A Brief History Of Dandenong Light Opera Company Inc / Dandenong Theatre Company Inc:

The formation of Dandenong Light Opera Company (DLOC) emanated from a telephone call, from Rose O’Brien toEvelyn Girling, both past members of the (former) Springvale South Light Opera Company. Rose called Evelyn to ask her thoughts on forming a light opera company in Dandenong, and both agreed it would be an excellent idea, and so Rose started the wheels turning. The year? - 1973!

A public meeting was called of interested Dandenong citizens - twenty in all - from which a committee was elected, with Rose O’Brien as the President, and Evelyn Girling as the Hon Secretary. The Hon Treasurer was Don Critchlow, and the initial general committee comprised Fay Harrison, Robin Rhodes, and Jean Withy.

"Die Fledermaus" was chosen to be the new company’s première production, and after exhausting auditions, an excellent cast of principals and ensemble was chosen. The expertise of one of the most experienced directors of the time, Max Grant, was secured for this initial production, and Geoff Smith was appointed the Musical Director. Both trained the company to an excellent standard, in readiness for the June performances.

Many hazards lay ahead for the fledgling company, especially not having any scenery stock, or, funds to create scenery, or, a place to build scenery. The space problem was overcome, as many members, especially Robin Rhodes, were involved with the Power Street Technical School, and through their good offices, space and equipment was made available.

How to construct scenery? Fortunately, Max Grant had knowledge and expertise in this area, which was also put to good use. Walking a very line with money raised from progressive dinners and membership fees of $5-00 (it’s still only $20-00- a good example of deflation!), an excellent set was built. Canvas and timber for the set used up all those funds, so, what were the cast to wear?

Cecil Girling loaned the company enough money to enable it to hire costumes from JC Williamsons, and, make some new ones as well.

Many members of the Dandenong Band provided a first class theatre orchestra, and donated their services for free.

The result? - an excellent première production for a new company, which was staged at the Cleeland Street School, of which George Evans was a staff member. Four performances were given, and the season was a financial success, thus enabling the company to stage further productions. A subsequent meeting decided to stage "The Desert Song" , using the same production team.

However, the company had acquired ‘stuff’’ - some costumes, and a lot of scenery. This needed to be stored. After a lot of cajoling, the principal of the Power Street School allowed the company the use of the boiler room.

DLOC was on its way. Another excellent cast was assembled, and, with a little bit of money in hand, augmented by raffles and social activities, some new sets could be built. The other very important parts of the equation were enthusiasm, and a sense of fun.

What’s different today? It was thought appropriate in this twenty fifth anniversary year that perhaps a name change was in order, to reflect the greater diversity of the company’s operations. In March 1998, it was voted at a special general meeting of members to change the name to Dandenong Theatre Company Incorporated. Each year now, as well as mounting two full scale musical productions, the company stages a play, and is in the process of establishing a youth theatre company, and next year, possibly a concert party.

Those are perhaps the only major differences to the company, along with personnel, although several of the original members are still actively involved. What is good to see, is that the original enthusiasm and sense of fun is very much in evidence. A new cast member in the recent production of "Hot Mikado" commented that the company cares about its people and is very friendly towards everybody, rather than cast members being just another object to help make money for the company.

It’s the company’s dearest wish that the same will be said on the company’s fiftieth anniversary in the year 2023!

October, 1998.

(Written by Evelyn Girling, with assistance from John Larcombe, then president, DTC Inc)