LADOS History

Discover the exciting history of LADOS over the years since the foundation of our society in 1891

100 years of LADOS

Lancaster Amateur Dramatic Society (as it was first known) was formed on Monday, January 26th 1891 when a number of gentlemen met in the office of Mr. E. G. Clark and elected Sir Thomas Storey as the first President. On March 16th 1891 two productions, 'Blow for Blow' and 'Ici Un Parle' were performed at the Atheneum, (now the Grand Theatre).

The Grand Theatre, Lancaster
The Grand Theatre, Lancaster

In those days Drama Societies often progressed to Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas and L.A.D.S. was no exception, H.M.S. Pinafore being produced in April 1892. By 1894 it was decided that as musical works were now the principal feature of the society's activity a change of name was necessary and on March 29th 1894 the members approved the new name should be 'Lancaster Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society'. Up to the outbreak of the First World War Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas were interspersed with shows such as 'Dorothy', 'Falka', 'Merrie England' and 'Miss Hook of Holland'. A visit to the theatre was a great social occasion as different nights were under the patronage of various groups. There was Hunt Night, Golf Night, Military Night and President's Night and to facilitate travelling, special trains were arranged with L&NW, Midland and Furness Railway Companies, on one occasion the Society had to agree to cover the costs if the rail tickets sold did not amount to £2!

The cessation of the war saw a revival of musical activities. With Mr. C. R. Tomlinson as Musical Director and Mr. B. J. Vince as Producer, 'Cingalee' and 'The Belle of Brittany' were produced in the Ashton Hall before returning to the Grand Theatre with 'The Marriage Market' in 1922. In 1924 'The Arcadians' was staged in spite of the fact that on the eve of the production it was discovered that the scenery had been let by the owners to two societies playing the same week! But the show must go on and L.A.D.O.S. eventually received the scenery from the Shaftesbury Theatre, London.

1924 was notable also for the arrival on the amateur scene of Mr. Chris Riley. He joined the Society in that year playing first in the chorus then moving on to principal roles and finally taking over as Producer in 1932 with the show 'A Southern Maid'. With very many excellent shows to his credit, 44 years as Honorary Secretary and in our Centenary Year as President no wonder he was known as Mr L.A.D.O.S.

Two highlights of the next few years was the production in 1936 of 'Showboat' thought at the time to be too difficult for Amateurs due to the casting and staging difficulties, and in 1937 the first Amateur production of 'Royal Exchange', when the Society was honoured by the presence of the composer Mr. Edward Horan and representatives of Messrs Chappell & Co. and other London theatrical houses.

Custom House, Lancaster
Custom House, Lancaster

During the Second World War period the Society carried on its activities albeit on a smaller scale but just as enthusiastically, with Revues, again in the Ashton Hall and also Concert Parties which toured the villages using a special stage 'fit up' devised by Mr. Riley.

In 1944 L.A.D.O.S. was granted a long term lease of the Custom House. This enabled the Society to make alterations to the inside converting it into a mini theatre with a stage and seating capacity of sixty. Once again the Drama side of the Society began to flourish. One Act and Three Act plays were rehearsed and then put on for members and friends before being subsequently entered in Drama Festivals. Perhaps the most notable play was 'Uncle Harry' 1947-48 which reached the National finals of the British Drama League. The Custom House was home to L.A.D.O.S. for 40 years until the building became the Maritime Museum.

1955 marked the start of a new era with the release for amateurs of many of the Broadway Musicals which had reached the London stage, 'Oklahoma', 'South Pacific', 'Carousel', 'Brigadoon', and the challenging 'West Side Story', all great hits. If only the present shows were as suitable for amateurs! 'Fiddler on the Roof' in 1973 was the last production for Mr. Riley and with his usual skill and flair it was a memorable show.

A few more Operatic shows followed in the 70's with 'Die Fledermaus' and 'Orpheus' amongst others and then in 1985 'Annie' burst upon the scene showing the versatility of the Society. Many younger members joined and have happily stayed and so enabled us to present 'West Side Story' '87 and 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' '89.

LADOS since 1990

For 1990 the society chose "Hello Dolly" which provided the men in the society with a fantastic challenge in the Waiter's Gallop... and the props team with making trays containing items which would stand up to the rigours of the dance! However, all rose admirably to the challenge, and a wonderful show ensued.

