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Neath Amateur Operatic Society

The Society's  next  production

To be confirmed

Since its inception many people have contributed greatly to make Neath Amateur Operatic Society a success. It would be an almost impossible task to name everyone involved over the years but three men in particular have to be mentioned - namely Matthew Davies, Tom Dummer and Evan Lewis.

In 1911 the three went to see a performance of 'Princess Ida" by Swansea Amateur Operatic Society and as a result of this visit the seed was sown to start a society in Neath. Matthew Davies a very well known musician discussed this new venture with members of his male voice choir and it was decided that a society should be formed. There was an enthusiastic response and subsequently a motif was held at Gnoll Road Chapel schoolroom. Matthew Davies was appointed musical director and in 1912 the society staged "The Mikado" at Vints Hippodrome (now the site of the recently demolished Windsor Cinema). In 1913 Neath Amateurs chose 'The Gondoliers' as their show at the Gnoll Hall. Activities were suspended during "The Great War" of 1913-18 but 1919 saw a performance of 'The Yeomen of the Guard' at the Gwyn Hall. Shows continued to be staged at the Gwyn Hall unlike 1926 when the Gilbert and Sullivan opera 'Ruddigore' was performed at the Gnoll Hall.

In 1927 the Society entered the world of musical comedy with 'The Country Girl' and shows such as 'Sibyl', 'Miss Hook of Holland', 'Princess Charming', 'Desert Song', 'A Waltz Dream', 'Nina Rosa' and in 1938 'The Maid of the Mountains'. This was the last show before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

The society once again resumed activities in 1947 and rehearsals took place at a room above The Angel Hotel. 'Katinka' was performed in November 1946 and hundreds of people failed to gain admission with queues stretching from the Gwyn Hall to Bethania Baptist Chapel!!. How wonderful it would be if this was the case today.

In November 1949 Jerome Keris 'Show Boat' was staged at The Gnoll Hall. This proved to be a most ambitious project and was a great 'hit' with the public. This old favourite was staged again in 1975 and delighted people with its beautiful music.

It was fitting that a Neath Society should perform 'The Lisbon Story' with music by Harry Parr Davies - Neath's own composer and in 1950 they held the Welsh Premiere with the composer himself making a visit.

It was by now essential that the Society should find its own headquarters and in 1954 'The Old Mechanics Institute was purchased. Here there were better facilities for rehearsing and storage.

During the years Neath Amateurs has always prided itself on staging shows newly released for amateurs. As soon as 'The Dancing Years' by Ivor Novello was released the society made it their choice for their November 1953 productions. In 1955 another Novello show 'Kings Rhapsody' was performed.

1956 saw the first excursion into American musicals when 'Annie Get your Gun' proved a big box office success. After fifty years of waiting "The Merry Widow" was released for amateur production and Neath was among the first to stage it in 1959.

From 1958 until the present time all shows have been staged at The Gwyn Hall(until it burnt down in 2007). It was a sad time for the towns 'amateurs' when the Gnoll Hall was closed and a garage developed on the site - now a Kwik Fit tyre centre

In 1960 Neath staged their first Rodger and Hammerstein show with a wonderful production of 'The King and I". The public response to this show was overwhelming in its praise and this was the same reaction to the 1972 production

Neath Amateurs have been very fortunate in being granted permission to stage shows when they are newly released for 'amateurs'. The musical 'My Fair Lady' was chosen for the 1968 production and then the 1970 production of 'The Sound of Music' enthralled the capacity audiences. The Society progressed from strength to strength with the productions of 'Oliver', 'Mame', 'Irene', 'Funny Girl', 'La Belle Helene', 'Hello Dolly', 'South Pacific', 'Guys and Dolls' and many more.

Having stayed at their headquarters at the Old Mechanics Institute since 1954, it was now obvious that they had to move to larger headquarters and in 1983 the Society moved itself to Lombard Street. The building was transformed by many members into an excellent place for rehearsing, building scenery and social activities.

In 1988 The Broadway version of 'The Pirates of Penzance' was staged. Many loyal Gilbert and Sullivan fans were very dubious about this 'new version' but to everyone's delight their fears were unfounded and it proved a great box office hit.

Over the years productions have become more and more ambitious not only for the players but for the hard working back stage crew. Imagination, hard work, time and great deal of thought has gone into making scenery and 'props'. Lighting plots have become far more sophisticated, radio microphones are used and the wardrobe department is always kept busy.

