Retro: Long-running theatre group look back to 1960s for show

This year's STOS production, Made in Dagenham, based on the famous women car factory workers' fight for fair pay
This year's STOS production, Made in Dagenham, based on the famous women car factory workers' fight for fair pay
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STOS Theatre Company are turning back the clock as they prepare for their annual production at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre.

This year the acclaimed theatre company will be returning to the 1960s as they present the regional premiere of acclaimed West End musical Made in Dagenham.

Oklahoma! was the choice in 1969 for the first Sheffield City Hall show

Oklahoma! was the choice in 1969 for the first Sheffield City Hall show

It’s the musical comedy drama based on the true 1968 story of the adventures and often comic experiences of the group of women from the Ford Motor Company sewing room in Dagenham who took on the power of an industrial giant in a dispute that had a lasting impact on equality in the workplace.

Their struggles were the focus of a film of the same name as the musical, made in 2010 and starring Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Jaime Winstone, 
Geraldine James and Bob Hoskins.

But while the Dagenham women were making a major contribution to the future of women in the workplace, amateur theatre enthusiasts in Sheffield were going about their business of staging the theatre hits of their generation.

Back in the 1960s, of course, STOS were still known as Sheffield Teachers’ Operatic Society and for most of the decade their home, like today, was at the Lyceum.

STOS performers in Bless the Bride

STOS performers in Bless the Bride

That all changed in 1969 when the curtain fell at Sheffield’s most famous theatre and the company moved to a new home at Sheffield City Hall, not returning until the Lyceum was finally restored to its former glory in the early 1990s.

In the 1960s, however, the style of show amateur companies presented was very different.

The idea of producing a musical set in a car factory would probably have baffled a generation brought up on shows with a romantic Ruritanian or Arabian Nights setting, with crinolines more the costume choice than overalls.

In 1960, the company’s diamond jubilee year, audiences were loving Offenbach’s La Perichole.

A newspaper cutting of the 1961 production of Kismet

A newspaper cutting of the 1961 production of Kismet

Subsequent years would see revivals of extravaganzas like Kismet, Song of Norway, Merrie England, Bless the Bride, The Merry Widow, Balalaika, The Vagabond King and Orpheus in the Underworld.

In 1969, for the first City Hall show, the choice would be Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma.

Now, with Made in Dagenham about to run from November 15 to 19, here’s a look back at how dramatic and musical tastes have changed, with a selection of images – mainly taken by well-known city photographer Eric Bellwood – from the STOS Theatre Company archive.

To book for Made in Dagenham, call 0114 2496000 or visit Sheffield Theatres

A scene from Offenbachs La Perichole in 1960, the STOS diamond jubilee year

A scene from Offenbachs La Perichole in 1960, the STOS diamond jubilee year

An STOS production of Kismet from the 1960s

An STOS production of Kismet from the 1960s

The STOS production of Song of Norway

The STOS production of Song of Norway