1991 was our Centenary Year and our production for that special year was "The Merry Widow" which provided many roles for all ages. Following the final night, a Gala Evening was held in the Banqueting Suite at Lancaster Town Hall. It was lovely to see so many familiar faces from amongst LADOS members past and present, together with several officials from NODA, especially as LADOS was a founding member of NODA at the end of the 19th century.

There is an old saying, "never work with children or animals" but LADOS ignored that in 1992 when they chose "Oliver" as their annual production, as there were several small boys in the cast, plus the undoubted star of the show Clemmie, an English Bull Terrier belonging to the family of a former member of the society. She had the most challenging role, as by nature she was a real softie, who had to play Bill Sikes' vicious brute of a dog, Bullseye. She went on stage each night right on cue (although not always in the right direction) following a biscuit rolled on to the stage by her 'minder' from the wings!

In 1993 LADOS staged the exciting new musical "Grease" which again saw an influx of new young members, and the lively musical numbers brought back many happy memories for those who were 'coming of age' in the 1950's.

Two years later, in 1995 we tried something rather daring and more than a little bit different with "La Cage aux Folles". Some of the lads were a little worried that they might become typecast, but they kept the audience guessing each night until the end of the show when their true gender was revealed.

The following year was a coup for the Society when we were finally given permission to stage "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Grand Theatre. Chris 'Pom' Riley had been trying to obtain permission for us to put on this show, but always the answer came back the same, "that it was only released to school or church groups and not amateur societies". He often said, "If they don't hurry up and let us do this show, I'll be up there with Him." Sadly, this was indeed the case, but we were eventually given the permission we required, on the condition that it was billed as a 'Tribute to Christopher (Pom) Riley', which we were delighted to comply with.

Six years later, our then Chairman, Michael Orr, a long time chorister at Lancaster Priory, thought it would be a good idea to stage "Jesus Christ Superstar" in the beautiful setting of the Priory Church. The idea was approved by the church representatives and the LADOS general committee, and permission was again granted from Superstar Ventures Ltd. In February 2002 the Priory was transformed into ancient Israel for this extremely moving interpretation of the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ.

LADOS 2004 Production of 'Chess'
LADOS 2004 Production of 'Chess'

Another first for LADOS was the production of "Chess" in 2004. [View Gallery: Dress Rehearsal Photographs] This was the first time Roger Bradley had produced a show for LADOS, and what a superb job he did. The sets were minimalistic, the lighting set the many different moods perfectly, and the music was in turn, funny, stirring and very moving.

Our 2005 production once again was a first for LADOS with "Anything Goes". Cole Porter musicals were enjoying a revival, a fact which we took full advantage of. Rehearsals started in September 2004, and were hard work, but lots of fun, and we hope that our audiences enjoyed watching the show as much as the company have enjoyed staging it. For our 2006 production, we once again became the first amateur society to be given the rights to stage a musical which is new to the Lancaster & Morecambe area. This show was "Hot Mikado", based on Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado".

For this version, however, the action is transported from ancient Japan to 1940's America, and many of the musical numbers have been given the jazz/swing/gospel treatment, with the Three Little Maids sounding very much like The Andrews Sisters! The rest of the score has been left very much as G & S wrote it, which will hopefully appeal to the true G & S aficionados.

Richard Prescott (Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof) with Peggy Brierley
Richard Prescott (Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof) with Peggy Brierley

Our 2007 production was "Fiddler on the Roof" which sadly marked the end of an era for LADOS, as Peggy Brierley decided to hang up her producer's whistle and take a well-earned retirement. However she went out on a high, with a production which was both wonderfully funny, and often quite poignant, and as usual, she brought out the best in the cast, augmented on this occasion by the Orlyk Ukraine Dancers, who performed the very complicated "Bottle dance", as well as appearing as Russian soldiers in several other scenes.

