Bank Society of the Arts (Music Section) in The Mikado by Gilbert and
Staged: 3rd to 5th February 1949 at the Crane
Society of the Arts stages a lavish production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s
masterpiece “The Mikado (or The town of Titipu)” in February 1949. When the
Society’s Music Section changes its name to Martins Bank Operatic Society in
1957, the popularity with local
audiences of Gilbert and Sullivan Operas is such that “The Mikado” is staged
as the group’s first production under their new name. Meanwhile, back in
1949, outstanding individual performances by members of the company, the
sets, the costumes and the make-up combine to make this production one of the
best on record for the Society, and
Martins Bank Magazine takes the unusual step of devoting a three-page
spread to “The Mikado”. This means we can bring you no fewer than SIX images from
the show, and the Archive also possesses an original programme for this show,
which was donated by the late Beryl Creer, who as Beryl Evans took part in
many of the Society’s early productions. The first photograph below also
comes from Beryl’s collection. So, sit back and relax, as in the dark and
austere post-war days of 1949, Martins Bank Society of the Arts really does
go to extremes to bring a ray
of sunshine to its audience…
their first Crane Hall production the Music Section chose "The
Mikado" which was presented for three nights, February 3rd, 4th and
5th. The first thing to be said about the presentation of this well-loved
opera is that for technical performance it showed a great improvement on
the Section's previous production. Not only was every member of the company
more experienced but the individual standard of acting was higher.
Finale of ACT One
Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections –
Pish Tush and KoKo
In a musical show
one sometimes notices the tendency for the music to be regarded as
everything and if a principal has a good voice that must of course be the
paramount consideration. As a
result one is not too critical of histrionic performance, if vocal talent
is satisfactory. It was, therefore, a pleasant surprise to note the
marked progress in the acting side of the presentation.
On the musical
side, too, despite the fact that some of last year's principals were not
in this year's production, the standard showed an improvement.
Enunciation was clearer, power was greater and timing was better, though
on the last-named score a little difficulty was experienced with one or
two of the quick-fire songs in achieving perfect timing with the
As regards the individual
performances E. W. Gittins made a very impressive Mikado. Tall and spare
of figure, his dress and make-up made him the perfect embodiment of the
traditional character and he rendered his difficult songs with zest and
spirit. John Barlow, as the best tenor in the Section, was the number one
choice for Nanki-Poo and each of his songs was a delight. With him,
however, as with some of the other male characters, more attention needed
to be paid to the question of make-up, particularly when a disparity of age
between principals acting opposite each other has to be contended with.
Lest the make-up artists are hurt at this
criticism let it be said that in a large cast it is essential for an early
start to be made and when, owing to late arrival, making-up has to be
left until three-quarters of an hour before the performance the makers-up
cannot give the required time to this important aspect of a stage
Basil Williams as Ko-Ko was very, very good. He
was distinct without apparent effort, agile, humorous, and altogether in
the true line of distinguished Ko-Ko's of wider fame. His performance
gets full marks, especially as he was still suffering from the effects of
a recently broken wrist. Frank Green as Pooh-Bah, also added to his
laurels. With an opera as
well-known as “The Mikado” one cannot strike a new note. Everyone knows
the jokes and the words of the songs and an actor has to be good to get
his laughs and his need of appreciation. Frank Green received both and
they were well-deserved.
L. C. Jones made a Pish Tush as good as will be
seen anywhere. His stage presence was magnificent and his dignity really
awesome. The three little maids were happily chosen. Mary Nelson as Yum
Yum was excellent. Her song “The sun whose rays” was the best bit of
singing in the opera and received due appreciation at each performance.
Her voice carried well and seemed stronger than last year while her
acting showed a great improvement.
Poo Bah and Nanki Poo
The Chorus of Gentlemen of Japan
L. C. Jones made a Pish Tush as good as will be seen
anywhere. His stage presence was magnificent and his dignity really
awesome. The three little maids were happily chosen. Mary Nelson as Yum Yum
was excellent. Her song " The sun whose rays " was the best bit
of singing in the opera and received due appreciation at each performance.
Her voice carried well and seemed stronger than last year while her acting
showed a great improvement.
Phyllis Ritchie made a lively Pitti Sing and, taking
the part at short notice from one of last year's principals who had had
to withdraw owing to illness, she had worked really hard to do it
justice. The result was most commendable. Muriel Jones played the part of
Peep Bo and her voice was pleasing and her diction and acting good. They made a most attractive trio. The
part of Katisha was played by Eugenie Koop. She played it majestically
and her beautiful voice has lost none of its power to charm.
The chorus of gentlemen of Japan was
well-trained and their songs were most effectively rendered. The chorus
of ladies sang their songs very pleasantly and their performance too, was
well up to standard. Special mention must be made of R. C. Webster's
daughter Hilary who played the part of page to the Lord High Executioner.
She was very sweet and her enjoyment of the part was most appealing. H.
Spencer Hayes conducted the orchestra with his usual efficiency and H. F.
Boothman was the accompanist.
The Three Little Maids
The production was by
Denis Costello and the credit for the undoubtedly great success which was
achieved very largely belongs to him. His tact, patience, industry,
cheerfulness and general tirelessness were beyond praise. We are very
fortunate to have his interest in our Society. Comment on this show would be incomplete
without reference to the real enthusiasm and spirit of good fellowship
which characterised the production. Everyone enjoyed it and the company has
been a very happy one. The members can rest assured that they have been
doubly rewarded in our pleasure as well as in their own.