The Mikado - 1971 Music Hall - 1971

In early 1970, members of the entertainment group at Hawkers in Kingston got together with the music society of Graseby Engineering to perform a concert version of  ” The Pirates of Penzance ” at Surbiton Assembly Rooms. They announced the formation of Molesey Operatic Society (MOPS) and appealed for people to join them by contacting Charles Arnold.
In September 1970 meetings began in a school hall in School Road, E. Molesey, now all gone. We rehearsed for ” The Mikado”, scheduled for May 1971, meanwhile putting on a small variety show in the Methodist chapel’s Moss Hall in order to raise funds. Early subscriptions were one shilling per week, including tea and biscuits provided by Dorothy Carr. My wife, Dawn, painted some simple scenery for the variety show and the ladies talked her into joining the chorus.

A few weeks before the first night of ” Mikado ” our Nanki Poo changed his mind about doing the part, and a very experienced performer, Leonard Joyner, stepped in to save the day. The show went well, with Peter Bell coming in as producer and musical production by Leonard Goddard.

Our second book show was ” The Gondoliers ” in 1972, which was performed at the boys Grammar School, as St. Paul’s Hall had been bought by the local council and closed for refurbishment.  Peter Bell produced again, with Norman Redston as musical director, and Isla Peet as rehearsal pianist. In subsequent years Leonard Joyner returned and shared conducting duties with Norman. Once St. Paul’s Hall re-opened as Vine Hall it became our performance venue for many years, with some car parking space where the old Toc H hall had been demolished.  It remains our Wednesday rehearsal venue to this day.
A rule of thumb among operatic societies was that one third of members were happy to perform whatever the committee suggested, one third wanted a Gilbert and Sullivan show, while the remaining third insisted on something not by G and S !  We did our best to run a three show rotation to keep most members happy.
For the first shows, programmes sold for one shilling, and fifteen years later the price was 15 new pence i.e. three shillings. We built the demount-able apron stage extension for Vine Hall to accommodate the large numbers of cast members, and were obliged to make and paint our own scenery, as the low proscenium arch made hired flats unobtainable. Originally all costumes were hired, but we gradually made or acquired a good stock of costumes for chorus and principals, only hiring specialist items such as uniforms. I remember buying two old-style dinner suits from a charity shop for just £3.

Over the next 20 years there were lots of Gilbert and Sullivan productions interspersed with shows such as Oklahoma, Calamity Jane, Showboat and even Die Fledermaus in 1990. In 2003 the name changed to Molesey Musical Theatre (MMT) in order to reflect the shows that the society was now performing and over the past few years we have continued to grow.

Involvement in Musical Theatre is a real act of love and passion. Talking about that, many long standing friendships have been forged and some have even found romance leading to marriage!  A real life happy ending: one Chairperson saw a twinkle in someone’s eye whilst performing ‘A String of Pearls’, and they remain happily married. ???? There is always much fun and laughter in MMT, including some ‘show must go on’ moments and mishaps. Does anyone remember in 2003 a runaway drinks trolley that was inches away from the head of our Musical Director ? – sorry Liz Cooper.

Since 2002 we have sporadically used the Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton, including for our annual Quiz fund raiser, created by the relative of a member! There are so many fun areas of involvement in Musical Theatre; opening the curtains requires perfect timing ! 2017 saw us stage our first pantomime ‘Cinderella’ at Vera Fletcher. A resounding success playing to full houses, we are looking to repeat the genre at Cecil Hepworth Playhouse, Walton on Thames in the not too distant future !
Since 2009 we have regularly performed at the Cecil Hepworth Playhouse with shows like ‘Calamity Jane’, ‘Carousel’, ‘High Society’ and our NODA award winning production of ‘Henry – a Tudor Musical’ in 2018 for The BEST New Show in the SE Region. Over the years we have proudly received rewards for show programmes, artwork and, very importantly, our glorious float at the Molesey Carnival.

Acknowledgement :- Reminiscences from Tiffer Fransella, founder member and Vice President, assisted by Lu Mulligan

Brigadoon 1992

The Pirates of Penzance 1998

Boarding Now - 2011

RIP – Roy Flowers – Chairman MMT – 2004-2013

It is with great sadness that we announce the upsetting news that one of our previous Chairmen, Roy Flowers, passed away on Friday 1 November. Roy had been Chairman of MMT from December 2004 till October 2013 and guided the group from difficult times to many successes. He will be greatly missed.
Roy is pictured performing in Boarding Now (2011) and Divorce, me Darling! (2012).

Divorce, me Darling! - 2012

RIP – Elsie Barrett – Vice President MMT – 1925 to 2019

We are very sad to announce the death of Elsie Barrett, one of the Vice Presidents of MMT on Tuesday 19 March 2019 at the age of 94. Elsie joined Molesey Operatic Society (MOPS), as it was known then, in the early days following its inauguration in 1970. Elsie appeared on stage regularly over the years, and for the last time in 2002 in the MOPS production of Jack the Ripper. In latter years she continued to attend rehearsals on Wednesday evenings and make refreshments for the society. After she finished the refreshments she would sit at the back of Vine Hall to join in the singing. When she finally retired, only 5 years ago, she donated a large stainless steel canteen teapot to the society which is still used every week. She will be sorely missed.