Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Southampton Guildhall,
March 1995
Cast List
Don Alhambra Del Bolero
Drummer Boy
Duke of Plaza-Toro
Duchess of Plaza-Toro
Musical Director

Notes on this performance

82. The Gondoliers       

A rather unusual Duchess…

At Committee, Ted Starks proposed The Merry Widow as the production for spring 1995 but then seconded performing The Gondoliers – seemingly he was much more adept at seconding than proposing! Pam de Grouchy was invited to direct and Wendy Dalton became her assistant. Allen Mansell was chosen as MD and rehearsals started well. However, by December there was concern that he had missed many sessions due to ill health and he was asked for assurances that he would be able to fulfil his obligations. This he gave, but a month later he collapsed at work, was taken to hospital for investigations and eventually Philip Johnson took over his role.

Margaret Amey was now the Business Manger and was determined to make the production a financial success; she gathered a team of helpers and they awarded a bottle of wine to every member who ordered ten tickets via Ted Starks, a mail shot was sent to 3000 addresses, show sweatshirts proclaiming the booking details were arranged and advertisements were placed on the sides of buses. She even donned her ‘little black number’ and obtained sponsorship from Associated British Ports (£2500) and Exxon (£800) – the latter for the Junior Section. SOS also finally entered the digital age as Aidan Lawrence recorded the membership list on a computer.

Nothing is recorded in the minutes about the casting of The Gondoliers, which is surprising as it was certainly controversial. Making his SOS debut in the prized part of Guiseppe was John Martin (a very talented member of the Juniors) but the main surprise was Pam’s decision to allow men to audition for the role of the Duchess – especially when Colin Sly was successful. Apart from having to see him backstage in women’s underwear, the men were happy enough but there was discontent amongst some of the ladies who were annoyed that a principal part had been denied them.

The Echo reviewer enjoyed the performance of the principals (including the Duchess) and wrote, ‘High standards were set with the singing of Samantha Sly as Fiametta and the excellent opening chorus. Alison Vincent and Christina Smith made a charming Gianetta and Tessa. Richard Wilkin as Marco and John Martin (Guiseppe) were two Gondoliers to swoon for. David Jupp was in his element as the Grand Inquisitor and Colin Sly gave as a drag Duchess without a hint of pantomime.’

It should be noted that Sam Sly sang in the opening number whilst leaning through an upstairs window balancing on a wobbly step-ladder. The Act 1 Finale caused some problems for the orchestra as Pam arranged for the men to leave through the auditorium brandishing the sails of their boats and this meant the pit had to be shortened to allow two pairs of steps either side. Unusually, Act 2 began in the Royal Palace’s gymnasium with the men’s chorus lifting weights, skipping, using a punch bag and performing press-ups.

Despite the efforts of Margaret Amey and her team, tickets did not sell very well and The Gondoliers made a loss of £1210.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Duchess

David Rayner (Duke of Plaza-Toro), Colin Sly (Duchess of Plaza-Toro), David Jupp (Don Alhambra Del Bolero), Janet Green (Casilda), Paul Webb (Luiz)

Photo of Pairs

Alison Vincent (Gianetta), Christina Smith (Tessa), Richard Wilkin (Marco), John Martin (Guiseppe), David Jupp (Don Alhambra Del Bolero)

Photo of Gym Scene

The Gym Scene in Act 2 - Reg Bath and Terry O'Farrell being massaged by Richard Wilkin (Marco - left) and John Martin (Giuseppe - right)

Photo of Quintet

Christina Smith (Tessa), John Martin (Guiseppe), Janet Green (Casilda), Richard Wilkin (Marco), Alison Vincent (Gianetta)

Photo of Inez

Front: John Martin (Guiseppe), Richard Wilkin (Marco), Alison Vincent (Gianetta), Christina Smith (Tessa), Janet Green (Casilda), Heather Walford (Inez), David Rayner (Duke of Plaza-Toro), Colin Sly (Duchess of Plaza-Toro), David Jupp (Don Alhambra Del Bolero)