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Sheringham Savoyards


History of The Sheringham Savoyards

Theatre in 80s
Sheringham Little Theatre in the 80s

The Sheringham Savoyards, formed in 1979 to present (mostly) shows by Gilbert & Sullivan on stage in Sheringham's Little Theatre and occasionally elsewhere in Norfolk, came into being when it was realised that much local musical - mostly vocal - talent was available and not being used. A recent Act of Parliament had revised the structure and organisation of local government in England and Wales - the old Urban and Rural Districts were abolished in favour of new Districts under (in some cases) new Counties. In Sheringham one result was that the Little Theatre, long run by the U.D.C. on an annual basis rented from the owners, Norfolk County Council, was now back with the County under direct control. Foreseeing this change (planned for the 1st April 1974) a body of interested people, most of whom already had strong ties with the Theatre and had mounted and taken part in shows there for years, formed themselves during 1973 into SLTS, the Sheringham Little Theatre Society, and from April 1974 took over the entire administration and running of the Theatre under the friendly but distant auspices of the County Council.

Quite early in the proceedings a Music Sub-Committee was formed with Mrs Monica Jacobs of Kelling as its active and innovative secretary, with her husband Bill and other leading lights in the musical and dramatic world giving active support. This sub-committee was charged with planning musical concerts, in the days when the Theatre (outside the Summer Rep. season) stood empty for long periods broken only by local amateur dramatic societies' offerings, and occasional visits from outside groups - again mostly amateur. Monica achieved wonders by booking the BBC Young Musician of the Year the day after he or she won the title, and persuading many groups, small orchestras, jazz proficients and others to brighten the Sheringham cultural horizon. The committee socialised mostly at Christmas or New Year, and it was while gathered round the Jacobs' piano on successive Januarys that the question was regularly asked "We all enjoy Gilbert & Sullivan, why shouldn't we present their shows on the Little Theatre Stage?".

Theatre today
The Little Theatre today

For those first few years nobody tried to take the idea any further, but late-ish in 1978, in the course of conversation Mrs Shirley Woodrow said to Mr Alan Stables "Don't just talk about it - do something!" with a positive attitude worthy of The Mikado himself. Consequently a meeting of "all interested in putting on HMS Pinafore" was convened and some 28 people came to Alan and Erith's house with this in view - persuaded to turn up by word of mouth or by reading the hand-written but arresting posters created by Shirley and displayed in Sheringham and West Runton, during the very few days between a preliminary steering session of four people at 9 Garden Road, (Monday) and the meeting itself, on Friday 12th January 1979. Alan Shirley and others had taken part in the local Theatre pantomime only the week before.

HMS Pinafore "set sail" on three nights in June that year. Scenery and costumes were created by members, Mr Freddie Pointer was at the piano, the future Mrs Pointer (Su) conducted, Alan was Sir Joseph Porter KCB, Bill Jacobs was Captain Corcoran and his real-life daughter Rosemary was Josephine - Captain's Daughter on stage! Producer Mr Robin Newson remained with the company for the next few years in that capacity. That first show was done on a shoe-string and it all felt very experimental, but Sheringham audiences received it kindly and came back for more.

During the intervening 30 years the Society's standards have rocketed, singers/actors with little experience have gained enormous confidence and proficiency, the recruits with more impressive C.V.s from other similar groups in Norfolk have been assimilated into the ranks, and (above all other considerations) a friendly and welcoming spirit has prevailed and attracted constant comment. A small orchestra has provided the accompaniment since 2001 thereby enhancing Sullivan's contribution. Fifty-five shows have been produced over the years, the main show in June and a smaller offering in the Autumn. Ventures outside the world of G & S include concert versions of Edward German's Merrie England and Tom Jones, the 'rock nativity' Follow the Star, and Fraser-Simon's Toad of Toad Hall. Last Autumn the Society broke new ground with a modern play-with-music The Magic Lozenge, book and lyrics by Hazel Randall, music by Beverley Baker - a world première created by two of our own flock!

Alan Stables 2009