Sheffield theatre group still on song after 70 years!

Three Little Maids from The Mikado
Three Little Maids from The Mikado
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Flash, Bang, Wallop, What a Picture!

As Woodseats Musical Theatre Company prepare to mark their 70th anniversary with a return to their city centre roots and a new production of Half a Sixpence, here’s a reminder of some long-distant productions from one of Sheffield’s most popular acting companies – and a few shots from more recent successes.

A scene from a production of Iolanthe

A scene from a production of Iolanthe

The seeds of the company now known as Woodseats Musical Theatre Company were sown in the days straight after the end of World War Two when Mabel Norton was asked by the Sheffield Education Committee to form a music class at Woodseats.

Woodseats Evening School Operatic Society – a name the group kept until 1962 when they changed to Woodseats Operatic Society – put on an all-female production of The Gondoliers at Holmhirst Road Methodist Church School Room.

With men returning from the war and joining productions, the society moved to the Montgomery Hall – now The Montgomery theatre – in Sheffield city centre in 1949.

They would stay there until May 1971 when, with a production of popular musical A Country Girl about to open, the theatre was completely gutted by fire.

A production of Ruddigore in 1949

A production of Ruddigore in 1949

With the stage, roof and auditorium all badly damaged, scenery completely destroyed and 95 per cent of costumes lost in the blaze, it looked like the show would definitely not go on.

But a chance to move to Sheffield City Hall, supported by other societies, meant that A Country Girl would find an audience and the society would be saved from disaster.

And in 1972, the society were proud to be the first to take to the stage at the new Montgomery Hall with a production of The Gypsy Baron.

A major milestone – and the start of a golden age in the society’s fortunes – came in 1994 when Woodseats made the move to the Lyceum Theatre with a production of the musical legend South Pacific.

It was during this period, and a string of hits ranging from Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady to Jesus Christ Superstar and Anything Goes, that the decision was made to become Woodseats Musical Theatre Company.

In 2005, the company’s Lyceum production of another Broadway classic, Guys and Dolls, coincided with the visit to Sheffield of the G8 Summit.

With the city centre in virtual lockdown and audiences staying away, the show resulted in a massive loss of income that led to an end of all productions.

In 2009, though, a new committee was formed and Woodseats MTC was reborn with a lot of hard work, dedication and masses of enthusiasm.

In 2010 a review called Woodseats Meets the West End was performed at Dronfield Civic Theatre and was a great success with full houses every night.

A second revue followed and then in 2012 the company staged Sandy Wilson’s timeless romantic comedy The Boy Friend, the first of a run of new successes that also included Kiss Me Kate, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Calamity Jane.

And now in 2016 Woodseats MTC will be back where it all began, following the announcement of a return to The Montgomery with that eagerly-anticipated revival of Half a Sixpence, on stage from July 20 to 23.

“Sheffield is where Woodseats MTC belongs and everyone is very excited and optimistic about the future,” said chairman Mary Newey.

“A lot of fantastic people are working tirelessly to bring Woodseats MTC back to their original home.

“The only way for the Woodseats Musical Theatre Company now is up and that is where we intend to go!”

For tickets to Half a Sixpence, call 01246 290499 or 0114 246 8242 or email tickets@woodseatsmtc.co.uk.