Sadly, during rehearsals for this show which, as a committee member he helped to choose, Roger Bradley passed away after a long illness. Roger was a much loved and sorely missed stalwart of LADOS, playing many and varied leading roles, the most memorable being Jesus in both LADOS' productions of "Jesus Christ Superstar" during the 20 years he was a member, as well as producing our 2004 production of "Chess"

In 2008, we were pleased to welcome back a former society member Tony Hindle, to produce "Singin' in the Rain" for us. His was a completely different approach to producing, and it was rather a baptism of fire for him with this very challenging show, complete with rain making machinery, and lots of complicated scene changes to deal with. However, under his direction, LADOS pulled off yet another triumphant production, with many favourable comments from the audiences.

LADOS 2009 Production of 'Carousel'
LADOS 2009 Production of 'Carousel'

Tony was again in charge of our 2009 production of the old Rodgers and Hammerstein favourite, "Carousel" which brought in several new younger members to the society, as well as seeing the welcome return of some former members. This production was wonderfully energetic, and the cast did full justice to the well known and much loved musical numbers. Unfortunately, for one member of the cast each performance was something of a trial, for our Billy Bigelow (Paul Atkinson) is a staunch Everton fan, and had to pretend to lie dead on stage whilst two of the leading ladies sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" over his 'body'!

Thankfully this didn't put Paul off coming along for our 2010 production of "The Pajama Game" when he took the role of Sid Sorokin, again under the direction of Tony Hindle. This particular show was last produced by LADOS in 1967, but in 2009/10 rehearsals were certainly unconventional, with Tony leaping on and off tables to demonstrate how he wanted various scenes to be played. Fortunately, he came to no harm, and the results of these energetic demonstrations were fully evident in this lively production.

LADOS 2011 Production of 'Pirates of Penzance'
LADOS 2011 Production of 'Pirates of Penzance'

2011 sees the 120th anniversary of LADOS, the oldest society in the area still in existence. For this production we have another change of director, as Bryan Wood has swapped his many on-stage roles, for the opportunity to take charge of our production of "Pirates of Penzance". This was first produced by LADOS in 1893, their third ever show, and again in 1952.

For the 2012 production, the general committee chose to reprise “Guys and Dolls” which the society last performed in 1998. Following on from the 2011 show, with Bryan Wood as producer once again, this was a lively show, with fun rehearsals, and a couple of new faces in the main leads i.e. Ryan Butterworth as Sky Masterson and Lizzee Weedy as Sarah Brown!  Another new face for this production was Glen Hanmer, who, having played the role the previous year for Kendal, stepped into the part of Nicely, Nicely Johnson, and stole the show with his rendition of "Sit down, you're rocking the boat".

LADOS 2013 Production of 'The Producers'
LADOS 2013 Production of 'The Producers'

2013 saw LADOS trying something new, by choosing the Tony Award Winning Musical, "The Producers" as their May production. Bryan Wood was once again at the helm, and another season of lively rehearsals ensued. Glen Hanmer played the part of Max Bialystock with great humour, and was the perfect partner for another newcomer to the society, James Shields, as Leopold Bloom. It was a difficult show to sell, as it had never been produced in the Lancaster and Morecambe area before, but it proved very popular, with many members of the public who saw the show at the beginning of the week buying tickets to see the show again, consequently the Saturday night was a near sell-out!

For some years, LADOS had been trying to obtain the rights to "Grease" which LADOS had last performed in 1993.With this being our second show of 2013, rehearsals started just two weeks after "The Producers" finished. Two members of the 1993 cast of "Grease", Suzanne Ward (Frenchie) and Sarah Pye (Rizzo) expressed an interest in jointly producing the show, and were duly appointed, and then the intense period of rehearsal began. "Grease" proved to be very popular at the box office, and the number of tickets sold increased as the week went on, with all seats sold on the Friday and Saturday evenings.

LADOS 2014 Production of 'Oliver'
LADOS 2014 Production of 'Oliver'

"Oliver" was the choice of show for 2014, again under the direction of Sarah and Suzanne, and auditions were duly held for the youngsters in the cast at the end of November, and after much deliberation, two teams of 18 to19 young boys (and girls) were chosen to make up the workhouse kids, and Fagin's gang. Adult auditions were equally challenging for the casting committee, as the level of talent was enormous. Eventually, all roles were cast, and rehearsals began in earnest at the beginning of January 2014.

