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The Allegro Theatre Company began as The Allegro Music Company in 1978. Yarrawonga had been without such a body since the Yarrawonga Theatre Group disbanded around 1969 after nearly ten years of producing sometimes as many as four plays a year.

MHWAllegro was formed when High School music teacher Mary Helen Woods (pictured) cajoled a cast of over thirty locals into appearing on stage in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury in mid-1978. Undeterred by their singular lack of experience, but with the help of accomplished musician Marie Ryan, they produced what the Yarrawonga Chronicle termed “a delightful rendition of this classic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta”. The writer of the Chronicle review also mentioned “excellent costuming adding to the glamour of the spectacle, and the splendid animation of all members of the cast, characters and chorus, making for a show full of verve and vivacity.” In fact Allegro’s first four productions were all Gilbert and Sullivan favourites: The Pirates of Penzance in 1979, The Mikado in 1980 and HMS Pinafore in 1981, with Mary Helen Woods as musical director for each.

From the start, Allegro elicited significant and warm support from the town of Yarrawonga, rapidly resulting in a unique collaboration between various service clubs and the company. Another unusual feature of this young and vigorous group was that it decided to do an “out of town opening”, travelling to both Rutherglen and Cobram, where again it was invariably greeted with a warm welcome. It did not take long before both the High School and the Catholic Secondary College were doing productions also.

In 2019, only John Halfpenny from the Trial by Jury cast list is still closely involved with Allegro, but some of the other names from ’78 and/or ’79 – among them Wallace Bruce, Bruce and Aileen Mitchell, Peter Barry, Barb Wallace, John Colclough, Bernie Bott and Jeannette Cooke – took on many responsibilities over years of association with the company.