The 1961-62 D'Oyly Carte season was of much interest and importance to the Company. When rival productions were seen in London some critics used phrases such as "All comparisons wholly in the D'Oyly Carte's favour," while others gave thanks that the D'Oyly Carte productions had finally been condemned to death. In the meantime, Miss D'Oyly Carte pointed out that, although she and the Trust would be loyal guardians of a valued tradition, the passing of the copyright gave a certain degree of freedom to her Company too.
This was exemplified on the last night at the Savoy Theatre. An audience consisting almost entirely of Associate Members and their guests saw the first act of "The Gondoliers" refurbished by George Foa. This was not a new production but was, so to speak, a rejuvenation or liberation of the traditional production. It was submitted to the judgment, not of the national press critics, but of the Associate Members and the D'Oyly Carte Company's most loyal friends.
From the first entry of the girls carrying two large baskets, one of red roses and one of white, it was clear that the chorus was not going to be used with any rigid formality. When the ducal party arrived wearing the old "Ricketts" costumes there was applause and many wondered what was afoot. Cheers greeted various new bits of business, and without any doubt this performance met with resounding success. There was an obvious feeling that the innovations were completely in accord with the spirit both of Gilbert and of Sullivan and the reaction of this special audience was most approving. It was good news that Miss D'Oyly Carte asked Mr. Foa to carry on with the second act, so that his polishing-up of this familiar production could be seen not only in America but in Manchester and on the rest of the tour.
The London season showed that competition was likely to stimulate the D'Oyly Carte Box Office as well as the Company. At the Savoy Theatre the takings for "lolanthe," "H.M.S. Pinafore" and "The Pirates of Penzance" were very high in late February and early March, when bookings are normally lower than during School holidays, although rival versions were playing elsewhere.
The revival of "Princess Ida" scored a great success. It was performed throughout the week after Christmas and broke the Box Office record for the Savoy Theatre. After only a week 'Princess Ida" had the melancholy joy of losing her new-found crown; The Mikado" set up a new record.
The first act of "The Gondoliers" was, of course, the main feature , of the last night. but the rest of the evening was full of interest. Throughout the first interval the audience were busily discussing what was to come next and many people were convinced it was bound to be the second act of "The Gondoliers." When the orchestra struck up some notes that clearly came from "Ruddigore" everyone knew what was going to happen. But everyone was wrong - it was quickly realised that it was not to be "Ruddigore," but it was realised for the wrong reason, What was being played was the original overture for "Ruddigore" and barely anyone in the house knew it. Mystery reigned until the curtain rose - on the second act of "Patience." This was mainly interesting for the unfortunate reason that Kenneth Sandford had a bad throat and the part of Archibald Grosvenor was therefore sung by Jeffrey Skitch. At curtain-fall there was wild applause and everyone trooped out to discuss what would come next.
The house was tense as a fanfare from the orchestra brought the curtain up on the entire Company sitting in four rows across the whole stage in varying costumes, though mostly, of course, from the second act of "Patience." Gillian Knight caused delight and surprise by appearing in her own evening dress instead of a character costume and make-up in which she is normally seen.
Thomas Round, dressed as Ralph Rackstraw, introduced the Ralph Rackstraw of many years ago, popular Derek Oldham who from then on acted as Master of Ceremonies and introduced various leading members of the Company to sing items in many of which the audience joined.
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