An influx of new talent helped revive the Society’s fortunes, starting with 1971’s Sweethearts and My Fair Lady in 1972. In 1973, the Society branched out into pantomime and enjoyed a successful, settled period at the Picture House.
The modified cinema never made an entirely satisfactory substitute for a dedicated theatre space, however. The Society found it had to bring its own lighting and build a stage for each show.
A further renovation scheme of £45,000* funded by Calderdale Council in 1978 looked set to provide improved facilities, but was still not entirely without drawbacks.
*(Equivalent to around a quarter of a million pounds in 2016)
Charlie Girl was a very successful British musical that, despite several London revivals, never quite achieved international status. It was produced by the Society in 1973.
The story centres around the fortunes of Charlotte “Charlie” Hadwell, youngest daughter of impoverished aristocrat Lady Hadwell. The widowed Lady Hadwell opens her house to the public to try to raise money and hopes to marry Charlie off to a wealthy American. Meanwhile, the household’s loyal retainer, Joe, has won a fortune on the football pools, but decides not to tell his employers. He loves Charlie, but doesn’t want the issue of money to get in the way.
Composer / Libretto: David Heneker, John Taylor
Book: Hugh Williams, Margaret Vyner, Ray Cooney
Charlie Girl, 1973
Half a Sixpence, based on Rudyard Kipling’s story Kipps, was originally written as a musical vehicle for Tommy Steele. It’s the story of Arthur Kipps, an orphan who becomes unexpectedly wealthy. After he inherits a fortune, he leaves the security of his shop job and starts to climb the social ladder. Kipps is generous with his new-found wealth but, being rather naive, it’s not long before he’s parted from his money and deserted by the hangers-on. Poor once again, but wiser, he realises that happiness can’t be bought.
The Society put on a production of Half a Sixpence in 1978. Hit songs include the title song, If The Rain’s Got To Fall and Flash! Bang! Wallop!
Composer/Libretto: David Heneker
Book: Beverley Cross
Hello, Dolly! Is perhaps one of the most enduring musicals of all – and it was the Society’s 1976 show.
Dolly Levi, widow, matchmaker and general meddler is trying to find a match for the wealthy Horace Vandergelder. She has an inkling she’d quite like him for herself, but business is business and she has to at least go through the motions. Meanwhile Horace’s clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, who have been left in charge of the shop, have instead sneaked off for a day of fun in the city. Scheming Dolly has set them up with Irene and Minnie under false pretences, claiming the young men are rich. She’s also arranged for Horace’s niece Ermengarde to meet up with Ambrose, who’s an artist and therefore an unsuitable match. Dolly’s complicated plans begin to unravel when it becomes clear that everyone has chosen to dine at the same restaurant…
Composer / Libretto: Jerry Herman
Book: Michael Stewart
In 1979, the Society revived the comedic and farcical musical Calamity Jane.
The musical’s story is only very lightly based on real-life Deadwood City characters Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. The local barkeeper finds himself in a spot of bother with his customers, a rowdy bunch of miners. Aiming to keep the peace, Calamity heads to Chicago to bring back actress Adelaide Adams, to calm the crowds. However, she mistakes Adelaide’s maid, Katie, for the star herself and brings back the wrong woman. Although Katie is well-received on stage, she crumbles and confesses that she’s not, in fact, Adelaide. Calamity once more restores order, allowing Katie to win over the audience – including Calamity’s sweetheart. Finally, Calamity comes to realise that Wild Bill’s the man for her, after all.
Composer: Sammy Fain
Libretto: Paul Francis Webster
The White Horse Inn was the Society’s production in both 1962 and 1974. This musical comedy (sometimes categorised as operetta) revolves around the owner of the titular inn and her head waiter. He is in love with her, but she has set her sights on another, a doctor, a regular visitor to the inn. In turn, he has his eye on another woman and typical intrigues occur before the scenario is finally resolved happily
Composer: Robert Stoltz, Ralph Benatzky
Libretto (English): Robert Gilbert, Eric Charell et al
The classic pantomime!
A firm favourite of the Society, with productions revived in 1973, 1983 and1992.
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