Discover the exciting history of LADOS over the years since the foundation of our society in 1891.
100 years of LADOS
Lancaster Amateur Dramatic Society (as it was first known) was formed on Monday, January 26th 1891 when a number of gentlemen met in the office of Mr. E. G. Clark and elected Sir Thomas Storey as the first President. On March 16th 1891 two productions, ‘Blow for Blow’ and ‘Ici Un Parle’ were performed at the Atheneum, (now the Grand Theatre).
In those days Drama Societies often progressed to Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas and L.A.D.S. was no exception, H.M.S. Pinafore being produced in April 1892. By 1894 it was decided that as musical works were now the principal feature of the society’s activity a change of name was necessary and on March 29th 1894 the members approved the new name should be ‘Lancaster Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society’. Up to the outbreak of the First World War Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas were interspersed with shows such as ‘Dorothy’, ‘Falka’, ‘Merrie England’ and ‘Miss Hook of Holland’. A visit to the theatre was a great social occasion as different nights were under the patronage of various groups. There was Hunt Night, Golf Night, Military Night and President’s Night and to facilitate travelling, special trains were arranged with L&NW, Midland and Furness Railway Companies, on one occasion the Society had to agree to cover the costs if the rail tickets sold did not amount to £2!
The cessation of the war saw a revival of musical activities. With Mr. C. R. Tomlinson as Musical Director and Mr. B. J. Vince as Producer, ‘Cingalee’ and ‘The Belle of Brittany’ were produced in the Ashton Hall before returning to the Grand Theatre with ‘The Marriage Market’ in 1922. In 1924 ‘The Arcadians’ was staged in spite of the fact that on the eve of the production it was discovered that the scenery had been let by the owners to two societies playing the same week! But the show must go on and L.A.D.O.S. eventually received the scenery from the Shaftesbury Theatre, London.
1924 was notable also for the arrival on the amateur scene of Mr. Chris Riley. He joined the Society in that year playing first in the chorus then moving on to principal roles and finally taking over as Producer in 1932 with the show ‘A Southern Maid’. With very many excellent shows to his credit, 44 years as Honorary Secretary and in our Centenary Year as President no wonder he was known as Mr L.A.D.O.S.
Two highlights of the next few years was the production in 1936 of ‘Showboat’ thought at the time to be too difficult for Amateurs due to the casting and staging difficulties, and in 1937 the first Amateur production of ‘Royal Exchange’, when the Society was honoured by the presence of the composer Mr. Edward Horan and representatives of Messrs Chappell & Co. and other London theatrical houses.
During the Second World War period the Society carried on its activities albeit on a smaller scale but just as enthusiastically, with Revues, again in the Ashton Hall and also Concert Parties which toured the villages using a special stage ‘fit up’ devised by Mr. Riley.
In 1944 L.A.D.O.S. was granted a long term lease of the Custom House. This enabled the Society to make alterations to the inside converting it into a mini theatre with a stage and seating capacity of sixty. Once again the Drama side of the Society began to flourish. One Act and Three Act plays were rehearsed and then put on for members and friends before being subsequently entered in Drama Festivals. Perhaps the most notable play was ‘Uncle Harry’ 1947-48 which reached the National finals of the British Drama League. The Custom House was home to L.A.D.O.S. for 40 years until the building became the Maritime Museum.
1955 marked the start of a new era with the release for amateurs of many of the Broadway Musicals which had reached the London stage, ‘Oklahoma’, ‘South Pacific’, ‘Carousel’, ‘Brigadoon’, and the challenging ‘West Side Story’, all great hits. If only the present shows were as suitable for amateurs! ‘Fiddler on the Roof in 1973 was the last production for Mr. Riley and with his usual skill and flair it was a memorable show.
A few more Operatic shows followed in the 70’s with ‘Die Fledermaus’ and ‘Orpheus’ amongst others and then in 1985 ‘Annie’ burst upon the scene showing the versatility of the Society. Many younger members joined and have happily stayed and so enabled us to present ‘West Side Story’ ‘87 and ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ ‘89.
LADOS since 1990
For 1990 the society chose “Hello Dolly” which provided the men in the society with a fantastic challenge in the Waiter’s Gallop…and the props team with making trays containing items which would stand up to the rigours of the dance! However, all rose admirably to the challenge, and a wonderful show ensued.
1991 was our Centenary Year and our production for that special year was “The Merry Widow” which provided many roles for all ages. Following the final night, a Gala Evening was held in the Banqueting Suite at Lancaster Town Hall. It was lovely to see so many familiar faces from amongst LADOS members past and present, together with several officials from NODA, especially as LADOS was a founding member of NODA at the end of the 19th century.
There is an old saying, “Never work with children or animals” but LADOS ignored that in 1992 when they chose “Oliver” as their annual production, as there were several small boys in the cast, plus the undoubted star of the show Clemmie, an English Bull Terrier belonging to the family of a former member of the society. She had the most challenging role, as by nature she was a real softie, who had to play Bill Sikes’ vicious brute of a dog, Bullseye. She went on stage each night right on cue (although not always in the right direction) following a biscuit rolled on to the stage by her ‘minder’ from the wings!
