Newsletter #2

Wed 22 Feb 2023

Newsletter #2

Newsletter Logo

Here is RSTC Newsletter #2

Welcome to Issue #2 of the RSTC Newsletter.

We aim to keep members informed of what is going on in and around RSTC and what is on offer during the coming months. We always welcome feedback and suggestions from members on anything concerning the events we stage and how they are carried out.

Contents of this Issue

·         History of the Savoy Theatre

·         How RSTC Events are Planned

·         Upcoming Events

·         RSTC 25th Anniversary

·         Membership Numbers

·         Letters to the Editor

History of the Savoy Theatre, London

Members may be interested in the fascinating history of some of the theatres we visit. Here is a brief history of the Savoy Theatre which we visit shortly to see ‘Pretty Woman’.

                                                  Savoy Theatre Plaque
                                                  Savoy Theatre Plaque

The theatre was designed by CJ Phipps for Richard D'Oyly Carte and opened on 10th  October 1881 on a site previously occupied by the Savoy Palace. Its intended purpose was to showcase the popular series of comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, which became known as the Savoy Operas.

The theatre was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity! For many years, the Savoy Theatre was the home of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company which continued to be run by the Carte family for over a century.

Richard's son Rupert D'Oyly Carte rebuilt and modernised the theatre in 1929, with Frank Tugwell as the architect and decorative designs by Basil Ionides. The theatre re-opened on 21st October 1929 with a revival of The Gondoliers, conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent.

While the theatre was being renovated in February 1990, a fire gutted the building, except for the stage and backstage areas. A proposal to build a new theatre in the late 20th-century style was overruled by the Savoy's insurers and by English Heritage, the government body with oversight of listed buildings. It was decided to restore the building as faithfully as possible to the 1929 designs. The working designs had been preserved, allowing accurate restoration of the theatre under the direction of the architect Sir William Whitfield, chairman Sir Hugh Wontner and the theatre's manager, Kevin Chapple. 

It reopened on 19th July 1993, with a royal gala that included a specially commissioned ballet, Savoy Suite by Wayne Sleep, to a score based on Sullivan's music. The present theatre has a capacity of 1,158. During the renovation, an extra storey was added above the theatre that includes a health club for the hotel and a swimming pool above the stage. The reopened theatre was the venue for the World Chess Championship in 1993, won by Garry Kasparov.

The Savoy Hotel group, including the theatre, was sold in 2004 to Quinlan Private which, in turn, sold the theatre in 2005 to the Ambassador Theatre Group. Productions since then have been mostly revivals and transfers of modern musicals. After enforced closure due to the Covid pandemic, the theatre reopened in July 2021 with Pretty Woman: The Musical, which was playing at the Piccadilly Theatre in March 2020, when it was suspended due to the pandemic.

In December 2013, ATG acquired sole ownership of the Savoy Theatre.

Next Issue: History of the Gillian Lynne Theatre where we will be seeing ‘Crazy for You’ later in 2023.

How RSTC Events are Planned

When members board the coach for a RSTC event, they probably don’t realise the amount of work which has taken place for it to run smoothly and safely, so here is a brief summary:

At the quarterly RSTC Committee meeting, we discuss and arrange future events, trying to keep a balance between theatre visits and other trips, both local and further afield. The recent Member Questionnaire is a very useful tool to help in selecting popular shows. We also take note of recommendations from the AGM – a request to revisit The Magic Circle is now in the schedule for September 2023.

For theatre visits, we must then establish the price, availability and suitable location of seats. For some venues, we have to pre-pay for tickets many months in advance to get advantageous prices to offer to members. The cost to members – including ticket price, coach fare and driver gratuity - is then established, aiming to ‘break even’. The event is usually opened for booking approximately 3 months before the date. Crucially, transport must be booked with our ever-reliable partner Hodges Coaches.

Once booking is opened, the hard work really begins! Bookings come in by post and email with payments made both by bank transfer and cheque. All must be checked, collated, recorded and confirmed. If necessary, waiting lists are established. Inevitably, some member bookings are cancelled for a variety of reasons. Where possible, those places are allocated to people on the waiting list and refunds made. Near the date of the event, tickets are allocated to members, trying – where possible – to ensure that friends sit together.

On the day of the event, the coach (or coaches) collect members from their various pick-up points, tickets are distributed and we all enjoy a visit to the theatre or a trip to a place of interest. Two escorts on each coach ensure that members receive all relevant information about the show  and where the coach will be located for the trip back home. They also ensure that everyone has the emergency telephone number to call in case they get lost or have some mishap!

It all sounds very simple and straightforward, but a huge amount of work goes into making each event a safe and memorable RSTC member experience.

Upcoming Events
In March, we have over 100 members going to see Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Savoy Theatre in London. This is followed by the traditional Good Friday performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall. In April, we visit the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, followed by the Hollywood Film Music Gala, again at the Albert Hall. This event is currently booking. On Sunday 28th May, we enjoy one of Sonning Mill’s very popular one-off concerts The Everly Brothers Dream. These Sunday night concerts at The Mill are a new venture for RSTC and we are requiring members to make their own way to this local venue.

RSTC 25th Anniversary
This occurs in March 2023 and is documented in the ‘History of RSTC’ on the website. Tony King and Tony Weston were associated early on with RSTC and are still very actively involved in the running of the club.

Membership Numbers
At the time of writing (Feb 2023), membership numbers are approaching 350. When numbers reach 400, we will stop enrolling new members and create a waiting list – as we did before the pandemic. So, if you have any friends wishing to join, hurry them up before membership closes!

‘Letters to the Editor’
We are always keen to receive feedback and suggestions from our members on any aspect of the club’s activities – good, bad or indifferent! If you would like to make a comment for publication in this Newsletter, please use the Contact Form on the RSTC website. We look forward to hearing from you!