Marjorie Stanton (1932-2021): Curtain falls on life devoted to theatre
A former president of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda used her love of theatre and music to bring “Broadway quality” shows to the island’s audiences.
Marjorie Stanton came to theatre with no formal background but had “excellent instincts on how to pull people together, get them to work as a team, bring out the best in each other and let the music do the rest” her daughter, Julie Stanton, said.
“Her vision was driven by her passion for music and musical theatre and a desire to make each production better and better.
“Nothing compared to her passion for doing a show. As soon as the curtain went down on closing night, she was already thinking about what show to start working on next.”
She added that her mother was inspired to bring many musicals to the Bermuda stage after seeing them in New York or London.
She saw the musical Chicago with her in mother in New York and marvelled at her determination to bring the show to Bermuda, despite its ambitious level of dance.
Ms Stanton said: “Once she put her mind to it, she knew how to make it happen.”
She added: “Mum absolutely loved bringing people of all backgrounds and levels of talent together to be part of a show – she wanted to involve and expose as many different people as she possibly could to the joy, happiness and community harmony that being part of and watching musical theatre can bring.
“I think she can rest in peace knowing that she accomplished that mission and vision better than she could ever have dreamt.”
One tribute said Mrs Stanton was “a powerhouse of a woman, single-handedly keeping musical theatre alive in Bermuda”.
It added: “Her devotion to each and every production was legendary and as many people can remember – you just did not have the option of saying no to Marjorie.
“She was that compelling of a person.”
Her daughter said that explained why there was never a lack of performers, designers, theatre lovers or supporters for the more than 35 shows she was involved in producing.
One of Mrs Stanton’s proudest moments was bringing the blockbuster Les Miserables to Bermuda in 1998.
G&S Bermuda was the first amateur theatre production company in the world to secure performing rights for the show.
Mrs Stanton, who was born in Leeds in the UK, came to Bermuda in 1970 with her late husband, Keith, a government statistician who encouraged her theatrical work.
The couple also had a son, David, who died in 2013, who helped her with productions.
Mrs Stanton’s introduction to the stage came through helping with her children’s performances.
She joined the Bermuda Musical & Dramatic Society in 1975 on wardrobe for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Mrs Stanton moved to other roles with BMDS, and sang soprano with the Daylesford Singers.
She joined G&S in 1978, and worked on wardrobe for the comic opera The Mikado.
Mrs Stanton was stunned when she was voted in as president of the society in 1984, a position she held until the end of 2012.
She famously enacted the showbiz expression of good luck, “break a leg”, in 1989 when she fell off the stage at City Hall into the orchestra and did just that.
Mrs Stanton was awarded the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for services to the community in 2005.
BMDS gave her its Stella Halsall award in 2006 to honour her many years of service.
She received a Bermuda Arts Council lifetime achievement award in 2010.
G&S had produced 35 musicals by then, four of them commissioned by the Bermuda Festival.
Mrs Stanton also contributed to the Society’s non-theatrical works, such as Marjorie Pettit's annual classical Heritage Concerts.
Volunteer work included Warwick Academy’s clothing mart, the Bargain Box and the Harbour Swimming Club.
G&S said the society was a family – and Mrs Stanton was “the family’s matriarch”.
The society added: “Her vision and efforts laid the foundation that allowed the society to continue to go from strength to strength.
“In 2018, G&S renamed one of their scholarships as the Marjorie Stanton Theatre Arts Scholarship to formally recognise Mrs Stanton’s enormous contributions to the Society.
“Her legacy can be celebrated at each annual production and with each student supported as they pursue their further arts education.”
John Barnett, who succeeded her as president, said: “Without Marjorie, there would not be a resurgence of many Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and shows such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, Oliver, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, Carmen, Chicago and Evita.”
• Marjorie Stanton, was president of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda for 28 years. She was born on February 21, 1932. She died on September 19, 2021, aged 89.