Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1976
Director: Harold Dunford
Cast List
Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre
Dr Daly
John Wellington Wells
Lady Sangazure
Mrs Partlet
Serving Maid
Serving Maid

Notes on this performance

49. The Sorcerer                                                                                                                                                                 

MD difficulties…

Although Jill Meager had advised that it would be impossible to cast Frederic or Mabel from the current members, the 1975 programme still advertised either The Gondoliers or The Pirates of Penzance as the next production. However, it was very close to the centenary of the first performance of The Sorcerer and, as it had not been attempted before, it appeared to be a suitable choice. 

However, all was not well between the MD and her assistant. Jill Meager and Barbara Noyce had engaged in a frank discussion and both came up with an ‘either she goes or I do’ ultimatum. The Committee eventually asked Jill Meager to continue and David Frost was made her assistant. Harold Dunford also gained an assistant in Pamela Hoskins, who would now be helping officially with much of the movement. Future rehearsals would also run until 10pm to allow time for a break and announcements, a decision that was not popular with the company. 

The issue of members picking and choosing which shows they would appear in was seen as a problem and, in future, anyone missing a production and wishing to return would be required to apply in writing, complete an application form and, if deemed necessary, successfully complete an audition. An influx of talented new members (including Colin Sly) meant that the idea of ‘selective casting’ was considered. Poor attendance at rehearsals was again a problem and 13 members were warned that, as they were below the required 75%, their participation in the show was in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Jill Meager was concerned that, as she gave singing lessons in the evenings, she was losing £250 a year by attending rehearsals. She eventually offered to carry on next year provided the Society agreed to a fee of £200. Although these matters were in the hands of the committee, uncertainty was spreading amongst the company – there were rumours and many were indignant about being kept in the dark.

Despite the background difficulties, The Sorcerer came to stage in good shape. The critic was pleased that a lesser-known G&S opera had been attempted and wrote, ‘The strongest characterisations are Dr. Daly, played by Raymond Harris and John Wellington Wells, played by Peter Robson. Mr. Harris has a pleasing flexible voice and immaculate diction, while Peter Robson gave off the patter in the well-known “My Name is John Wellington Wells” with great dexterity. Catherine Baker makes a convincing Lady Sangazure and Avril Botto as Aline shows promise. The Alexis of David Lewis needs rather more freedom but his fine tenor voice could develop into a really thrilling instrument. Dennis Gooch makes a bluff, vigorous Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, and the two small parts of the Notary and Mrs. Partlett are ably filled by John Whale and Gillian Dando respectively.’  

The Sorcerer did make a loss but it was only a small one of £52.41 and the Society consoled itself by creating four more life members – Grace Bound, Edith Evans, Edwina Laird and Daisy Tomalin (sadly Alfred Tomalin died weeks after the show).

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Quintet

David Lewis (Alexis), Avril Botto (Aline), Raymond Harris (Dr Daly), Gillian Dando (Mrs Partlet), Dennis Gooch (Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre)

Photo of JWW

Peter Robson (John Wellington Wells) with David Lewis (Alexis)

Photo of Constance

Jillian Charnley (Constance) with John Whale (Notary)

 LB books dog

Coming to you in January 2022!