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Martins Bank Society of the Arts (Music Section) in The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan

Staged: 3rd to 5th February 1949 at the Crane Theatre Liverpool

Martins Bank 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…

 

1949 01.jpgFor 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.

 

The Finale of ACT One

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections – Beryl Creer

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 orchestra. 

 

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 presentation.

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. 

 

The Mikado

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

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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.

M


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