The Society Was “born” in 1947 – an offshoot of the Oxted Evening Institute, under the aegis of Frank and Norah Sowerby. Its first production – “The Yeomen of the Guard” was presented in 1947 to mark the reopening of the Barn Theatre after the Second World War. It was presented under the name of “The Oxted Singers” but this had become Oxted Operatic Society for the second production – “The Mikado” – in 1948.
For the first ten years, the Society performed only Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with one production each year. However, by 1957, audience numbers had dwindled and the finances were dangerously low. The Musical Director, Len Maynard, proposed a change with a musically demanding opera – “Hugh the Drover” but this was not supported by the membership and was abandoned.
It was essential for the future of the Society to stage a show that could be cheap to dress and stage, with all costs kept to a minimum. “The Lilac Domino” was chosen and this proved to be a turning point in the Society’s fortunes, from which they have never looked back. Only one other show has ever been cancelled since then, that was “State Fair” in the year 2000.
Up to 1963, only one show each year had been performed – in that year “Free as Air” and “The Mikado” were produced, with two again in 1965. From 1971 onwards, two shows each year became the custom. To date the Society has presented over 115 shows. The Society has been gratifyingly successful over the ensuing years with consistently good audiences and it has enjoyed a reputation for the quality of its productions, as evidenced by a number NODA awards.
For many years, the Society has been able to cast its productions within its membership, which has always been the cornerstone of its casting policy. Undoubtedly the success enjoyed by the Society owes much to having its home at the Barn Theatre and appreciation of this has been shown over the years by much financial support of the theatre. Typical of this was the sponsorship by the Society of 35 seats when the theatre was re-seated in 1991.
The Society remained Oxted Operatic Society until its AGM in January 2020, when as part of a modernisation and re-branding process, the members unanimously voted to change its name to ‘Oxted Musical Theatre Company’.
The Society is well supported by a growing ‘acting’ membership of both adults and juniors, together with an enthusiastic body of Life Members, Vice Presidents and Patrons.