What's Next for Amateur Theatre; the Last Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta, an Antidote to Valentine's Day Schmaltz and Some Period Movie Madness. DAVID WHETSTONE Previews the Amateur Stage

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THE omens don't look great for any company tackling the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Grand Duke.

It was the 14th and last operetta by the famous pair - librettist WS Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan - and a financial flop.

"The production has not been without its difficulties," report the St Andrew's Operatic Society, which is performing The Grand Duke this week in Sunderland.

Uh oh, you think. But the society adds that its failure to obtain orchestral scores was overcome when a conductor's score was acquired from Seattle, USA.

A talented member of the Wearside cast was able to convert the conductor's score into the individual scores needed for the 17 musicians of the orchestra.

A cast of 45 plus orchestra has been mustered by the society which is performing The Grand Duke for the first time in Sunderland.

The production is directed by Keith Armitage and Peter Shreyhane with Ken Matthews as conductor.

Among the principals are Richard Straw, Kathy Price, Phillip Hall, Rory Oliver, Paul Blakey, Kayleigh Oliver, Bernadette Trotter, Simon McLouglin, Jennifer Bain and Elizabeth Hamer. The Grand Duke - or The Statutory Duel - is a delicious piece of English musical eccentricity.

The cast will be heartened to know it enjoyed a successful opening night at London's Savoy Theatre on March 7, 1896. See the St Andrew's production at the Priestman Hall, Talbot Road, Roker, from tomorrow until Saturday.

Tickets from Joan Cook on 0191 529 3439 and Smith's Shoes Services, Sea Road, Fulwell, on 0191 548 3232.

? THIS week of Valentine's Day the People's Theatre presents "an ideal antidote to schmaltzy hearts and flowers". It is the "darkly comic drama of obsession, honour and revenge" that is August Strindberg's play, Creditors.

The production running at the People's, Stephenson Road, Newcastle, from today until Saturday is the regional premiere of Scottish playwright David Greig's acclaimed translation of the play. …


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