TOPS Musical Productions – A Timeline
Torquay Operatic Society was founded in 1897 as a winter hobby for the ‘Rowing Set.’ Thirteen men attended the first meeting which launched the society. The founding fathers wanted to give the people of Torquay a chance to enjoy musical productions which might have otherwise been denied them. At the same time it was agreed that the society’s aim should be to raise funds for charity.
The first production for the Torquay Operatic was Iolanthe staged in 1898. The four performances brought in £193 16s 6d. The first seasons profits were allocated to wipe out the debt on a Diamond Jubilee Fund at Torbay Hospital. The society continued to help local charities regularly holding concerts to benefit them. Early productions were staged at the Royal Theatre and Opera House in Abbey Road.
In 1969 after performing at The Pavilion for 36 years a new venue was found for the society in The Princess Theatre. The production launching this transition was Robert and Elizabeth. The committee of the day felt confident to move as the coffers were full enough to guarantee the next showing costing £2,000. Nowadays a show at The Princess Theatre costs in excess of £55,000 to stage. In the years that followed (until 1977) the stage productions were dominated by Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
This year the society stage a new kind of American show Rogers and Hammersteins South Pacific. This marked a transition and break away from the traditional English productions of the time to the brash American style musical. This revolutionary move was a great success.
At this time in the society, it was noted that not enough young people were joining and so the group decided to stage performances such as Annie, Oliver and Carousel with great success. This heralded a new time for the company and acted as a great spring board for up and coming stars, some of whom have gone on to become very successful on the professional stage.
This year marked the centenary for the society and the group went about celebrating it in a big way. Staging performances of their first show Iolanthe and a lavish production of The Merry Widow. A middle page spread appeared in the local paper depicting the societys triumphs over the previous 100 years.
2005 saw a change of name for the society. Many members felt that Torquay Operatic Society no longer reflected the type of music they sing and the shows they now present. T.OP.S. Musical Productions is the new promotional name for the society that will take it through the 21st Century.
This year also saw another change with the production of 42ndStreet, as the society had never before presented a show so focused on dance. Costing nearly £45,000 with amazing choreography, fabulous sets and costumes, wonderful lighting and stunning performances, the show received rave reviews and was a perfect choice to launch the societys new name.
This year proved to be the most financially successful for many years with our production of ‘Oliver’. The unexpected publicity boost from the BBC search to cast Nancy for the new West End production meant more people came to the Princess Theatre than usual giving us huge audiences and, at the matinee performance, a total sell out, not a seat to be had!!!
Unfortunately this was not matched in the next production – ‘Anything Goes’, but in 2010 we presented the local Amateur premiere of Disneys ‘Beauty and the Beast’ which was a tremendous challenge and a great artistic success.
This year the society took a deep breath and presented ‘The Producers’ as the major production. This won a NODA award and by general opinion was an artistic high-spot in the history of the society.