Despite the fact that Eileen Sharp was a member of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company for little more than three years, she is still one of the best loved of its artists. She joined in March 1922, and was immediately given a number of small parts, such as Leila, and Ruth in "Ruddigore".
The following year she understudied Catherine Ferguson in the soubrette roles, and had a number of opportunities of playing them. This she did so successfully that by the late summer of 1923, when Catherine Ferguson had left, she took over completely as the Company's regular soubrette.
And in only two years she became a great favourite with audiences everywhere. In all she played ten roles as a principal. In the early part of this period she had the opportunity of playing Constance, the love sick girl who pined for Dr. Daly, the Vicar of Ploverleigh, in the seldom performed "Sorcerer".
It would perhaps be invidious to say that she was specially good in certain parts, as she was at all times an outstanding artist; but because, by their very nature, some roles are more rewarding than others it is probably true to say that there are some parts in which Eileen is best remembered. Iolanthe is rather a small part, but important, and she brought just the right touch of gentleness and pathos to it. As Tessa, she had a roguish charm which won all hearts.
She followed Catherine Ferguson as Leo Sheffield's partner in "Ruddigore" and her interpretation of Mad Margaret was a scintillating one, from her electrifying entrance in Act I, and her tender and pathetic "In a garden full of posies to her scarcely-controlled primness in "I once was a very abandoned person", succeeded by her repeated outbursts in the dialogue which followed, when of course she was brought back to sobriety by Sheffield's admonishing "Basingstoke!" In the patter trio which is her final piece de resilience, performed in those days with Leo Sheffield and Henry Lytton, she excelled, because her command of patter was probably comparable with that of any who have ever taken the part.
Eileen Sharp's Phoebe Meryll was full of charm and brilliance, and she certainly had the audience on her side when she artfully stole the keys from jailer Shadbolt, having first entranced him - and the audience - by her singing of "Were I thy bride". She also played a part which has not been played by the leading soubrette since Marjorie Eyre played it in 1939, that of Melissa in "Princess Ida". This, of course, is a part which calls for considerable vivacity, as well as artistry in the charming duet which Eileen used to sing with Bertha Lewis "Now wouldn't you like to rule the roast".
A great many people were truly sorry when Eileen Sharp left the Company in June 1925. She recorded two of her roles, Mad Margaret (1924) and Melissa (1925) for H.M.V.
G & S Recordings
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