In 1993 LADOS staged the exciting new musical “Grease” which again saw an influx of new young members, and the lively musical numbers brought back many happy memories for those who were ‘coming of age’ in the 1950’s.
Two years later, in 1995 we tried something rather daring and more than a little bit different with “La Cage aux Folles”. Some of the lads were a little worried that they might become typecast, but they kept the audience guessing each night until the end of the show when their true gender was revealed.
The following year was a coup for the Society when we were finally given permission to stage “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Grand Theatre. Chris ‘Pom’ Riley had been trying to obtain permission for us to put on this show, but always the answer came back the same, “that it was only released to school or church groups and not amateur societies”. He often said, “If they don’t hurry up and let us do this show, I’ll be up there with Him.” Sadly, this was indeed the case, but we were eventually given the permission we required, on the condition that it was billed as a ‘Tribute to Christopher (Pom) Riley’, which we were delighted to comply with.
Six years later, our then Chairman, Michael Orr, a long time chorister at Lancaster Priory, thought it would be a good idea to stage “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the beautiful setting of the Priory Church. The idea was approved by the church representatives and the LADOS general committee, and permission was again granted from Superstar Ventures Ltd. In February 2002 the Priory was transformed into ancient Israel for this extremely moving interpretation of the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ.
Another first for LADOS was the production of “Chess” in 2004. This was the first time Roger Bradley had produced a show for LADOS, and what a superb job he did. The sets were minimalistic, the lighting set the many different moods perfectly, and the music was in turn, funny, stirring and very moving.
Our 2005 production once again was a first for LADOS with “Anything Goes”. Cole Porter musicals were enjoying a revival, a fact which we took full advantage of. Rehearsals started in September 2004, and were hard work, but lots of fun, and we hope that our audiences enjoyed watching the show as much as the company have enjoyed staging it. For our 2006 production, we once again became the first amateur society to be given the rights to stage a musical which is new to the Lancaster & Morecambe area. This show was “Hot Mikado”, based on Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”.
For this version, however, the action is transported from ancient Japan to 1940’s America, and many of the musical numbers have been given the jazz/swing/gospel treatment, with the Three Little Maids sounding very much like The Andrews Sisters! The rest of the score has been left very much as G & S wrote it, which will hopefully appeal to the true G & S aficionados.
Our 2007 production was “Fiddler on the Roof” which sadly marked the end of an era for LADOS, as Peggy Brierley decided to hang up her producer’s whistle and take a well-earned retirement. However she went out on a high, with a production which was both wonderfully funny, and often quite poignant, and as usual, she brought out the best in the cast, augmented on this occasion by the Orlyk Ukraine Dancers, who performed the very complicated “Bottle dance”, as well as appearing as Russian soldiers in several other scenes.
Sadly, during rehearsals for this show which, as a committee member he helped to choose, Roger Bradley passed away after a long illness. Roger was a much loved and sorely missed stalwart of LADOS, playing many and varied leading roles, the most memorable being Jesus in both LADOS’ productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar” during the 20 years he was a member, as well as producing our 2004 production of “Chess”
In 2008, we were pleased to welcome back a former society member Tony Hindle, to produce “Singin’ in the Rain” for us. His was a completely different approach to producing, and it was rather a baptism of fire for him with this very challenging show, complete with rain making machinery, and lots of complicated scene changes to deal with. However, under his direction, LADOS pulled off yet another triumphant production, with many favourable comments from the audiences.
Tony was again in charge of our 2009 production of the old Rodgers and Hammerstein favourite, “Carousel” which brought in several new younger members to the society, as well as seeing the welcome return of some former members. This production was wonderfully energetic, and the cast did full justice to the well known and much loved musical numbers. Unfortunately, for one member of the cast each performance was something of a trial, for our Billy Bigelow (Paul Atkinson) is a staunch Everton fan, and had to pretend to lie dead on stage whilst two of the leading ladies sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” over his ‘body’!
Thankfully this didn’t put Paul off coming along for our 2010 production of “The Pajama Game” when he took the role of Sid Sorokin, again under the direction of Tony Hindle. This particular show was last produced by LADOS in 1967, but in 2009/10 rehearsals were certainly unconventional, with Tony leaping on and off tables to demonstrate how he wanted various scenes to be played. Fortunately, he came to no harm, and the results of these energetic demonstrations were fully evident in this lively production.
2011 sees the 120th anniversary of LADOS, the oldest society in the area still in existence. For this production we have another change of director, as Bryan Wood has swapped his many on-stage roles, for the opportunity to take charge of our production of “Pirates of Penzance”. This was first produced by LADOS in 1893, their third ever show, and again in 1952.
