Leo Sheffield as the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury

Leo Sheffield (1906-09, 1915-28, 1929-30)

[Born Malton, Yorkshire 15 Nov 1873, died Kingsbury, London 3 Sep 1951]

Leo Sheffield, whose real family name was Wilson, made his first appearance on stage with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Savoy for the Company's First London Repertory Season (December 1906-July 1907), appearing as Second Yeoman (December-April) and the Lieutenant of the Tower (April-July) in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Annibale (January-March) and Luiz (March-July) in The Gondoliers.

In July 1907 he joined the D'Oyly Carte Principal Repertory Opera Company on tour as principal baritone, touring until April 1908 as the Counsel for the Plaintiff in Trial by Jury, Bill Bobstay in H.M.S. Pinafore, Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance, Archibald Grosvenor in Patience, Strephon in Iolanthe, Arac in Princess Ida, Pish-Tush in The Mikado, Sergeant Meryll in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Luiz in The Gondoliers.

He then returned to the Savoy for Carte's Second London Repertory Season (April 1908-March 1909). There he appeared as Private Willis in Iolanthe, Samuel, the Lieutenant in Yeomen, Luiz, and Owen Rhys in the companion piece A Welsh Sunset. When Leicester Tunks left the Savoy in October 1908, Sheffield took over Pish-Tush and Bobstay as well. He'd filled in for Tunks as Pish-Tush briefly in August.

Sheffield left the D'Oyly Carte organization in March 1909, but appeared at the Savoy later that year in a non-D'Oyly Carte production:as the original Sir Phyllon in Gilbert & German's Fallen Fairies (December 1909-Janaury 1910). Sheffield then spent the next several years touring in The Chocolate Soldier, The Girl in the Taxi, and other musicals. He appeared only once in London, as Feste in Twelfth Night (His Majesty's, June 1913), before rejoining the D'Oyly Carte in February 1915.

From May 1915 to June 1928, Leo Sheffield was one of the Company's leading stars:appearing as the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury (1915-20, 1921-28), Doctor Daly in The Sorcerer (1916-28), Dick Deadeye (1915-16) and Captain Corcoran (1916-28) in H.M.S. Pinafore, the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance (on occasion 1915-17, regularly 1917-28), Grosvenor in Patience (on occasion 1915-16, regularly 1916-20), Private Willis (1915-16, 1918-28) and Strephon (1916-18) in Iolanthe, Guron (1915-16), King Hildebrand (on occasion 1916-17, regularly 1918-24), and Florian (1916-18) in Princess Ida, Pooh-Bah in The Mikado (occasionally 1915-17, regularly 1917-28), Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore (1919-28), Wilfred Shadbolt in The Yeomen of the Guard (occasionally 1915-17, regularly 1917-28), and Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers (occasionally 1915-17, regularly 1917-28).

Sheffield left the D'Oyly Carte again in June 1928, appearing briefly at Daly's (April-May 1929) in The Lady and the Rose, before rejoining the Company again in September 1929. He appeared as the Judge, Doctor Daly, Captain Corcoran, the Sergeant of Police, Sir Despard, and Don Alhambra through the London Season at the Savoy, ending March 30, 1930, then left the D'Oyly Carte organization for good.

During his tenure with the D'Oyly Carte, Sheffield recorded several of his major roles:the Learned Judge (1928), the Sergeant of Police (1929), King Hildebrand (1925), Pooh-Bah (1927), Sir Despard (1924), Wilfred Shadbolt (1929), and Don Alhambra (1927). He also participated in a 1926 BBC radio broadcast of The Mikado, and may be seen as Pooh-Bah in a four minute promotional film made to publicize the Charles Ricketts redressed Mikado in 1926.

Sheffield appeared regularly on the London Stage and on tour throughout the 1930s, also making several films during the decade. His last role in London was Popoff in The Chocolate Soldier (Shaftesbury, 1940). He later toured in The Beggar's Opera in 1941, served with E.N.S.A. in 1942, and toured in The Chocolate Soldier and Blossom Time in 1943. In 1944 Sheffield was booked by the B.B.C. to play Sir Lester Deadlock in a serialization of Bleak House, and in 1945 he toured in Naughty Marietta, The Gypsy Baron, and The Melody of Love. In 1947 he appeared as himself and as Pooh-Bah in the original radio biography, "Gilbert and Sullivan," written by Leslie Baily.

Leo Sheffield was married to D'Oyly Carte chorister Dorothy Gates. Two of his brothers, Thorpe Sheffield and Wilson Sheffield, appeared with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in the 1890s.

Page modified April 11, 2006© 2001-06 David Stone