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JEFFREY SKITCH

by R.F. Bourne

Arriving on the D'Oyly Carte scene in May 1952, Jeffrey Skitch, the possessor of a baritone 'voice of real charm, made his debut as Luiz in "The Gondoliers". He was to play this role with great sympathy and success, with practically no interruption, for more than ten years - until in fact he surrendered it to Philip Potter in August 1962. This, however, was for Jeffrey only a beginning. Later the same year (1952) he began to double with Alan Styler the parts of Grosvenor (for which part he had considerable feeling), Strephon, Pish-Tush, and Giuseppe.

In September 1953 he took over what was perhaps his most famous part, Captain Corcoran. It is a role which has been well played by a number of artists, including Leslie Rands, Charles Dorning, and Thomas Lawlor, not to mention Alan Styler; but no one who saw Jeffrey Skitch in this part is likely to forget him. For a fairly brief period he also appeared as Samuel, but at this time dropped Strephon.

A year later, with the first revival of "Princess Ida" since 1939, he began to sustain the role of Florian - and how good he was! Since 1939, it is probable that no trio representing Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian has been as strong as, respectively, Thomas Round, Leonard Osborn, and Jeffrey Skitch. In July 1955 he dropped Grosvenor. Originally this was due to the absence of "Patience" from the repertoire; but in 1957, when a new production was mounted at the Princes Theatre, the part was played by Arthur Richards - a fine singer who succeeded Fisher Morgan but was perhaps more at home on the concert platform.

Jeffrey left briefly in 1957, and on his return in December played only Captain Corcoran and Pish-Tush. The following year he added Counsel in "Trial by Jury", and resumed Luiz once more. About a year later he again appeared as Strephon. During the 1962-1963 tour he dropped Luiz, Strephon, and the Judge, but resumed the two latter the next year.

On his last tour he played only the Judge, Captain Corcoran, and Strephon. Well as he performed as Strephon, he was possibly a little too heavy in style for the part; but he will certainly be remembered with affection, first and foremost for his Captain Corcoran and then for Florian, Luis, and a very good Archibald Grosvenor.

He was a most successful recording artist, and his work includes a very fine Dr. Daly, an equally fine Florian (1955 and 1965), Captain Corcoran, and Luis - all for Decca, the two last being with dialogue.

Jeffrey Skitch toured the U.S.A. and Canada with D'Oyly Carte three times; after leaving the Company he taught at Oakham School, Rutland, where he was also persuaded to introduce Gilbert and Sullivan, and later he went on to Malvern College as Head of the Biology Department.

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