It started with a … (kiss) bus …??
The year is 1948, the scene, a journey to work, and little did Jean Walker know that a friendly bus conversation would lead to a legacy of amateur theatre in Sheffield spanning over 60 years. Travelling on the 221 bus destined for Pond Street, Jean Walker met Ron Smith and Bill Burton who kindly offered their services as Director and Accompanist for a small concert party singing at local retirement homes. This small collection of players later became Handsworth Operatic Society and in 1950 performed their first major production, Pearl the Fishermaid at their Hendon Street theatre in Handsworth.
The society moved from strength to strength performing throughout the 60’s and 70’s at Beaver Hill secondary school and later Brook school, where they performed Camelot with costumes direct from the West End production at Drury Lane (London). The society later moved to the Montgomery Theatre and eventually the University Drama Studio, where in 1998 they celebrated their 50th anniversary production of Hello Dolly, directed by Mal Wragg. 1987 saw the formation of Sheffield Hallam Operatic Society, performing their first production of South Pacific at the Merlin Theatre (Nether Edge). The theatre later proved too cramped for the increasing size of the company and in 1989 they moved to the Montgomery Theatre for a production of Oklahoma. This production was also directed by Mal and it was here that a link with Handsworth Operatic Society was made. Hallam OS remained at the Montgomery theatre until 1998 where they performed The Sound of Music, allowing some of the older chorus ladies to return once more to the stage as nuns. In 1999 the society moved to the University Drama Studio for a production of Salad Days, until the amalgamation with Handsworth Operatic Society in 2002.
Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company has since continued to produce pantomimes and musicals including, Puss in Boots, Peter Pan, My Fair Lady, Calamity Jane, The Card and a Sheffield premiere of the first ever Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice collaboration The Likes of Us. Summer 2011 saw the company return to a production that marked Handsworth Operatic Society’s 25th anniversary, Half a Sixpence. Handsworth and Hallam are indebted to their founder members and the opportunities they have created to hundreds of talented performers, now leading companies both on the amateur and professional stage. Here’s to the future…