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Tube makers stage Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in 1967

By dan shaw  |  Posted: June 21, 2013

The ladies of the chorus

The ladies of the chorus

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IT is 46 years since this group of amateur thespians strode the stage in the Tube Investments Operatic Society’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, and we have an anonymous donor to thank for giving us a copy of the programme.

The operetta was staged at the TI Theatre on Broadwell Road, Oldbury, in October 1967, part of the TI social club facilities which included billiards, badminton, skittles, archery and table tennis. They are probably best remembered for the regular dances that were held there, where the likes of Geoff Love and Victor Silvester and their orchestras would perform.

The cast of HMS Pinafore was: George Deeley (Sir Joseph Porter), Ivor Wills (Captain Corcoran), Ron James (Ralph Rackstraw), Chris Travers (Bill Bobstay), Abe Wakefield (Bob Becket), Michael Maloney (Dick Deadeye), David Parkes (Tom Tucker), Sheila Clift (Josephine), Barbara Grove (Hebe) and Sheila Giles (Little Buttercup).

They were supported by the ladies of the chorus: J. Baggs, O. Bannister, P. Beard, E.

Charteris, C. Cole, D. Cox, R.

Curtis, J. Deeley, J. Deeley, H.

England, J. Fenton, M. Hackett, S. Harrison, K. Holden, M. Hoult, C. Jakeman, M.

Johnstone, H. Lang, W. Marshall, J. Willward, M. Parkes, G. Pitt, P. Rowland, E. Sheldon, P. Smith, B. Turton and J.

Watson; and the gentleman: K.

Beard, B. Capewell, K. Charteris, M. Deeley, E. Glover, G.

Hands, P. Heath, T. Lang, R.

Parkes, L. Philpott, H.

Richards, K. Rowland. G.

Smith, B. Stutt, C. Turton and V. Wallace.

Conductor Music was by the Frederick Kendall Orchestra with Eric Smith conducting and Winifred Farman the leader.

The programme also lists those that worked behind the scenes: James A. Webb (musical director and accompanist), Frank Hobday (producer), Tom Harrison (chairman and assistant producer), Nellie Tolley (hon secretary), Albert Nicklin (scenery), Edward Broadway (carpentry), Tom Harrison (publicity), Lillian and Gerald Smith (programmes), Tom Payne (makeup), Mary Lee (wardrobe), Frank Knowles (stage manager), Arthur Slack (general secretary), Allan Cox (electrician).

In the programme the producer Frank Hobday wrote a brief outline of the plot: “Ralph Rackstraw, a seaman on board HMS Pinafore, is in love with Josephine, the captain’s daughter. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, the very selfimportant First Lord of the Admiralty, seeks Josephine’s hand in marriage and visits the ship attended by his sisters, cousins, and aunts, who follow him wherever he goes. Ralph, taking courage from Sir Joseph’s statement that a British sailor is any man’s equal, proposes to Josephine, but is rejected because of the difference in their stations in life.

“Later she regrets this decision and agrees to elope with Ralph.

The plot is overheard by Dick Deadeye, a very unpopular member of the crew, who reveals it to the captain, and the elopement is prevented. Unfortunately, the captain in his annoyance says ‘Damme’, and this is overheard by Sir Joseph, who refuses to tolerate bad language on board, and orders the captain to his cabin. However, on finding out why the word was used, he orders Ralph’s arrest, whereupon Buttercup confesses that many years ago she nursed both Ralph and the captain as babies. Ralph was well born, but the Captain was of humble parents. Buttercup changed them over in their cradles, and Ralph should really be captain and vice versa. Sir Joseph, realising that Josephine’s rank is lowered, reconsiders his offer of marriage and yields her to Ralph, consoling himself with the hand of Hebe his cousin. The captain having fallen in love with Buttercup, all ends happily.” The programme also lists the group’s previous productions: Cox and Box (1946), Trial by Jury (1946) HMS Pinafore (1947, 1955), The Mikado (1948, 1952, 1963), The Yeomen of the Guard (1949, 1956, 1964), The Pirates of Penzance (1950, 1959, 1965), Ruddigore (1951, 1960), The Gondoliers (1953, 1961, 1966), Iolanthe (1954, 1962), and The Sorcerer (1957). As you can see, it was all Gilbert and Sullivan, except for Cox and Box, which was written by Sir Arthur Sullivan before he went into partnership with W.S. Gilbert, with a libretto by F.C. Burnard.

 Do readers have any memories of the 1967 HMS Pinafore? Did you go to see it or were you a member of the TI Operatic Society? Or perhaps you can share with us old photographs from past productions of the many amateur operatic and theatrical groups with flourished in the Black Country. Email dshaw@blackcountrybugle .co.uk or write to the usual address.

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