Society celebrates 125 years in the spotlight in Leeds

Leeds Amateur Operatic Society prepare for their latest production of Hairspray at The Grand Theatre, Leeds.
Leeds Amateur Operatic Society prepare for their latest production of Hairspray at The Grand Theatre, Leeds.
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THEY are one of the oldest surviving amateur musical theatre companies in the country.

And to mark 125 successful years of stepping into the spotlight, Leeds Amateur Operatic Society is celebrating and pulling out all the stops for its latest production.

It is quite remarkable that we have been going strong for 125 years since being founded in Leeds in 1890.

David Payne from Leeds Amateur Operatic Society

The society first stepped onto the stage at The Grand Theatre in 1893 and is set to return next week with their own rendition of Broadway musical Hairspray.

And David Payne from the society said rehearsals are running smoothly for their latest production.

He said: “It is quite remarkable that we have been going strong for 125 years since being founded in Leeds in 1890.

“We only missed a few annual shows during the war years in the 1940s, but apart from that have produced a popular and well attended show each year for the people of Leeds.”

He said he believed the group was the twelfth oldest of its kind in Britain and is the oldest in Leeds.

He added: “We are undoubtedly the oldest performing company in Leeds and West Yorkshire and second in the whole of Yorkshire only to Settle Amateur Operatics which was founded in 1879.”

The group, which has consisted of thousands of members over the decades, currently has more than 100 members on its books from across Leeds.

They rehearse regularly at the David Young Academy in Seacroft.

The operatic society generally puts on one annual show.

However, in recent years it has managed to produce two - with a ‘musical years’ style concert performance also recently performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

As a charity the Leeds Amateur Operatic Society supports many organisations throughout the West Yorkshire region as well as providing coaching and sponsorship to people.

SOCIETY DATES

LAOS was originally founded in The Fenton Hotel in October 1890, first staging ‘H.M.S Pinafore’ at the Coliseum in Cookridge Street, Leeds, in December of that year.

Since then the society has gone from strength to strength, now performing two shows a year at Leeds Grand Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

1893: Saw the society move to its current home at the Leeds Grand Theatre. That years’ production was the smash hit ‘La Fille de Madame Angot’.

1939: Following a successful performance of Ivor Novello’s ‘Glamorous Night’, the society ceased producing shows until after World War Two. The society re-formed in 1948.

1953: In celebration of the Queen’s Coronation, the society produced ‘Merrie England’. Merrie England has been performed six times over the years, all of which were at some point of historical celebration.

1960s: The society purchased a swimming pool for the Silverdales Holiday Camp for under-privileged children. Children from Leeds still go to the camp for holidays every year.

1972: The Society were asked to put on ‘The Merry Widow’ in a tent in Roundhay Park, to celebrate the Park’s centenary.

1989: In its centenary year, the society went back to its roots and produced ‘100 Musical Years’ at the Civic Theatre. Due to it’s success this production became a regular addition to the LAOS calendar for many years.

2005: After great successes with ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘42nd Street’ at the Grand, the theatre had to close for major refurbishment. The Company became the first amateur society to play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and achieved 95% attendances for Jesus Christ Superstar.

2008: LAOS return to Leeds Grand Theatre to perform ‘Oliver!’, achieving 98 per cent attendance and highly acclaimed reviews.

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