The next member of the cast to be sought out, was an English Bull Terrier to play the part of Bill Sikes' dog, Bullseye. Fortunately, Sarah had a neighbour, who just happened to have such an animal, and so Sykes the dog came along to rehearsals, to meet Bill Sikes who was to be his (temporary) master. It was love at first sight, and Sikes and Sykes became inseparable throughout rehearsals and all 6 performances. Mind you, that could have had something to do with the pocket full of doggy treats which John (Sikes) Haydock carried with him at all times!

All the hard work paid off, because in May 2014, "Oliver" played to excellent houses, and the Saturday Matinee and evening performances were only a few tickets each short of a full house!

LADOS 2015 Production of 'Hairspray'
LADOS 2015 Production of 'Hairspray'

Rehearsals started in earnest for "Hairspray" in the autumn of 2014 and the first rehearsal saw a record number of prospective cast members turn out. Holly Brown, who was appointed as choreographer, put them all through their paces with "You can't stop the beat" which went down a storm! Most of the people who came to that first rehearsal, turned up again in subsequent weeks, so the rigorous dance routine obviously didn't put too many of them off!  

Auditions were held a couple of weeks later, and Holly was appointed as Tracey Turnblad, with newcomer to LADOS, Robbie Love as her mum Edna Turnblad, and John Haydock as her dad, Wilbur Turnblad. Mandie Doherty got the part of Maybelle Motormouth due to her superb rendition of "I know where I've been" plus her ability to really get into the character of Motormouth.  

For the first time in many years, this was the first time we sold all but a few tickets for opening night, and as the week progressed, and word got round about how fantastic this show was, ticket sales picked up even more, with the final 3 performances being a total sell-out, with each performance receiving a standing ovation! Follow that, as they say, and we know we have our work cut out to select a show which will have similar results to "Hairspray"

LADOS 2016 Production of 'The Witches of Eastwick'
LADOS 2016 Production of 'The Witches of Eastwick'

One of the biggest problems for amateur societies, is the lack of new shows which are available to them, as many are either withdrawn due to a professional tour, or they are partially withdrawn, with preference given to either schools or small church groups. After much deliberation, given the shortage of available shows, the committee finally decided to apply for a licence to produce "The Witches of Eastwick" which had never been performed in this area before. Then came the initial hard work of sourcing costumes, scenery, props and, oh yes, a company to supply the necessary equipment to 'fly' the three witches! Whoever said that producing an amateur show was easy?

LADOS 2016 Production of 'The Witches of Eastwick'
LADOS 2016 Production of 'The Witches of Eastwick'

Sarah decided to take some time off to be with her family, so Suzanne 'flew solo' for this production, with additional help from husband Kevin. After several months of rehearsals, with Robbie Love switching from his 2015 role as Edna Turnblad, to that of the 'Horny Little Devil', Darryl Van Horne, and Holly Brown, Mandie Doherty and Claire Savage as the three witches, Alexa, Jane and Suki respectively, the show went on in early May 2016. Unfortunately, although it was very well received by those who did come to see it, the audience numbers came nowhere near those for "Hairspray". 

At the post-show general committee meeting, it was decided that we would re-visit a show we last produced in 1987, namely "West Side Story". This show had been proposed several times in recent years, but usually a newer show became available, and was selected instead, but in the absence of any other suitable shows, this became the choice for our 2017 production. Once again, the producer and assistant producer will be Suzanne and Kevin Ward, and it will be just 30 years since Suzanne's mother, Peggy Brierley last produced this show for LADOS, when Suzanne herself played Graziella, one of the Jet's girls.

