Tributes have been pouring in for the longest serving member of the
Worcester Operatic & Dramatic Society, Sonia Armstrong, who recently passed
away and whose funeral service was held on 14 June, conducted by The
Venerable Robert Jones Archdeacon of Worcester.
Sonia joined WODS 73 years ago, immediately after the war and first
appeared in ‘The Desert Song’ staged at the Theatre Royal Worcester. Sonia
went on to demonstrate her considerable talent and professionalism as a solo
dancer and in a number of leading and supporting roles; serving on the WODS
committee including a period as Secretary, later elected as President and a
Life Member, supporting the Youth Group WODYS as their Secretary and a
fantastic mentor to many.
Sonia’s eulogy was presented by Bruce Wyatt, a Past President and Life
Member of WODS who explained that Sonia’s first principal role with WODS was
as ‘Ado Annie’ in the 1956 production of Oklahoma! The Worcester Evening
News & Times reported “that the role of Ado Annie can easily go wrong if the
right person is not found, but Sonia Davis, a dynamic personality, was
excellent as the dumb blond”.
In 1980 Sonia actually choreographed Oklahoma for WODS and even stepped in
with less than 24 hours’ notice to play Ado Annie once again. “But it didn’t
matter in whatever capacity she was on stage – she oozed confidence and
talent and you knew things would be ok”, said Bruce. Sonia’s first leading
role soon followed Ado Annie, with another Annie – in Annie Get Your Gun, in
1958. Further successes followed including the roles of Nellie Forbush,
(South Pacific) Babe Williams (The Pajama Game), Lois Lane (Kiss Me Kate!),
Calamity Jane in Calamity Jane, Sally Adams (Call Me Madam), Geraldine
O’Dare (Irene), Charity Hope Valentine (Sweet Charity), Nancy (Oliver) and
in 1972 and again in 1988 Dolly Levi (Hello Dolly).
Outside WODS, Sonia worked at Heenan & Froude and then for many years a
secretary to John Hole the Artistic Director at the Swan Theatre, in
addition to arranging fund raising events for the theatre. There she met
David Wood a now world famous author of children’s books, who has always
acknowledged that Sonia was his inspiration to start writing those
children’s books. Sonia introduced WODS to John Doyle when he was Artistic
Director, and who later went on to great success on Broadway. John Hole,
John Doyle and David Wood have sent wonderful tributes acknowledging the
influence Sonia had had on their respective careers.
Following the opening of the Swan Theatre in the 1960s, Sonia frequently
appeared in plays at the Swan Theatre, as well as keeping time for her other
interests of painting, gardening, school reunions, volunteering at the local
hospital and in more recent years the civic society. Bruce added that the
local theatre world had offered its condolences and prayers to Eileen,
Sonia’s step daughter, the wider family and friends.
Sonia will be remembered for her talent, inspiration and enthusiasm by
everyone she met.
‘WODS is staging a concert in memory of Sonia at it’s rehearsal rooms in
Northfield street on November 15th,16th and 17th this year, including many
of the shows that she will be remembered for.