Encore: From South Pacific to Dore…

Fairies appearing in Dore G&S Society's production of Iolanthe
Fairies appearing in Dore G&S Society's production of Iolanthe
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HE’S spent the last few years on the road with major professional touring musicals like Evita, Scrooge, Beauty and the Beast and South Pacific.

But for now Andrew Griffiths insists he’s perfectly happy to be back at his home in Sheffield and back on the amateur circuit.

He is working as the Musical Director for Dore Gilbert and Sullivan Society and their production of the Victorian musical theatre giants’ classic political comedy Iolanthe.

“Being at home and doing something I have always wanted to do rather than being out on the road with something I had already done many times just seemed like the obvious choice,” he laughs.

“I suppose you could say I got a bit selfish and decided to fulfill an ambition.”

That ambition was quite simply to work on a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, for the 29-year-old graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music admits a lifelong passion for Arthur Sullivan’s music and William Gilbert’s words.

“I was very happy that the plans for the next show I was supposed to be working on fell through and I had the chance to spend a few weeks with Dore,” he says.

“I was brought up on The Pirates of Penzance but when I discovered Iolanthe that became my favourite, probably because it is Sullivan at his most Germanic.

“You don’t have to listen too carefully to hear that it is very Wagnerian in parts – and that’s another musical love of my life.”

Iolanthe – a highly topical political comedy revolving around the Lord Chancellor, his outcast fairy wife and their half fairy MP son - also gives the former Tapton school pupil the opportunity to get back to where it all began.

Some of his earliest experiences of working with an orchestra came from Sheffield’s thriving amateur theatre circuit.

With Ellesmere Operatic Society at the Montgomery Theatre – where he now returns with Dore next week for Iolanthe – he worked on shows as varied as My Fair Lady, Chess and Jekyll and Hyde.

He was assistant MD for the Denys Edwards Players on their production of The Wind in the Willows and for Endellion Theatre he worked on large-scale revivals of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies and A Little Night Music and Broadway classic The King and I.

For Sheffield Teachers’ Operatic Society he was MD for a groundbreaking 2007 version of Sweeney Todd at Kelham Island Industrial Museum.

Having now spent so much time on the professional touring circuit, though, what’s it like to bring it right back to basics again?

“Actually, I’m really enjoying myself because it’s a wonderful society and everybody is so friendly and welcoming,” he says.

“There’s a big change of pace of course because I’ve been used to getting a show together in two weeks and here we’re working for months.

“And with any G&S Society you will find yourself battling with the fact that they know the piece very well but what they don’t know is the way I want them to do it!

“G&S purists tend to talk about being the custodians of the works but the minute you see any work as something to be guarded that’s the minute it starts to fossilize.

“It’s a lovely show, it’s a great company and for me it’s theatre for the sake of doing theatre – and that’s great!”

Dore Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s production of Iolanthe runs at the Montgomery Theatre in Surrey Street from April 10 to 13.

For tickets call 0114 2507155 or download a booking form from the society website at www.doregass.co.uk