President Years Service From - To Sir Thomas Storey 2 years 1891 - 1893 M. J. Denny Esq. 3 years 1893 - 1896 Dr. Irvin 4 years 1896 - 1900 C. John Clarke Esq. 11 years 1900 - 1911 Edmund Sharpe Esq. 15 years 1911 - 1926 Col. G. W. Sharpe O.B.E. 15 years 1926 - 1941 Mrs. Musgrave Hoyle 14 years 1941 - 1955 Alderman Norman Gorrill J.P. 7 years 1955 - 1961 J. C. Higginson Esq. 6 years 1962 - 1967 H. B. Richmond Esq. 5 years 1968 - 1972 Betty Pimbley 14 years 1973 - 1985 No President 1 year 1986 Margaret Hartley 2 years 1987 - 1988 Coun. John Ball 2 years 1989 - 1990 Chris Riley 2 years 1990 - 1992 William (Bill) Pearson 2 years 1992 - 1994 Colin Whiteside 2 years 1994 - 1996 John Morrell 2 years 1996 - 1998 Chris Riley Jnr. 2 years 1998 - 2000 Irene Bell & Maureen Watson 2 years 2000 - 2002 Nola Statter 2 years 2002 - 2004 David Brierley 2 years 2004 - 2006 Malcolm McIllmurray 2 years 2006 - 2008 Peggy Brierley 3 years 2008 - 2011 Alan Hargreaves 3 years 2011 - 2014
Frank Dewhurst 3 years 2015 - 2018
All musicals except those marked * which were dramas.
Year Show Year Show 1891 Manteux Noir / Olivette 1892 H.M.S. Pinafore 1893 Pirates of Penzance 1894 Les Cloches de Corneville 1897 Yeomen of the Guard 1898 Mountebanks 1899 H.M.S. Pinafore 1900 The Gondoliers 1901 Dorothy 1902 Trial By Jury/Falka 1903 Les Cloches de Corneville 1904 The Mikado 1905 The Gondoliers 1906 Iolanthe 1907 Merrie England 1908 Rose of Persia 1909 Yeomen of the Guard 1910 Dorothy 1912 A Country Girl 1913 La Poupee 1914 Miss Hook of Holland 1915 - 1918 (War Years - No Shows) 1919 Cingalee 1921 Belle of Brittany 1922 The Marriage Market 1923 Tina 1924 The Arcadians 1925 Gypsy Love
1926 Floradora 1927 Miss Hook of Holland 1928 The Dollar Princess 1929 The Cabaret Girl 1930 The Belle of New York 1931 The Pearl Girl 1932 A Southern Maid 1933 Wildflower 1934 Viktoria and Her Hussar 1935 The New Moon 1936 Show Boat 1937 Royal Exchange 1938 Viktoria and Her Hussar 1939 Tulip Time 1940 Going Greek 1941 Laughter Parade 1942 LADOS Calling 1943 LADOS Time 1944 LADOS All-Sorts 1945 Jupiter Laughs*/Call it a Day* 1946 Bitter Sweet/The Last of McCheyne* 1947 The Vagabond King/Uncle Harry* 1948 Wild Violets/Miranda*/I Have Five Daughters* 1949 The Mikado/Rain on the Just* 1950 Yeomen of the Guard/The Gioconda Smile* 1951 Maid of the Mountains 1952 Trial By Jury/Pirates of Penzance/Jupiter Laughs* 1953 Bitter Sweet/The Hollow* 1954 The Gondoliers/Relative Values* 1955 Oklahoma/As Long As They're Happy* 1956 South Pacific 1957 Brigadoon 1958 Carousel 1959 The Merry Widow 1960 Free As Air 1961 White Horse Inn 1962 Lisbon Story 1963 Brigadoon 1964 West Side Story 1965 Carousel 1966 Guys and Dolls 1967 The Pajama Game 1968 Oliver 1969 Kiss Me Kate 1970 The Vagabond King/The Sound of Music 1971 The King and I 1972 South Pacific 1973 Fiddler on the Roof 1974 Guys and Dolls 1975 Die Fledermaus 1976 The Count of Luxemburg/Anne of Green Gables 1977 No No Nanette 1978 The Merry Widow 1979 The Sound of Music 1980 Free As Air 1981 Kiss Me Kate 1982 Lilac Domino 1983 Orpheus in the Underworld 1984 La Belle Helene 1985 Annie 1986 Half a Sixpence 1987 West Side Story 1988 Brigadoon 1989 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1990 Hello Dolly! 1991 The Merry Widow 1992 Oliver 1993 Grease 1994 Oklahoma 1995 La Cage Aux Folles 1996 Jesus Christ Superstar 1997 A Chorus Line 1998 Guys and Dolls 1999 La Cage Aux Folles 2000 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 2001 My Fair Lady 2002 Jesus Christ Superstar (Lancaster Priory)/The Sound of Music 2003 Kiss Me Kate 2004 Chess 2005 Anything Goes 2006 Hot Mikado 2007 Fiddler on the Roof 2008 Singin' in the Rain 2009 Carousel 2010 The Pajama Game 2011 The Pirates of Penzance (Broadway Version) 2012 Guys and Dolls 2013 The Producers (May)/Grease (September) 2014 Oliver 2015 Hairspray