LADOS Presidents

President Service Years
David Brierley3 years2017 - 2020
Frank Dewhurst3 years2014 - 2017
Alan Hargreaves3 years2011 - 2014
Peggy Brierley3 years2008 - 2011
Malcolm McIllmurray2 years2006 - 2008
David Brierley2 years2004 - 2006
Nola Statter2 years2002 - 2004
Irene Bell & Maureen Watson2 years2000 - 2002
Chris Riley Jnr.2 years1998 - 2000
John Morrell2 years1996 - 1998
Colin Whiteside2 years1994 - 1996
William (Bill) Pearson2 years1992 - 1994
Chris Riley2 years1990 - 1992
Coun. John Ball2 years1989 - 1990
Margaret Hartley2 years1987 - 1988
No President1 years1986 - 1986
Betty Pimbley14 years1973 - 1985
H. B. Richmond Esq.5 years1968 - 1972
J. C. Higginson Esq.6 years1962 - 1967
Alderman Norman Gorrill J.P.7 years1955 - 1961
Mrs. Musgrave Hoyle14 years1941 - 1955
Col. G. W. Sharpe O.B.E.15 years1926 - 1941
Edmund Sharpe Esq.15 years1911 - 1926
C. John Clarke Esq.11 years1900 - 1911
Dr. Irvin4 years1896 - 1900
M. J. Denny Esq.3 years1893 - 1896
Sir Thomas Storey2 years1891 - 1893

LADOS Productions

Year Show
2018Kiss Me, Kate
2017West Side Story
2016The Witches of Eastwick
2015Hairspray
2014Oliver!
2013The Producers
2013Grease
2012Guys and Dolls
2011The Pirates of Penzance (Broadway Version)
2010The Pajama Game
2009Carousel
2008Singin' in the Rain
2007Fiddler on the Roof
2006Hot Mikado
2005Anything Goes
2004Chess
2003Kiss Me Kate
2002The Sound of Music
2002Jesus Christ Superstar
2001My Fair Lady
2000Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
1999La Cage Aux Folles
1998Guys and Dolls
1997A Chorus Line
1996Jesus Christ Superstar
1995La Cage Aux Folles
1994Oklahoma
1993Grease
1992Oliver
1991The Merry Widow
1990Hello Dolly!
1989Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
1988Brigadoon
1987West Side Story
1986Half a Sixpence
1985Annie
1984La Belle Helene
1983Orpheus in the Underworld
1982Lilac Domino
1981Kiss Me Kate
1980Free As Air
1979The Sound of Music
1978The Merry Widow
1977No No Nanette
1976The Count of Luxemburg / Anne of Green Gables
1975Die Fledermaus
1974Guys and Dolls
1973Fiddler on the Roof
1972South Pacific
1971The King and I
1970The Vagabond King / The Sound of Music
1969Kiss Me Kate
1968Oliver
1967The Pajama Game
1966Guys and Dolls
1965Carousel
1964West Side Story
1963Brigadoon
1962Lisbon Story
1961White Horse Inn
1960Free As Air
1959The Merry Widow
1958Carousel
1957Brigadoon
1956South Pacific
1955Oklahoma / As Long As They're Happy*
1954The Gondoliers / Relative Values*
1953Bitter Sweet / The Hollow*
1952Trial By Jury / Pirates of Penzance / Jupiter Laughs*
1951Maid of the Mountains
1950Yeomen of the Guard / The Gioconda Smile*
1949The Mikado / Rain on the Just*
1948Wild Violets / Miranda* / I Have Five Daughters*
1947The Vagabond King / Uncle Harry*
1946Bitter Sweet / The Last of McCheyne*
1945Jupiter Laughs* / Call it a Day*
1944LADOS All-Sorts
1943LADOS Time
1942LADOS Calling
1941Laughter Parade
1940Going Greek
1939Tulip Time
1938Viktoria and Her Hussar
1937Royal Exchange
1936Show Boat
1935The New Moon
1934Viktoria and Her Hussar
1933Wildflower
1932A Southern Maid
1931The Pearl Girl
1930The Belle of New York
1929The Cabaret Girl
1928The Dollar Princess
1927Miss Hook of Holland
1926Floradora
1925Gypsy Love
1924The Arcadians
1923Tina
1922The Marriage Market
1921Belle of Brittany
1919Cingalee
1914Miss Hook of Holland
1913La Poupee
1912A Country Girl
1910Dorothy
1909Yeomen of the Guard
1908Rose of Persia
1907Merrie England
1906Iolanthe
1905The Gondoliers
1904The Mikado
1903Les Cloches de Corneville
1902Trial By Jury/Falka
1901Dorothy
1900The Gondoliers
1899H.M.S. Pinafore
1898Mountebanks
1897Yeomen of the Guard
1894Les Cloches de Corneville
1893Pirates of Penzance
1892H.M.S. Pinafore
1891Manteux Noir / Olivette