An innocent man facing the executioner’s axe assumes the identity of a returning war hero and, in a daring bid for survival, hides in plain sight under the very noses of his captors.
Set in the grim shadow of the Tower of London, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard is the closest the much-loved Victorian musical theatre legends ever came to creating a truly grand opera.
Since its debut in 1888, the story of handsome Colonel Fairfax, his escape from imprisonment and his romantic entanglement with strolling players Elsie Maynard and Jack Point has become one of the most enduring and well loved of all the Savoy Operas.
And although its colourful, dramatic and emotionally-charged story may seem darker than the majority of Gilbert and Sullivan’s mainly comic works, the idea of switched or mistaken identities is actually much the same as audiences have loved in everything from HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance to The Gondoliers.
Gilbert claimed that the idea for the opera came to him while he was waiting for the train on Uxbridge Station and spotted an advertisement for The Tower Furnishing and Finance Company, illustrated with a tower warder.
Having rejected other plots as too frivolous, composer Sullivan welcomed Gilbert’s new scenario as “very human and funny” and the pair went on to create a hit that would run for well over 400 performances on its West End debut.
It has since become a staple of the amateur circuit and Sheffield’s Dore Gilbert and Sullivan have performed The Yeomen on the Guard three times since their launch in the early 1970s, once in Dore itself, with subsequent revivals at the University Drama Studio.
Now they are returning to the story with an entirely new production that comes to a new home, the Merlin Theatre in Nether Edge, from April 10 to 13.
Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful little theatres in the country, the Merlin has recently had a major renovation to restore it to its former glory, completely refitted with luxury seating and state of the art LED lighting.
As they look forward to this revival, though, here are some images from those productions of 1974, 1996 and 2006.
The majority of the players have long gone or moved on but perhaps you might be able to identify some of the cast members.
The society was founded in 1970 and produced their first show, HMS Pinafor,e in 197h.
The society has a good reputation for producing high-quality performances of G&S and other light operettas and concerts of more varied music throughout the years.
They are always eager to welcome new members on both the singing and the technical sides of productions, so if you are 16 years old or older and are interested in finding out more, get in touch with the company.
They rehearse from September to April on Wednesday nights at Millhouses Methodist Church Hall on Millhouses Lane from 7.30pm to 10pm.
For tickets to the new production of The Yeomen of the Guard, call 0114 2363797 or visit doregass.weebly.com/tickets.html