AN AMATEUR musical theatre group has been entertaining Salisbury audiences for more than 100 years, only halting for the two world wars and now, the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here the Journal looks back on the history of Musical Theatre Salisbury (MTS).

Musical Theatre Salisbury - Barnum, 1997

Musical Theatre Salisbury - Barnum, 1997

Where it all began

It was July 23, 1908, when a meeting believed to be held at The Haunch of Venison led to the formation of Salisbury Amateur Operatic Society, now known as MTS.

Arthur Sullivan and William Schwenck Gilbert operettas formed the basis of MTS productions in the early years, including a benefit performance of Iolanthe in aid of the Titanic Disaster Fund, 1912.

The first show performed by the group was The Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert and Sullivan, and this has become one of MTS’s regular productions - since then performed nine times.

Musical Theatre Salisbury - Titanic, 2007

Musical Theatre Salisbury - Titanic, 2007

The home(s) of MTS

According to the society, it first wowed audiences at the city’s County Hall, which later became the Palace Theatre on Endless Street, with a move to the Victoria Hall in Rollestone Street in 1925.

After the world wars the Old Picture House was the society’s home for 19 years, before it moved to a new picture house, the City Hall, in the mid sixties.

This larger venue opened up more opportunities for MTS, which was then able to stage bigger shows, shifting the musical direction from mainly English opera to American musicals.

This included shows like Oklahoma!, Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls and The Sound of Music.

Musical Theatre Salisbury - Free as Air, 1961

Musical Theatre Salisbury - Free as Air, 1961

Taking talent to new heights

Moving away from its main quarters, over the years the society has taken its talent across the city.

In 1991 Jesus Christ Superstar was performed in Salisbury Cathedral, raising around £5,500 for the Salisbury Spire Appeal, and the Guildhall was the setting for Trial by Jury in 1985.

More recently MTS enjoyed a collaboration with Salisbury Playhouse, where members took to the stage to perform Oh What a Lovely War, Evita and Into the Woods, as well as This is My Song in the Salberg Theatre.

MTS presents 9 to 5, 2019. Below, Free as Air, 1961. Bottom left, Barnum, 1997 Pictures provided by MTS and Simon Ward

Musical Theatre Salisbury - 9 to 5, 2019

The impact of Covid-19

As a result of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, last year the dedicated MTS team had to stop its rehearsals and, like the rest of the country, it started to take part in Zoom calls and meetings.

Over the last 12 months MTS has risen to the challenge of staying connected through virtual events like baking, games nights, parties and quizzes, and they managed to dazzle residents with socially distanced carol singing at Christmas.

As the society waits patiently for normality to resume, members are busy perfecting their woodland creatures, ready for their return to the stage with Wind in the Willows at Salisbury Playhouse.

MTS said: “We are so grateful for the support we have enjoyed over the past 112 years from our members, our patrons and all the audiences that come to our performances.

"Please look out for news of our upcoming shows as soon as restrictions allow – we can be found on Facebook where there are some amusing interviews with cast members talking about their MTS memories.”

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