In pictures: when popular Sheffield theatre companies joined forces

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company
Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

It's a tale of two theatre companies, a pair of Sheffield favourites who had their own successes and their own loyal audiences for their shows.

But when two became one, they went on to become one of the city’s most popular community theatre companies.

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

And as they prepare for their latest show - a lavish regional premiere of West End musical The Wind in the Willows - Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company can look back on a string of successes that span several decades of theatrical excellence.

It was in 1948 that Jean Walker had a chat with friends on the way to work that would lead to a legacy of amateur theatre in Sheffield spanning almost 70 years.

Travelling on the 221 bus destined for Pond Street, Jean got talking to Ron Smith and Bill Burton who offered their services as director and accompanist for a small concert party singing at local retirement homes.

It was this small collection of players that would eventually become Handsworth Operatic Society.

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

And in 1950 the new company performed their first major production, Pearl the Fishermaid, at their Hendon Street theatre in Handsworth.

In the years that followed, the group would outgrow that original venue, moving on in the 1960s and ‘70s to perform at both Beaver Hill and Brook Schools - where they performed Lerner and Loewe classic Camelot complete with costumes from the West End production - before transferring to theatres like the Montgomery and The University Drama Studio, where they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1998 with a revival of Hello Dolly.

Sheffield Hallam Operatic Society was launched in 1987 with a debut production of South Pacific at the Merlin Theatre in Nether Edge.

As the company expanded, it outgrew the Merlin and so moved on to the Montgomery for a 1989 production of another Rodgers and Hammerstein hit, Oklahoma.

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

Hallam remained at the Montgomery theatre until 1998 where they performed The Sound of Music, while 1999 saw them back at the University Drama Studio for quirky English favourite Salad Days.

The two societies amalgamated in 2002 and Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company have since staged everything from My Fair Lady to Calamity Jane, The Card and even the first-ever Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice collaboration, The Likes of Us - these images from the archives show some of the faces featured in those shows.

The company is also one of the region’s leading pantomime producers, with its January shows at the Montgomery Theatre now firmly established as one of the biggest hits of the post-Christmas theatre season.

Titles like Aladdin, Dick Whittington, Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty, Robinson Crusoe, Mother Goose and, most recently, Jack and the Beanstalk have demonstrated the enduring appeal of the traditional genre.

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

Past productions from Hallam and Handsworth Theatre Company

And it’s going to be another first this summer as the company presents the South Yorkshire premiere of The Wind in the Willows, which take the the stage at Sheffield’s Montgomery Theatre from June 19 to 22.

The much-loved riverbank favourite has been adapted for the stage by Oscar-winning Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, with songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, who worked on the hit West End and Broadway stage version of Mary Poppins.

Heading the cast as outrageous and accident-prone car enthusiast Mr Toad is well-known Handsworth and Hallam actor Andrew Stansall.

“The Wind in the Willows is going to be the perfect family summer musical, one that we are sure everybody will enjoy,” said company spokesperson Laura Langley.

“It’s a classic comedy adventure story and now it has a fantastic score to make the madcap adventures of Mr Toad of Toad Hall, Ratty, Mole and Badger even more memorable.

“All the familiar characters from the River Bank, the Wild Wood and, of course, Toad Hall, are there to enjoy again as the outrageous Mr Toad joins his friends on a crazy road trip.”

Tickets for the show, which is directed and choreographed by Claire Harriott with musical direction by Ray Gallagher, are already on sale. To book call 07586293546 or email: hhtctickets@live.co.uk