Entertaining those crowds since 1933!

The cast of Wombwell Operatic Society's production of Calamity Jane, from 2006.
The cast of Wombwell Operatic Society's production of Calamity Jane, from 2006.

THOUSANDS of am dram fans from across the Dearne have been entertained by its ranks for eight decades.

Reporter Sally Burton looks at the success of a community’s theatre group and its hopes for the future.

FEW amateur dramatic companies are quite so entrenched in their community as Wombwell Operatic Society.

The company was founded in 1933 so is currently celebrating its 80th anniversary. Its 1934 opening production was The Mikado, and each performance since has never failed to put bums on seats.

Shows were staged at the Empire in Wombwell, then later at Barnsley Civic. There was only one break in performances, during the war years.

But it wasn’t until the 1980s that a decision was made to buy the Zion Chapel in George Street, Wombwell, for rehearsals. Members loaned money to the society, and in 1987 a stage was created along with dressing rooms. A theatre was born.

Christmas celebration concerts began in December 1993 and have remained an annual favourite with fans. Similarly, the all-singing, all-dancing September Serenade never fails to fill the theatre.

In January 1999 came Cinderella, the first pantomime.

A flourishing youth group formed in 2004 and four years later the youngsters linked with the adult section to stage a charity concert.

In November 2011 the society’s work was recognised when it became the first of its kind to receive the Duke of York Community Award.

Publicity officer Jo Owen said: “Eighty years is quite some achievement. The fact that Wombwell has progressed as time has moved on is unique in this area and proves we must be doing something right.”

January’s pantomime - Red Riding Hood is barely over - and already rehearsals have begun for Me and My Girl in March. In June, the youth group will stage Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Jo added: “Ours is truly a community theatre and is hired by local groups. The maintenance costs are high but these are met by members and there are working groups for costumes and props which are available for hire.

“Work on the theatre is by no means complete. There are developments members would love to see, but major amounts of money are required ...so that is all for the next 80 years!”

From March 4 to 9, Andrew Loades and Teresa Roberts will head the cast in me and My Girl. The whole production is under the direction of Paul Chandler, a Welsh professional, who has previously produced Brigadoon, Anything Goes, Oliver, Pirates of Penzance, The Pajama Game and Carousel for the Society.

Me and My Girl tells how a cockney rough diamond discovers he is heir to Hareford Hall, and how his new family endeavours to turn him into a lord. The story has great humour and great music, with songs Lambeth Walk, Leaning on a Lamp, and The Sun has got his Hat On.

Tickets are available on the hotline 07905 764 693 priced at £10 and £9 concessions.