The four-act operetta, The Student Prince is a classic of musical theatre and probably best known for its Drinking Song. Prince Karl Franz is sent incognito to Heidelberg university where he falls for the barkeeper’s niece, Kathie. However, he’s already betrothed to Princess Margaret, who he’s never even met – until she arrives one day to call him home, where his father, the king, is gravely ill. Time passes. Karl Franz is now king himself, although still without any great enthusiasm for marrying Princess Margaret. One day, he’s tempted back to Heidelberg to meet up with his old student friends. Margaret meets up in secret with Kathie and persuades her to forsake Karl Franz, which she does. In a bittersweet finale, Karl Franz resolves to marry Margaret, but avows that Kathie will always be his true love.
The Student Prince was produced by the Society in 1956 and again in 1966.
Composer: Sigmund Romberg
Libretto: Dorothy Donnelly
Book: based on Wilhelm Meyer-Foster’s “Old Heidelberg”
When I’m Calling You-ooo-ooo!
In 1953, the Society put on Rose Marie, an operetta-style musical set in the Canadian Rockies. Miner Jim is falsely accused of murder. His love, Rose Marie, is then encouraged by her brother to marry a city man, Edward Hawley. Their big day arrives, but will the truth come out before Rose Marie marries the wrong man?
Composer: Rudolf Friml, Herbert Stothart
Libretto: Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach
For some, The Desert Song is the ultimate musical! Capitalising on the popularity of Lawrence of Arabia and the romanticisation of North Africa, it offers a classic tale of a brave rebel hero – the Red Shadow – disguised as a mild-mannered society fop.
The Desert Song is an old favourite of the Society, which has put on numerous productions of this musical – in 1952, 1958, 1970 and again in 2000. The 1970 production might have been done on a shoestring budget, but was instrumental in reviving the fortunes of the Society after a period of decline in the 1960s.
A further revival in 2000 saw audiences coming from far and wide – such is the continuing popularity of this show, which is only rarely performed these days.
Composer: Sigmund Romberg
Libretto: Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, Frank Mandel
One of the last light “Follies -style” musical comedies, Rio Rita was the 1950 Society production.
Rio Rita was filmed several times, including an Abbott and Costello version in 1942.
Set on the Rio Grande, the story tells of a Texas Rangers captain who, disguised as a bandit, falls in love with hotel singer Rita. His love rival attempts to create a rift between the two. An America couple arrive in town to get married. However, one of them still needs to get divorced!
Composer: Harry Tierney
Libretto: Joseph McCarthy
Book: Guy Bolton, Fred Thompson
Originally entitled Countess Maritza, this three-act operetta premiered in Vienna in 1924 and versions were performed on Broadway and in the West End (even including a 1983 revival by Sadlers Wells Opera!).
The story is a typical comedy of errors, with false identities assumed and love partners swapped in a farcical manner. It was the Society’s production in 1947.
Composer: Emmerich Kálmán
Libretto: Julius Brammer, Alfred Grünwald
No! No! Nanette is a well-loved musical comedy. It is essentially a farce centring around three couples who wind up in Atlantic City: Jimmy, a wealthy Bible publisher and his frugal wife Sue, Sue’s best friend Lucille and her husband Billy, and Jimmy and Sue’s ward, Nanette and her beau Tom. Jimmy is trying to extricate himself from three women with whom he has an apparently platonic benefactor relationship, which Sue doesn’t know about. When they threaten to blackmail him, he enlists Billy’s help which, in turn causes a rift with Lucille. Meanwhile, Nanette wants to have some fun before she settles down with Tom, so heads to the beach against Sue’s wishes, secretly aided by Jimmy.
The Hebden Bridge Light Opera Society put this show on in1931 and again in 1951.
Composer: Vincent Youmans
Libretto: Irving Caesar, Otto Harbach
Heralding the new decade, in 1930 the Society presented The Lilac Domino, a three act operetta about a gambling count who falls in love at a masked ball with a woman in a lilac domino mask. Originally in German, it failed to find success when first performed in Germany. It was extremely popular in the UK, particularly during both World Wars. Various different translations of the libretto and book have been made down the years, with a range of alternate settings for the operetta’s action.
The Hebden Bridge Light Opera Society put this show on once again in 1954.
Composer: Charles Cuvillier
Libretto: Robert B Smith
Book: Harry B Smith