Jackie loved to dance and sing
Taunton Amateur Operatic Society TAOS
A large part of her homelife on the ground was cheered up by her membership of TAOS. Here are some of her interesting pictures, press cuttings and photographs showing TAOS in the 1950s and 60s. The Wayfarers Pantomime Society and the TAOS Concert Group. Mavis Kettlewell describes Jackie’s contribution to TAOS.
Jackie had natural stage presence and in the autumn of 1946 she found an outlet for this through membership of Taunton Operatic Society (no amateur in its title in those days - this had been dropped in 1929 and did not reappear until 1948).
The Taunton society had recently re-established itself in the town after a six years war- time break and in those days their productions formed a conspicuous part of the annual social scene.
Opera week was a big event which took place in the then 1,486 seat theatre, the Gaumont Palace (now The Bingo Hall in Taunton), and there was seldom a seat which was left unsold. Membership of the society was also the start of a long and close friendship with the society’s legendary and much loved director, Eva Callebaut.
Jackie’s first show was the 1947 production of The Vagabond King in which she played the small principal role of Lady Mary. This was no mean achievement since new members seldom walked into principal roles in their first show.
Her loyalty as a member soon became evident through her wish to be just a part of a show whether as a principal, dancer or member of the chorus. Throughout the late 1940’s and 50’s her name appeared regularly in the programmes, most notably as the following parts; As Wanda the wife of Black Eagle playing opposite Bobbie Dodd in the 1949 production of Rose Marie; As Phoebe the maid in their 1952 production The Quaker Girl which broke all records playing to 12,413 people in one week. The Saturday night played to an audience of 1,624 an all-time record for any one performance. 137 people queued up for standing room only! Read Press release.
"The versatile Jackie Moggridge handled the role of the French Maid as expertly as she can manipulate an aeroplane”
The Quaker Girl 1952
Jackie on point right Leslie Grey centre floor, Chu Chin Chow 1950
Eva Callebaut the Founder and Director for many years who left TAOS Callebaut Hall in her will, presenting flowers, Jackie in a principle role centre holding flowers
Chu Chin Chow 17th April 1950. Note the size of the cast, the number of dancers and costumes and the large set. These were mega shows with huge budgets.
Those were the days. She also played Riquette the year before in Viktoria and Her Hussar the 40th production of TAOS at the Gaumont in 1951, the Press said she was “Outstanding” one press critic wrote “The versatile Jackie Moggridge handled the role of the French Maid as expertly as she can manipulate an aeroplane”
Jackie had lessons with Majorie Newman at Mountway School of dancing she danced with Leslie Grey on stage and later sent her daughter Candy for lessons. Here is a programme for a Mountway Ballet Concert in which Jackie and Sheila danced in 1950.
Programmes from RED CROSS concert group and Mountway School of Dance Concert, features Sheila Hennell and Jackie dancing to Top Hat)
Her attitude was that of a professional - the desire always ‘to get it right’ and as one of Eva’s dancers, always to be ‘on the right foot’! Jackie was a quick study and soon picked up routines, she was also very generous hearted and went out of her way to help new members. Unhappy rehearsals for some slower chorus members meant extra practise - invariably arranged by Jackie and more often than not, taking place in her welcoming sitting room at West Highlands
Active membership of TAOS continued with regular appearances and later with her 2nd daughter, Candy in productions until 1979, including many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas which 10 years previously had become a regular feature of the society’s annual programme.
Gilbert and Sullivan was always popular every Autumn Show.
"the show was on. Clad in black tights, red sequins and raw nerves I contributed my might before packed houses mercifully hidden by the glare of footlights"
"with Reg’s cautious assent I went for an audition with the Taunton Operatic Society and was given a microscopic singing and dancing part as a soubrette in Vagabond King then under rehearsal."
Grease-paint, I decided, was no substitute for vapour trails.
Jackie loved ballet and opera here she is centre dancing in Mountway School of dancing concert.
TAOS The Sparklers Concert Party collecting for Poppy Day
Veronica Ridge (her stage name) in Drury Lane's My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison.
(The King and I at the Gaumont Theatre, Candy 3rd in, on the rt, front row and Jackie 2nd in, on rt, 2nd row.)
Candy remembers Eva Callebaut as a very formidable upright old lady. When Candy was only four years old she was in The King and I and had to crawl between the King’s legs. She will never forget Eva telling all the children that there was a little deaf old man sitting right at the back of the circle and he had paid for his ticket and they needed to make him hear them. They all truly believed her.
Jackie was also a member of the British Red Cross and members of TAOS often found themselves being coerced into joining, helping in particular with the transport of the elderly infirm to their regular club meetings at Middleway.
This of course also led to frequent concert parties, organised and rehearsed by Jackie at her home. Candy remembers being left to do her homework in the corner of the communal lounge in many community centres whilst TAOS members cavorted on stage with comedy sketches and songs and dances, it was always so amusing and professional that not a lot of homework was done.
Jackie had been Principle Girl and Boy in a couple of professional panto’s in Western Super Mare. She was in
Puss in Boots in the Knightstone Theatre there. She continued her enjoyment of panto with the Wayfarers Society when they had their performances opposite Callebaut in St Andrew’s Hall which was a drafty wooden shack at that time.
Candy remembers never being able to see her mother on stage properly as there was no raked seating however she does remember being called up on stage by Keith Smith as the dame and being left until last when all the other children were sent back with prizes. “I was seven when I was your age” He’d say to her delight then pat her on the head and send her back with the biggest prize.
(Wayfarers Pantomime Society Keith Smith as Dame
2nd in on Right his daughter playing Principal Boy)
TAOS shows were a great event on the Taunton social calendar as you have seen the fight for tickets was great and we were even written up each year in the Bristol Evening Post.
Jackie was a free spirit, one of those charismatic people one is always proud to have known and loved.
Happy landings! And may the book sales fly off the shelves it is a fun, exciting and inspirational read. The fact that Jackie chose to mention TOAS in her autobiography shows what an important part of her life we were. Find out for yourselves Spitfire Girl, My Life in the Sky, is at Brendon Books Bath Place, Amazon and ebooks.
Both Jackie's daughters continued the tradition Veronica went to ballet school and became a professional dancer her first, dancing in MY FAIR LADY in Drury Lane. Candy followed in her mother’s amateur footstops. Candy enjoyed wearing a Nun’s habit in Sound of Music in April 2013 and has danced and sung in all the TAOS and Wayfarers shows as has Jackie's granddaughter Lara following in a family tradition.
Jackie being principle girl boy in a professional panto’ in Western Super Mare, in the Knightstone Theatre
Wayfarers Pantomine 1969 Dick Whittington