Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1954
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

27. The Gondoliers

Vice Presidents needed…

At the AGM that followed Ruddigore, Philip Graham (Hon Treasurer) gave warning that the show had been the most expensive yet staged by the Society and asked the members to help alleviate this problem by persuading their friends to become Vice Presidents – by 1954 SAOS ‘only’ had 48 Vice Presidents but in 1946 there were 152! The honour of holding this position could be gained by donating 10/6 (53p) a year, so they did make a significant difference. 

The Gondoliers was presented as the next production and the same directing team of Alfred Tomalin and D Cecil Williams was promptly installed - AW Nobbs continued as Stage Manager (he actually held this position for 20 shows between 1946 and 1963). It was also realised that during the run of this show, the Society could be expected to entertain its 50,000th paying customer since the war (11 shows) - quite an impressive achievement considering that SOS’s last 11 show audiences add up to a comparatively meagre 14,158 (up to Jan 2014). The lucky person was rewarded with a cheque for two guineas (£2.10).

Making his debut for SAOS was a young Douglas Huggins, in 2004 he reminisced in SOSNews, ‘It was a very different society from now – it would be normal for a new member not to be spoken to for about five years. In those days people stuck to their roles: singing/acting, costumes, scenery, make-up, business. Only over the years was there a change to members being involved across the board – the whole theatrical experience – Bob and Molly Gibson were excellent at this.’

The principal auditions resulted in Pamela Fulford being provisionally awarded the part of Tessa with Shirley Blakey as her understudy, apparently both required a further audition to ‘test their ability to sing an inner part’ – Tom Judd was unable to attend so the Duke of Plaza-Toro was left un-cast until he was available. 

The Echo review praised the first night performance, ‘It is certainly a production which gives great credit to the society, and adds to the long list of successes they have achieved.’ He then singled out several principals for special mention, ‘Tom Judd, as the Duke of Plaza-Toro, steals much of the thunder as usual. His Duchess (Marjorie Kennedy), too, has the true Savoy touch about her, and her daughter Casilda (Winifred Barrett) maintains the family tradition. John Hoskins (Marco) and Raymond Harris (Giuseppe) do very well as gondoliers and monarchs. Chief among the contadine are Jill Price (Gianetta) and Pamela Fulford (Tessa), both charmingly vivacious and obviously worthy of all the attention they receive.’

The Gondoliers made a profit of £264 - the cost of the orchestra (£232) was more than that of hiring the Guildhall (£210) and royalties were £134. A donation to charities of £150 was shared between the Kathleen Ferrier Research Fund, St Mary’s Rebuilding Fund, the Rotary Club Old Folks’ Fellowship, Dr Barnado’s Homes, the National Spastics’ Society and the YMCA/YWCA.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Ducal Party

Tom Judd (The Duke of Plaza-Toro), Marjorie Kennedy (The Duchess of Plaza-Toro), Bruce Ellery (Don Alhambra del Bolero), Winifred Barrett (Casilda), Ian Sellers (Luiz)