Without their dedication the staging of musicals would be very difficult indeed. Who will forget the transformations of the Gwyn Hall Stage into a chessboard for the staging of the Abba musical 'Chess' in 1994. Wonderful scenery and special effects added to the success of 'Scrooge' in 2001.

Dancing has always played a large role in many productions. In 1991 many people believed that the big social dance scene with 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' would be impossible to stage. However the twenty one young leads who took part in this wonderful show proved to the public how talented and dedicated they were.

Many American musicals have been chosen by the society in recent years '42nd Street', 'George M', the Welsh Premiere of 'Meet me in St Louis' 'Crazy for You' etc. In 2003 Lord Lloyd Webber's 'Jesus Christ Superstar' was the choice for the November production. Yet again it proved to be a big success.

In 2000 a Neath Youth Group was formed. They have presented concerts and have taken part in a major production with the Society. They seem to be going from strength to strength and it looks like a good omen for the future of the Society, with the hard work and dedication of youth director Zoe Richards and musical director Anthony Argyle. Sadly The Gwyn Hall was destroyed by fire in 2007 and the society were forced to look for a suitable venue to stage their productions. The Princess Royal Theatre will be its "home" for the foreseeable future.

The enthusiasm of its members and the continual support of the people of Neath and District has made the society an institution. Neath, as all amateur operatic societies are indebted to the loyalty and hard work of their excellent musical directors and accompanists over the years without who much of their success would not have been possible.

The Old Gnoll Hall
The Gwyn Hall

1912 - The Mikado

1958 - The Merry Widow

1992 - George M (Yankee Doodle Dandy)

1913 - The Gondoliers

1960 - The King And I

1993 - Meet Me In St Louis

1915 - The Pirates Of Penzance

1961 - Kismet

1994 - Chess

1919 - The Yeoman Of The Guard

1962 - The Vagabond King

1995 - 42nd Street

1920 - The Mikado

1963 - Calamity Jane

1996 - Oklahoma

1921 - Iolanthe

1964 - Summer Song

1997 - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

1922 - Patience 

1965 - La Belle Helene

1998 - Crazy For You

1924 - Dorothy

1966 - Annie Get Your Gun

1999 - The Sound Of Music

1925 - Rose Of Persia

1967 - Orpheus In The Underworld

2000 - Mack and Mabel

1926 - Ruddigore

1968 - My Fair Lady

2001 - Scrooge The Musical

1927 - A Country Girl

1969 - Song Of Norway

2002 - Copacabana

1927 - Katinka

1970 - The Sound Of Music

2003 - Hot Mikado

1928 - Sybil

1971 - The Grand Duchess Of Gerolstein

2003 - Jesus Christ Superstar

1932 - The Desert Song

1972 - The King And I

2004 -  Aladdin

1933 - A Waltz Dream

1973 - Fiddler On The Roof

2004 - Titanic

1934 - The Yellow Mask

1974 - Oliver

2005 - Cinderella

1936 - Nina Rosa

1975 - Show Boat

2005 - Sweeney Todd

1938 - The Maid Of The Mountains

1976 - Mame

2006 - Jack And The Beanstalk

1946 - Katinka

1977 - The Merry Widow

2006 - Tommy

1947 - Bitter Sweet

1978 - Die Fledermaus

2007 - Godspell

1948 - The Gypsy Princess

1979 - Irene

2008 - Scrooge The Musical

1949 - The Mikado

1980 - Funny Girl

2009 - Honk (cancelled)

1949 -  Showboat

1981 - La Belle Helene

2010 - Jekyll and Hyde

1950 - The Lisbon Story

1982 - The Dancing Years

2011 - Beauty and the Beast

1951 - Magyar Melody

1983 - Hello Dolly

1952 - Chu Chin Chow

1984 - South Pacific

1953 - The Dancing Years

1985 - The Desert Song

1954 - Wild Violets

1986 - Guys And Dolls

1955 - Iolanthe

1987 - Call Me Madam

1955 - Kings Rhapsody

1988 - Pirates Of Penzance (Broadway Version)

1956 - Annie Get Your Gun

1989 - Mame

1957 - The Maid Of The Mountains

1990 - Robert And Elizabeth

1958 - Call Me Madam

1991 - Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

Full list of previous productions