Formerly Frome Amateur Operatic Society

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history

 

The first mention of anything destined to develop into FAOS was a Pierrot Concert given in aid of the Frome Nurses' Home in the Mechanics’ Hall on 19th April 1900. The concert was given by a group calling themselves The Magpies and they described themselves as "An amateur pierrot banjo and mandolin troupe".


The Magpies performed again over the next few years in Frome and the surrounding towns, building themselves a good local reputation and by 1905 were sufficiently well organised and confident to call a meeting of its band of performers & supporters to form the Frome Amateur Operatic Society. On 26th April 1906, FAOS performed Gilbert & Sullivan's
Trial by Jury at the Market Hall Frome with Colonel F. Arthur Shaw as the musical director.


The society successfully performed once a year over the next few years and indeed produced two shows in 1912. The First World War put an end to shows until the summer of 1924 producing
Sorcerer in the Park played in the open air and marred by poor weather. They performed it again in spring the following year, this time inside in the yet to be completed War Memorial Hall, now the Memorial Theatre, and to critical acclaim.


At one point known as the Frome Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, later the word "Dramatic" was dropped. FAOS settled into an annual routine, performed G&S each year throughout the 1920s and as they entered the 1930s they broadened their repertoire, came away from operetta and started to do musicals, the first one being
Merrie England in 1930. In 1939 they were again stopped in their tracks by war.


In 1939, a group of male members from FAOS, who were too old to serve in WW2, together with a few women, formed a group called the “Brightlights” and entertained the troops at camps in and around Frome throughout the war.  Those same members, together with returning servicemen & women, re-started FAOS in 1947 with
Belle of New York.


FAOS continued with a musical annually until 1966.  In addition, in 1967 FAOS formed a concert section called "The Opera Group" and concerts by them became part of the Society's annual calendar. Their first concert was
Carmen. In the early years of the Opera Group, high opera like Aida was performed and sometimes professionals were hired to lead these performances. The Opera Group has evolved into singing selections from popular operetta and musicals and, in September 2009, it changed its name and is now called "Showstoppers".


Two shows a year continued until 1979 when a pantomime was introduced into the Society's annual calendar, the first one being
Jack and the Beanstalk. Since then FAOS has performed a traditional pantomime. There are lavish costumes, big effects, slapstick, children's sing-along and glamour & glitter and they have become hugely popular in Frome attracting sell-out audiences.


Three shows a year continued until 1989 when a youth group was formed. “Spellbound" was conceived to give children aged between 8 and 16 an experience of being in a full scale show in a theatre. Their first show was
Godspell and was performed in Frome's Merlin Theatre. Spellbound subsequently continued to perform in the Memorial Theatre.


In 2008, the Society decided to create a further group to perform more contemporary musicals and encourage another generation of performers. Its first performance, in 2008, was
Little Shop of Horrors.  The Autumn Show continued until 2014 and, although artistically a huge success, financially it was not sustainable.


In 2006, the Frome Amateur Operatic Society celebrated its centenary. There were celebratory events during that year and the Society published a book "Something to Make a Song and Dance About", authored by Society President, Bob Stannard.


The latest chapter in this proud history was the change of name to the more modern Frome Musical Theatre Company in 2013, to continue the pursuit of excellence in the performance of musical theatre for the enjoyment of Frome audiences and satisfaction of the dedicated, enthusiastic and talented group members.