In 1984/5, touched by the horrifying pictures of the famine in Ethiopia on television and in the papers, a number of charities began efforts to raise funds towards relieving the situation.
Norma Evans and husband Peter, she an experienced producer, and both of them regular performers with local operatic companies, organised a charity performance of popular musical numbers at the Merton Civic Hall on Sunday 3rd February 1985 specifically to raise funds for this purpose. The evening was compered by the popular ventriloquist Ray Alan with Lord Charles (at the time a neighbour and friend of our late chairman, Dick Grenyer). There were selections from shows such as Die Fledermaus, Showboat, South Pacific, Mikado, Gondoliers and many more, performed by experienced principals from the local societies with an extremely large supporting chorus. The title for the evening was "Songs for their Supper".
Over 100 members from The Lyric Players, New Malden Operatic Society, Leatherhead Operatic Society, and a special "Concert Orchestra" put together from the societies' show orchestras, came together for this wonderful evening. In view of this response, and the fact that the evening was so well received, Norma and Peter wondered whether a new Operatic Company could be formed, specifically to put on the types of musicals and operettas they most enjoyed.
After several months of preliminary work, the first meeting to establish the new Epsom Light Opera Company was held at Ewell Court House in December 1985. A founding committee was formed, and the rest, as they say, is history. The first coming together of the company was for another charity concert in aid of Ethiopian Relief at the Epsom Playhouse in January 1986, followed by performing at the Mayor's Charity Concert three months later. Here Marilyn Hill Smith (probably best known for being a favourite of "Friday Night is Music Night" on BBC Radio) was one of the celebrity guests, and was invited to associate herself with the company. She agreed to become its Patron and has remained a staunch friend ever since. The company put on its first show (Orpheus in the Underworld) in October 1986.
The company is now well established as an award-winning society performing twice yearly (mostly to full houses) at the Epsom Playhouse. A full list of its Past Shows is available under that title on the Menu. It still performs some of the types of operettas and musicals Norma started it for, but with a growing youth membership has expanded into more adventurous shows as well - such as the 2006 Hot Mikado - and the NODA Award Winning The Witches of Eastwick in 2008!