Director - Suzanne Hall
Musical Director - Martin Paterson
Choreography - Suzanne Hall
Music by John Barry, lyrics by Don Black, book by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Billy - Chris Horn
Alice (Mum) - Anne McDonald
Geoffrey (Dad) - Hamish McDonald
Gran - Liz Petley-Jones
Mrs Crabtree - Gill Russell
Rita - Cressida Bullough
Barbara - Lucy Whiteman
Liz - Katie Hickson
Arthur - Dan Hickson
Duxbury - Peter Barber
Shadrack - Simon Meanwell-Ralph
Stamp - Adrian Hickford
Ticket Collector - Colin Paice
Band Leader - Stephen Gleed
Marilyn Monroe - Juliet Surridge
David Anderson, Tracey Anderson, Ellie Baker, Jacqui Beckingham, Alison Bradley, Penny Bullough, Deborah Cleary, Colin Crimp, Anne Croudass, Jill Fitzpatrick, Lizzie Gilbert, Stephen Gleed, Talia Hedström, Louise Hodson, Lisa Kennedy, Graham Light, Sally Male, Alan Matheson, Vanessa Matthews, Nicky Moore, Colin Paice, Mike Palette, Heather Reid, Gill Russell, Claire Smith, Juliet Surridge, Mary Twomey, Michael Watson
Home-Start Winchester and District - 01962 893604 -
Awards and Nominations
Winner of Daily Echo Curtain Call award for Best Actor in a Musical - Chris Horn
Can’t help but root for Billy, thanks to Chris!
They’ve been bringing joy to Winchester for a hundred years and show no signs of letting up.
Winchester Operatic Society wowed the crowds with its latest production, Billy, at the Theatre Royal.
Billy is the most modern show WOS has ever done, a fitting way to mark the end of the group’s centenary year by taking steps into the future.
On the face of it, the title character, Billy Fisher, has a lot going for him - a scriptwriting job lined up in London for television and three girls interested in him - the fragile and chaste Barbara (Lucy Whiteman), the common and ‘more experienced’ Rita (Cressida Bullough) and free spirit Liz (Katie Hickson).
The only problem is Billy is actually just a womanising undertaker’s clerk - a pathological liar who constantly retreats into a fantasy world to avoid taking chances and dealing with real life problems, like choosing a girl or dealing with family tragedy.
Chris Horn is terrific as Billy and it’s testament to his ability that you can’t help but root for him to make it in life and with Liz, the only girl who truly understands him, rather than get his just deserts.
The songs and singers were superb, in particular Billy’s solo, I Belong to the Stars, and the wise old Councillor Duxbury’s (Peter Barber) lament to the old days, It Were all Green Hills.
It was also consistently funny, largely thanks to Pa and Ma Fisher, Anne and Hamish McDonald, a real-life Northern married couple who relished their roles as Billy’s chief tormentors.
But a major problem was the admittedly excellent orchestra often drowned out the actors voices both sung and spoken, making it difficult to track the plot and jokes at times.
Still it was a great showing and here’s to 100 years more.
Billy - a wonderfully tangled web!
David Cradduck awards 5 stars out of 5 - and would have awarded more were it possible - and finds out how this show of small town Yorkshire was bold and big at the Theatre Royal in Winchester! Billy - performed by the Winchester Operatic Society, Thursday 16th May, 2013
I have fond and vivid memories of being taken along as a small child, to see Winchester Operatic Society (WOS or - if memory serves me correctly - WAOS in those days) performing Gilbert & Sullivan at The Guildhall. It was the early 60s, when they had already reached their half-century. I say vivid, because it was one of the most colourful, spectacular events I had ever witnessed and I became aninstant fan, both of WOS and G&S, the latter to my parents' embarrassment as I had a habit of whistling along with the overtures.
Fifty years later, not much has changed, but I do refrain from whistling, or even humming, along. Not that I would have been able to whistle or even hum along with their latest production, Billy. Actually, a lot has changed - the group's sheer audacity at tackling something as different, complex and demanding of such a high standard of acting, singing and stagecraft, the sumptuous red velvet surroundings of the Theatre Royal Winchester, and the dancing. WOS was never like this "when I were a lad”, as Billy's dad would say.
In fact I didn't really know what to expect. Initial research told me it was based on Keith Waterhouse's 1959 book Billy Liar, the story subsequently made famous by Tom Courtenay in the 60s film and stage versions and which then launched Michael Crawford's stage career in the musical version. Therefore I knew that it was a story about a young middle class northern lad, Billy Fisher, who couldn't help but weave a web of lies around him as he attempted to extricate himself from a dull job and two engagements to local lasses. Promotional material and sneak previews told me to expect comedy, music by John Barry and a lot of big chorus numbers with dancing.
What I didn't expect was to be bowled over by the whole show. It simply flashed by in a whirlwind of big ensemble numbers, slick scene changes to small, intimate two/three/four-handed scenes, with a music score, 12-piece orchestra and singing that were a joy to the ears, and truly effective lighting that enabled those scenes to look and feel different from one another. A touching, funny script ensured the audience’s attention and mirth at all times.
The simple set centred around one large piece that smoothly and quietly revolved when pushed by the cast to become the backdrop for an imaginary land called Ambrosia, Billy's front parlour (complete with flying ducks and tea cosy), with Billy's bedroom atop, a terrace of houses, a park, an office, nightclub, railway station and cemetery.
That and a few sound effects, side flats, flown flashing signs and swings, desks, chairs, park benches and some simple props, completed the illusion of 1960s small town in Yorkshire - all choreographed into place by the cast as an integral part of the action.
This was a team effort so it would be unfair to single anyone out because everyone obviously worked hard to make this the slick entertainment it surely was.
But mention must be made of Chris Horn, playing Billy, who hardly ever left the stage and whose singing, acting, Yorkshire accent and powerful performance couldn't be faulted; husband and wife Hamish and Anne McDonald who played Billy's parents, plus Liz Petley-Jones as Gran, who as a group also became, on occasions, Billy's ‘other’, imaginary family from an aristocratic background and who swapped between the two stereotypes with superb skill; Suzanne Hall who did a professional job of directing and choreographing; and Martin Paterson, musical director.
If ever there was a living, moving, colourful advertisement for getting involved in local big-show theatre, this was it. Worthy of any West End production, Billy will stay with me for a long time to come - though perhaps another fifty may be pushing it, and by then I won't have many teeth to whistle through anyway.
Well done, WOS, you have a winner to be proud of.
KEITH Waterhouse and Willis Hall’s book, Billy Liar, is set in 1960s working-class West Yorkshire.
When adapted as a musical it effectively launched the musicaltheatre career of Michael Crawford as Billy Fisher, a romantic philanderer with delusional tendencies.
With such big shoes to fill, Chris Horn did just that; his performance effortlessly encompassing every aspect of the role, whether it be comedy, acting, dancing or singing, all done with panache. Anne and Hamish McDonald both performed well as Billy’s parents and although Cressida Bullough had the most authentic accent (to my Yorkshire ear), Katie Hickson was the pick of the girlfriends.
The set deserves a mention, with impressive props including a plane, a helicopter and a tank and merely seeing Martin Patterson’s name ensured the music was in good hands.
Sound, lighting and effects were excellent but only Chris Horn gave director Suzanne Hall’s show that touch of class.