Malton & Norton Musical Theatre, the former Malton and Norton Amateur Operatic Society, was formed in 1948 at a meeting in Malton Town Hall in the Market Square, hosted by Town Clerk Bill Little at the request of local people interested in creating a musical society.
Founded in 1949
It performed its first show, the pantomime Dick Whittington, February 28th -March 5th in 1949. The company for that show was nearly 100 strong – on and off stage, and it included an orchestra of seven.
Bill Little became its first Chairman and Producer, starting an association which covered a host of activities and lasted until the early 1970s. Other local personalities, some still with us, followed and led the society through its ups and downs, among them long-term chairmen like Roger Hartley and Hamish McDonald.
During the war
It wasn’t easy in the early days, as veterans will tell you. WW2 had been over for several years, but the consequences of it still affected local people. Many materials were still “on coupon” and difficult to come by, and members often had to “beg, borrow or steal” what they needed for costumes, scenery or props. Many other difficulties had to be faced, including the problem of lack of funds and premises. One by one however, they were overcome and continue - sometimes miraculously it seems - to be overcome.
Supporters of the group
The Society has suffered hard times, when only the dedication of a small group of ardent supporters appeared to hold it together. In the threepenny (!) programme for Dick Whittington in 1949, producer Bill Little summed up the background to the first show. “Many difficulties had to be faced, including the problem of a lack of funds and premises”, he said. However “one by one the difficulties are being overcome and we hope that our first programme will be a success”. It was!
Over 200 shows to date
But the problems were still there for the second panto, Robinson Crusoe, the following January. Undaunted, however, MNAOS continued to thrive and has, to date, performed probably close to 200 pantos, musicals, revues and annual “Songs from the Shows” productions, as well as many concerts for good causes, that no one can now even begin to add them up with any kind of accuracy!
Contribution to the community
One thing can be said for certain, however - no other local group can claim to have made such a long-standing, rich and varied musical contribution to the life of Malton & Norton. Few families have not had at least one member in the society or been involved with it in some way over the years. Indeed, many boast generations of membership and there are still patrons, and one or two performers to boot, who were there at the very beginning – in the first panto.
The missing year!
Since 1949 there has been a pantomime every year except, apparently, in 1963 and it would be interesting if anyone knew the circumstances behind that single missing show! The society’s first full-scale musical ‘Bless the Bride’ was staged in 1955 but there was a big gap before the second - Show Boat - in 1967. They have been a regular feature since then, financed largely by the eternally popular Christmas shows and adding a new dimension for hundreds of talented local singers and performers, some of whom have gone on to careers as professional performers.
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