They might have passed that 60 years mark – some of them more years ago than they care to remember – but the Over 60s Savoyards are showing no signs of slowing down.
The group are in rehearsals for their performance of The Mikado next Sunday (July 28). It promises to be a highlight of the 20th International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival at Buxton Opera House.
Ian Smith, who was a co-founder of the original West Yorkshire Halifax Savoyards Appreciation Society in 1975, will direct the show and he will also star as Ko-Ko, the hapless Lord High Executioner, in this most popular and certainly the funniest of the Gilbert & Sullivan’s operas.
James Newby, one of the other co-founders, will conduct the show.
The cast should be heading for the record books as one of the oldest ever to collectively tread the boards.
They have an amazing collective stage experience well in excess of 1,500 years.
Ian said: “The over 60s form an increasingly important percentage of today’s population and there are scores of activity opportunities available.
“Many of the so-called ‘Third age’ groups visit the festival every year and I decided it would be exhilarating to present a show with the entire cast in that special Third Age category.”
Ian founded the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival 20 years ago.
It was born largely as a result of his own lifetime involvement with Gilbert & Sullivan and, in particular, the Savoyards Appreciation Society.
Between 1975 and 1985 the society won more awards at the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera than any other competing group.
Many of those winners will be in the cast because it was natural that in planning a third age production he should invite many of his old friends from that original group to come back together one more time.
It seems that performing G&S can be the secret of a long and active life.
Ian said: “It is surprising just how many of the original Savoyards are still actively engaged in amateur theatre – as directors, performers and administrators – each giving something back in return for the pleasure they have enjoyed over that cumulative 1,500 years.”
The late John Reed, famous principal with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, directed the Savoyards for many years.
This will be a traditional John Reed/Ian Smith production of The Mikado, filled with nostalgia, enthusiasm and talent.
Waterford award winners Joan Horsfield (formerly Rawstrom) is Yum-Yum, David Lace plays Nanki Poo, Jim Ogden is Pish Tush and Ian Smith appears as Ko-Ko.
Ian said: “It is fantastic to have the opportunity to play one of my favourite roles on stage again, along with some of my favourite Savoyards.
“We know we are going to have a ball and this is one production in Buxton that just cannot be missed!”
The Mikado Over 60s Savoyards production will take place at 7.30 pm on Sunday at Buxton Opera House.
Box office: 0845 127 2190 or online at www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk