The Gallery Players founder and inspirational guiding light Pat Taplin sadly died on April 30, 2012. Such was her spirit and love for theatre that she was directing her final production Stephen Sondheim’s Putting It Together just six weeks before her death.
Pat founded The Gallery Players in 1985 to do small-cast, quirky shows that many, larger, societies may over-look. Early productions included revue type shows such as Cowardy Custard – a tribute to Noel Coward – and Happy As A Sandbag, a lookback at Britain during the dark days of the Blitz.
To begin with The Gallery Players staged one show a year but it wasn’t long before Pat started uncovering works by neglected composers and gradually the number of shows increased to four a year.
The scope of the productions also expanded. Starting with Company in 1988 Pat and The Gallery Players have staged virtually every Stephen Sondheim musical including Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Into The Woods, Pacific Overtures, Passion, Assassins, Merrily We Roll Along, Follies and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.
As the ambitions of the company expanded Pat also started negotiations to stage regional premieres of new musicals as soon as the rights became available.
Love Story, the first Gallery show after Pats death was a premiere and a continuation of that tradition. It was also fitting that the music was written by Howard Goodall because Goodall’s The Hired Man was the first regional premiere that the company staged back in 1991.
In fact Pat’s persuasive charm was such that she got Howard Goodall down to Ipswich to take a rehearsal. Pat was a woman you couldn’t say no to.
Pat also championed other non-mainstream shows producing regional premieres of Stephen Schwartz’s The Baker’s Wife, the stage musical version of MGM’s The Grand Hotel and Steve Brown’s Spend, Spend, Spend. Pat also had a fondness for the off-beat and staged sell-out shows of two different musicals based on the Peanuts cartoon character Snoopy, she brought On Golden Pond and Flare Path out of retirement and staged two successful productions of 60’s musical A Slice of Saturday Night.
Pat’s reputation as an excellent director meant that she could attract expert help. Ruthie Henshall offered performance advice for Putting It Together while Royal Ballet star Gary Avis performed with the Gallery Players during his early days and choreographed several shows during breaks from his Royal Ballet commitments. Pat and members of The Gallery Players returned the favour when they formed part of a chorus at Gary’s homecoming show at the Regent in September 2011 – raising funds for The Hunger Project.
Even the man himself, Stephen Sondheim, offered birthday congratulations for Pat’s 80th birthday.
It is very fitting that the Gallery Players continues in the spirit that she created and all our future productions are respectfully dedicated to Pat Taplin – our continued inspiration.