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WSMC - Old Time Music Hall

October 2004, at New Greenham Arts and on tour.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Variety is alive and well

Old Time Music Hall, at New Greenham Arts, on Saturday, October 16

The New Greenham Arts theatre is a versatile venue, ideal for the music hall that Wantage Stage Musical Company presented on Saturday night. It was turned into a theatre/restaurant reminiscent of the days of Music Hall.

This attention to detail was only one of many. The chairman for the evening, Nigel Thornbury, was able to speak knowledgeably about the acts and the history, and for once we were not given the tired old Michael Kilgarrif routine that many a chairman trots out.

If only his repertoire of jokes had been as good! Never mind, you can’t have everything.

From the opening Lambeth Walk, ably fronted by Lisa Stride, to the closing singalong, the cast were professional, talented and well-rehearsed.

I was particularly impressed with the variety and originality of the numbers, evident in the beautiful rendition of The Dicky Bird And The Owl, by Chris Jones and Allyn Richardson. Both had beautiful voices and clear diction and it was hard to believe that not 10 minutes before, Allyn had been a very well-endowed ballet dancer, when he and other cast members had us in stitches with If I Was Not Upon The Stage.

The quality and harmony of the cast was, I am sure, due to the hard work of the musical director Michael Hurd and accompanist Roger Clark. The harmony was superb in the company’s performance of The Ash Grove and Home Sweet Home and Michael gave us I’m a Gnu in the best Flanders and Swan tradition. Nigel Thornbury came down from the podium to give us a faultless rendition of The Lion and Albert, sustaining the Yorkshire dialect without going over the top. He travelled from Yorkshire to the desert to join straight-faced Gill Morgan, Nancy Becker and Mike Davies in the Sand Dance. It was pure Wilson Kepple and Betty plus one.

Restoration comedy is difficult to tackle and all credit must go to Suzanne Parrott, Allyn Richardson, Chris Jones and Mike Davies, who managed to keep up changing ‘S’ for ‘F’ with hilarious results. The two women never faltered in their particularly long dialogues and complex musical numbers.

Complex word transposition is obviously the group’s forte because The Pheasant Plucker was their choice, and what a good one it was. It is a pity that that they chose a melodrama which was, for me, the weakest item and it may have been better to give us more Gilbert and Sullivan like When The Foreman Bears His Steel, which involved the full group in top form.

The company is made up from about 30 members who can all sing, dance and act, who look good in the costumes they wore (although the shock of the ballet tights will remain with me for a very long time) and seem to thoroughly enjoy giving their best.

If they come back, do try and see them – you won’t be disappointed.