Musical theatre group bids farewell after 100 years

Lyme Regis Musical Theatre
One of Lyme Regis Musical Theatre's most popular shows of recent years, 'Evita' (photo by Peter Wiles)

THE curtain has finally fallen for Lyme Regis Musical Theatre after 100 years of entertaining local audiences.

The former Lyme Regis Operatic Society has been disbanded after committee members, some of whom had served the organisation for more than 50 years, stood down.

Despite exhaustive efforts, no volunteers have come forward to continue running the society.

The society produced its first show at the Marine Theatre, ‘The Mikado’, in 1921 and has staged 85 productions.

No performances were held during the Second World War and the society returned in 1948 when they staged ‘The Yeoman of the Guard’.

Throughout most of its history the society concentrated on light operetta, performing all the well-known Gilbert and Sullivan shows.

To mark its 50th anniversary, the society performed ‘Golden Revenge’, written especially by producer Roy Deasey and musical director Brian Manners, who were both teachers at the Woodroffe School.

Mr Manners went on to serve the society with distinction and was elected president after relinquishing the musical director role.

The show was such a success that it was staged again the following year at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter.

As part of the celebrations for Lyme’s 1,200th anniversary in 1974, the society staged another home-grown show, ‘Love In A Mist’.

In more recent years, following the name change to Lyme Regis Musical Theatre, the society staged many of the big West End hits, including ‘Mame’, ‘Evita’ and ‘Sister Act’.

Their last production in 2018 was Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’.The society was rehearsing ‘Chicago’ in 2020 – the first local society to have secured a licence for this blockbuster – but the show had to be abandoned due to COVID-19.

Chairman Johanna Hopkins, who has been connected with the society for more than 50 years, issued the following statement: “Over the last two years the society has had to make some hard decisions and unfortunately the outcome is that we will not be performing again.

“After 100 years of performing and entertaining our wonderful audiences, we have closed our final curtain after our show ‘Anything Goes’ which we performed in May 2019.

“We were rehearsing for the hit show ‘Chicago’ for our 2020 show (and our centenary celebration) but COVID somehow got in the way and changed everyone’s lives.

“We were very lucky to hold our 100th anniversary dinner at the Royal Lion Hotel and were then closed down from rehearsing together, within two weeks.

“We all know how that started off and now sadly, we are among other organisations who have had to close their doors.

“We would like to thank everyone who has been involved with supporting the society throughout our long existence.

“Our members and performers, the committee members who have worked tirelessly to get a show moving and from our patrons.

“We have had marvellous audiences throughout our time and it will be very hard not to be up there, singing and acting our hearts out to give our audiences a wonderful show and theatre experience.

“We have been lucky in our fund-raising efforts and kept ourselves afloat from one year to the next, and together with some individual donations, and grants from the town council, we have managed to finish in a credit position.

“We shall be putting our funds to good use within the community, so keep reading LymeOnline to see what we are achieving in our finishing year to help other organisations.

“On behalf of the whole society I would like to say it has been an honour and a privilege to serve as chairman for the past eight years and be part of the society, on stage and off, front of house or on the different committees, since 1966.

“All good things must  come to an end but we hope you enjoyed our shows on the journey.”

Woodmead Halls

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