(1923 - 1995)

by Michael Burgess

On 17th September 1945 Peter Pratt joined the chorus of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company as its youngest male member. As a boy in Eastbourne Peter had had regular singing lessons, and was a chorister-soloist in the choir of the Parish Church. He had also played straight acting parts with local societies, but at the time of joining the company he knew nothing about Gilbert and Sullivan, and had never seen any of the operas.

After a year he was given the part of the 2nd Citizen in "The Yeomen of the Guard", and a year later he was also playing Go-To in "The Mikado".

In 1948 he surrendered the latter role, but was given extra opportunities to show his skill when he took over Bouncer, Bill Bobstay, and Major Murgatroyd.

His big chance came when, as second understudy to Martyn Green, he was unexpectedly called on to play Robin Oakapple - the same part which had given Henry Lytton his first principal comedy opportunity.

Peter Pratt made such a success that he was given the understudy roles completely, and six years to the day after joining the company he took over when Martyn Green left after the Festival of Britain season.

Two years' provincial touring followed, and Peter collected ecstatic reviews along the way. It was unusual to have a bass in these parts, but Peter's lightness of touch and mastery of the patter songs soon became evident, and the critics were in no doubt that he was earning his place among the D'Oyly Carte immortals.

However, it was not until the six-week "Coronation Season" at Sadler's Wells in 1953 that London audiences were able to judge for themselves. W.A. Darlington in The Daily Telegraph (" . . . how easily Peter Pratt can wear the mantle of his distinguished predecessors") and J.C. Trewin in The Illustrated London News ("I do not hesitate to say that Peter Pratt, in time to come, will justify all that is being written about him") were but two of the many who agreed that Peter was a notable addition to the list of artists who had played the demanding Grossmith roles. He continued in these parts until he left the company.

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