provide the guard of honour for the Admiral's entrance. A most splendid sight it was.




Returning to using a professional director, we engaged the services of Doug Waft, uncle of 3 of our members. He gave us a completely different production to our previous Iolanthe. The production was noted for its aggressive fairies who took note of the New Zealand All Blacks Haka which they perform before their rugby matches. It was pleasing to see Jenny Smart in a principal role as she had been a member since she was 5 in 1990.




We attempted an ambitious project, a sponsored sing through 11 operas in one weekend at the beginning of April. The weekend turned out to be a great social and financial success but we had very small audiences. For Yeomen of the Guard in October we once again employed the services of Doug Waft. Notable feature was the "Les Mis" walk done by the Yeomen during the first chorus whilst the women did it double time!!! The most memorable moment was Wilfred Shadbolt played by Geoff Collier eating pigs trotters on stage which looked very disgusting, kindly supplied by our butcher member, Chris Burns. You could hear the groans in the audience when he dropped a piece, picked it up, wiped it on his costume, and ate it. As the curtain dropped on the last night the fire alarm sounded and we had to evacuate in costume.