It all started with the response of the public to the concerts of
Lethbridge Symphony Chorus, especially those that featured the music of
Broadway Shows, and the Symphony's Southern Showcase. Albert Rodnunsky,
conductor of the symphony and a few of us talked about doing some of
the shows in the spring of 1963. The next move was Albert's contact
with Dick Mells, Cultural Superintendent for the City of Lethbridge and
the next thing a committee had been formed comprising of Albert, Dick,
Gord Moir, Doug Card then president of the Symphony Association and
myself, Ross Whitmore.
We felt we could tackle a show but lacked the funds to start. It was suggested we borrow $500 from the Symphony Association. The loan was approved and Lethbridge Musical Theatre was formed as a branch of the Lethbridge Symphony Association.
Gordon Moir became the first chairman with Dick Mells as director, Ross Whitmore, Business Manager, Bob Weldman, Treasurer and Louise Hammel, Secretary. The show selected was "Finnian's Rainbow" to run for a few days in April 1964. Auditions were held, cast selected and the work began. The Women's Symphony League took on the task of making costumes, under the direction of Mrs. Rodnunsky in the basement of her home and soon her home took on the look of a New York Garment sweatshop. This group also sold advertising for the program, and sold the programs at each performance receiving 50% of any profit. The show ran from April 14th to the 18th: five performances; tickets were $1.50, $2.00 and $3.00; and was presented in the Capital Theatre. The show ran to full houses each night, a small profit was made, enough to pay off our loan and plan the next show. This was to be a full production and designed to test the best time to mount our show.
Gordon Moir continued as Chairman, with the other committee members still in place for the second season. The second production was "Oklahoma", again staged at the Capital Theatre from October 22 to 30th, 1964 for a eight performance run. Tickets this year were $2.00, $2.50 and $3.00. The show was again a sell out. From this success the decision was made to stage with the Fall Production. Oklahoma drew the largest audience until recent years - 7480 people in the eight days.
We lost our chairman Gordon Moir with his move to Calgary and the Lethbridge Symphony Association relinquished operation of this area and Lethbridge Musical Theatre became an autonomous body. At the annual meeting of Lethbridge Musical Theatre in the spring of 1965 a new executive was elected. Horace Barrett became president, others joining the board were Vaughn Hembroff, Howard Ellison, Len Ankers, Ev Nowlin, treasurer, Louise Hammel, secretary, Ross Whitmore, business manager. Dick Mells continued as production director.
"Li'l Abner" was selected for 1965 to run from October 22 - 30, another 8-day run with ticket prices the same as the previous year. The show was so successful that we decided to take it to Great Falls where it was well received. This was our last production at the Capitol Theatre for Lethbridge Musical Theatre and LMT certainly appreciated working with the Shackleford men. (Thanks Shack)
At our annual our annual meeting in February of 1966 we had only one change in the executive: Len Ankers left and was replaced with Joan Waterfield who took on the job of publicity and continues in that position until this date. At this time the Yates Centre was coming to completion and we booked our production for the new facility for our fall production of "South Pacific". "South Pacific" ran from November 18 to November 30, was sold out three weeks prior to opening; a box office and artistic success. I think some of the highlights of the show were the spacious stage, the fantastic sets dn Jan Rubes, who during the afternoons was generous with helpful direction and hints for the younger actors. After the show was over, each evening we would gather in the "Green Room" for relaxation. Jan would bring down his guitar and sing for the hour or two; then it was home to bed.
After our 1967 annual meeting Len Ankers rejoined the board and we had a new member in Ian Kinnell who took over the duties of secretary. On May 27, 1967 our President, Horace Barrett died and was sadly missed from our ranks. He was a wonderful president and did much good for the organization during the building years. It was his vision to have Lethbridge Musical Theatre on its own; and with the cooperation of the Lethbridge Symphony Association this separation was realized with good will on all hands.
Horace's passing left the president's chair vacant and we had the man for the job--Vaughn Hembroff. The following production was "Show Boat". We felt that we had done a good job with South Pacific, we wanted to do even better and decided to 'import' some professionals. We approached Robert McFerrin's agent and found that the singer would be available but was working with a group called the Californians, an excellent vocal trio. We next approached Bobbi Sherron and we were able to make a deal with all of them - our show was set. Dick Mells, our director from the beginning, was able to get together a fantastic cast from local talent, the show was colorful, interesting and was a complete box office success... a tradition that continues to this date.