Then and Now

 

Surrey Advertiser

Diana Eccleston

 

For many years I have enjoyed the lavish annual song and dance revues offered by Wallington Operatic and Dramatic Society at Wallington Public Hall, though recently I have thought that have lost a little of the lustre of yesteryear.

I was hoping for something extra special for the company's centenary show and would have like nothing better that to award them a whole handful of stars!

But this compilation, directed by WallOp's chairman Barbara Windsor, disappointingly doesn't come up to scratch. On Tuesday's first night it looked under-rehearsed and fuzzy in parts and frequently sagged badly. Choreography was also sometimes unimaginatively routine.

Let's hope it has polished up better by now - but it is still far too long and rather self-indulgent.

A few ruthless cuts would help - and the first thing I would have knocked on the head would have been the terrible Harry Potter spoof, an aimless sketch which never hit the comic mark and fizzled out pathetically.

The first half is "Then" - a mixture of Victorian music hall favourites introduced with a flourish by chairmen Norman Grinsteed.

The Company looked marvelous, with lots of care taken over costumes, and I liked the appearance of the bathing belles for the Seaside Scena. And it is also encouraging to see quite a few young people among the chorus.

After a fish and ship supper during the interval the entertainment continues with "Now", mostly songs from the stage musicals and modern movies.

Celena Bain performed the old disco hit I will Survive with a lovely voice but could have benefited from a tad more attitude - and standing nearer the front of the date.

And why did Kelly Garland have to read her amusing teenage lament the Hairbrush Diva when it would have had so much more impact if she had learnt her lines?

Four of the men made a comic splash with their drag queen Like  Virgin while a quartet of young ladies did a good job with Lady Marmalade.

Jane Martin, who devised this second half, vamped it up as the sexy Mama Morton from Chicago and director Barbara showed just how a song should be put across when she gave the pre-finale number Those Were The Days.

Happily everyone looked and sounded the business for the big Razzle Dazzle send-off. And the lively-band should be congratulated on the excellent support.

 

NODA

Theo Spring

 

First may I congratulate you, once again, on your centenary. It really is an amazing achievement of which you should be justly proud.

Secondly, I must congratulate Barbara Windsor for her skill in directing such a complicated production.

The costumes for this show were quite magnificent, and it didn't surprise me in the least to read in the programme notes that there were around 400 items to be found for the show. I particularly appreciated the colour themes, from the black, white and tartan, and the beautiful pale blue, white and silver which opened Now, the sea greens and blues for Movie Love Songs and the red and yellow for the suburban dreams. Finishing off with glittery waistcoats and bowlers made a very stylish finale.

Costumes for certain numbers which were outstanding were all the bathing beauties and the mermaid in the Seaside Scena and the two handkerchief dresses for those two rogues Velma and Roxie whose number and choreography was quite outstanding.

As I have said of compilation shows many times, they are frequently too long and this one most certainly was. Trying to cram in too much is not necessarily a good thing and sometimes the numbers get eclipsed by having so many of them.

The little sketches which allowed changing time were good - funny, short, and well-rehearsed. The one I did not like at all was the longer Harry Potter take-off. Although the idea upon which is was built was a clever one, it did not come off at all. Too much space on the stage - perhaps a dedicated smaller area would have helped create atmosphere but, in spite of real effort from the cast, it just didn't work. Cutting that would have shortened the show to a more reasonable length.

Out of the many numbers, some really stood out - whether for vocal delivery, choreography, or often both. The Ragtime Routine was good fun and I like the ending of the young lad lying horizontally across the pairs of arms.

There was energetic tap in You Are My Honeysuckle, lovely harmony from Pam Akhurst and Celena Bain in Red and White Roses, and a strong solo from Rick Thompsett in The Perfect English Rose.

I loved the malapropisms in In Anybody There?, and we all enjoyed the panto-effort of trying to sing The Coffee Song. Harold Holding rather stole the scene with his sprightly rendition of I Live In Trafalgar Square and Samantha and Katie Leitch missed not a single word in She Sells Sea Shells.

The second half got off to a good vocal start with the really excellent From A Distance from Jacky and Rick, with Emma adding some charming dance.

Kelly put some good expression into her Hairbrush Dive and I Will Survive produced more good choreography. Don't You Want Me had those clever waitresses who didn't spill a drop from those glasses and Pam's version of My Heart Will Go on was very good indeed. I trust Yvonne Mount and Laurie Bright enjoyed their drambuie and cider at the pub.

All the numbers in Suburban Dreams are praiseworthy, but particularly Capped Teeth & Caesar Salad. Jane was perfect as Mama and Barbara topped the whole show off superbly with Those Were the Days.

Lighting in the skilled hands of Alex Hamilton added atmosphere and lovely colours and the bank picked up every one of the many music cues and certainly looked as if they were enjoying themselves.

Having the origins for many of the numbers was an excellent addition to the programme - thank you for those.

All good wishes to WODS as they move on the 100, into the next centenary.