J. Ivan Menzies as Ko-Ko in The Mikado

J. Ivan Menzies (1921-27, 1939-40)

[Born 23 Mar 1896, died Blackheath, London 19 Apr 1985]

J. Ivan "Jimmy" Menzies joined the D'Oyly Carte Repertory Opera Company as a chorister in March 1921. In October of that year he transferred to the D'Oyly Carte "New" Opera Company and took over the small parts of the Associate in Trial by Jury, First Citizen in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Antonio in The Gondoliers, and, as understudy to principal comedian Frank Steward, went on on occasion as the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury, Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe, Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard, and the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers in November. He swapped First Citizen for Second Citizen in July 1922.

Menzies sang with the Repertory Company for a few weeks in February and March 1923, and married D'Oyly Carte principal soprano Elsie Griffin in March of that year. In July 1923 he rejoined her with the main (Repertory) Company again on a more permanent basis. During the better part of two seasons with the Repertory Company Menzies appeared regularly as the Associate, First Citizen, Antonio, and Major Murgatroyd in Patience. He also filled in on occasion for Leo Sheffield as the Judge in Trial (1923-24) and for Henry Lytton as the Duke in Gondoliers (1924-25).

He returned to the "New" Company as its principal comedian in July 1925, appearing for two seasons in that capacity. His roles were Reginald Bunthorne in Patience (1925-27), the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe (1925-26), Ko-Ko in The Mikado (1925-26), Robin Oakapple in Ruddigore (1925-27), General Stanley in Pirates (1926-27), and the Duke in Gondoliers (1926-27). When the "New" Company was disbanded in June 1927, Menzies left the D'Oyly Carte organization. He found work first as a "lead" with Macdonald & Young's Happy Go Lucky company, and at some point in 1928 replaced Nigel Playfair in Love in a Village at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

In 1931 Menzies eagerly accepted an offer to return to Gilbert & Sullivan with the J. C. Williamson organization in Australia. There he toured extensively in several "Grossmith" parts:Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore, General Stanley, Bunthorne, the Lord Chancellor, Ko-Ko, Jack Point, and the Duke, as well as the Learned Judge.

He would return to England and the D'Oyly Carte briefly in December 1939 as a wartime replacement. He shared principal comedian roles with Grahame Clifford for two months, appearing as Sir Joseph, General Stanley, the Lord Chancellor, Ko-Ko, and (occasionally) the Duke before leaving the Company in February 1940.

He returned to Australia once more and participated in G&S tours in 1941, 1944, 1949, and 1951. He was also an evangelist for the Oxford Movement (or Moral Re-Armament) and appeared in the Moral Re-Armament musical, The Vanishing Island, in which he toured around the world with his wife from 1955 until 1957.

Menzies was the subject of a short biography, "The Song of a Merryman" by Cliff & Edna Magor (London, Grosvenor Books, 1976). It deals mostly with his life in Australia and his work for Moral Re-Armament, an activity to which he was still passionately committed in his 80s. Quoth Menzies in 1976: "I was called to remake men and nations, and that task is never finished."

Page modified September 16, 2017 © 2001-17 David Stone