A Philadelphia tradition for over 100 yearsIn 1901, a young Philadelphia doctor named Alfred Reginald Allen, having witnessed Gilbert & Sullivan shows in England, decided that the operas should be produced in Philadelphia in the “original manner.”
It was estimated that there were then over one hundred theater groups performing H.M.S. Pinafore, all changing the show in various ways to circumvent copyright laws. Allen believed that the G&S operas being produced in the United States were being ruined by “modernization,” “colloquial interpolation,” and “improvements,” and later that year Allen, along with his sister and one of her friends, recruited a group of local people to perform a "true" Gilbert and Sullivan show.
Allen served as focal point of the group and as the group’s conductor, while his sister and her friends served as the management. Rehearsals took place in various members’ homes. Allen ruled rehearsals with sarcasm and caustic criticism, which earned him the respect of the group, much like Gilbert had done 25 years earlier.
Allen presented Trial By Jury at the Merion Cricket Club on May 4th, 1901. The production was such a success that the three original conspirators were moved to form a permanent organization, The Savoy Company. Members were again solicited and Savoy performances of Trial By Jury were given on December 6 and 7, 1901 at St. James Hall, located at 38th and Market Streets, Philadelphia.
Every year we donate a portion of the proceeds from our Academy of Music performances to the Alfred Reginald Allen Memorial Fund of the University of Pennsylvania. Established by Savoy in 1921 in memory of our founder, the fund supports the acquisition of books and scores for the university's Otto E. Albrecht Music Library.
Today, The Savoy Company is the oldest amateur theater company in the world dedicated solely to the production of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Our company has a rich local tradition and performs annually at the Zellerbach Theatre in Philadelphia and at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Our casts, composed of local volunteer talent, have in the past included such luminaries as the film star Nelson Eddy, Metropolitan Opera soprano Margaret Harshaw, and Broadway star Wilbur Evans.