ME AND MY GIRL - MAY 2022
Director - Dawn Brown
Musical Director - John Sparrow
Choreographer - Chrissie Hotton
Dance Captains - Jess Eades & Juliet Surridge
By Noel Gay
Winchester Theatre Royal 11th - 14th May 2022
Bill Snibson - Matt McGrath
Sally Smith - Olivia Conroy
Gerald Bolingbroke - Daniel Williams
Jaquie - Molly Moffitt-McGrath
Sir John Tremayne - Peter Barber
The Duchess of Dene - Annie Tatnall
Herbert Parchester - Simon Meanwell-Ralph
Sir Jasper Tring - Stephen Gleed
Lord Battersby - Gerry Overton
Lady Battersby - Penny Bullough
Charles - Alan Morgan
Mrs Brown - Suzanne Hall
Mrs Worthington - Lorraine Morgan
Lady Brighton - Lucy Francis
Sophia Stainsly - Kimberley James
Lady Damming - Funke Akiboye
Lady Diss - Jan Baerselman
Pearly King - Dale Russell
Pearly Queen - Juliet Surridge
Cameos - Matthew Grant
Emma Colbourne, Gill Cooper, Shannon Cronin, Jess Eades, Amarantha Fennell-Wells, Amy Leddy, Charlotte Upfold, Isabel Wylde
Warmly welcomed, as always, by the front of house, we took our seats and settled in for what we hoped would be a good show. We were not disappointed. The orchestra under the direction of John Sparrow, started the overture and the curtains were pulled. We were greeted by a bright, well-lit stage. The principles and cast were very well choreographed by Chrissy Hotton and brilliantly directed by Dawn Brown. They all knew where they were supposed to be, none of whom looked out of place. They were there to enjoy themselves and that enthusiasm was very much in evidence. It came across to the audience brilliantly. Crisp, clear diction, allowing us to follow the story with ease. A testament to the directorial team. the principles were confident, enthusiastic and brought real character to their individual roles, all thoroughly believable.
The set and costume departments presented us with a fantastic set that was very well used, with movable props and simple flys and the costumes fitted the times very well. Nothing was out of place, it all fitted so well together.
The scene changes were fast and unobtrusive, both by the backstage crew and the cast and chorus, no breaks in the action. The Lighting added the required atmosphere and the sound was as near perfect as you could get, well done to Tony, Angie and the team. This was a fantastic show and one that we all thoroughly enjoyed. It is certainly one that will remain in my mind for a long time to come, for all the right reasons. Winchester Operatic and Musical society never let us down. This was no exception. Really very well done.
Winchester’s Happy Place this week, through until Saturday (14th) is the Theatre Royal, wherein you’ll find WMOS at their even-better-than-best, with a sparkling production of that happiest of musicals, Me And My Girl. Originally produced in 1937, this ingeniously revised version, with book by Stephen Fry, opened in Leicester in 1984, transferring to the Adelphi Theatre in London where it ran for 7 years. Director Dawn Brown’s expertise and thorough understanding of the required style has drawn some fantastic work from the company, not least with regard to the comedic elements which play so crucial a part in the proceedings. This is out-and-out straightforward Musical Comedy, and needs to be played as such. (I still shudder at the memory of a production which casually altered emphases, melodies, and even one principal character’s gender, and no, I’m not kidding.)
You only need to hear the first few seconds of the show’s splendid overture (splendidly played by the 11-piece band under the superb direction of John Sparrow) to smile in the knowledge that this is going to be a hugely happy evening. The scene-setting opening number, ‘A Weekend At Hareford’, whisks us simply yet ingeniously from London to the country, and already we are admiring the musical staging and the consistently effective and enjoyable choreography of Chrissy Hotton. At the Hall, we meet the blustering and hilarious Sir John Tremayne of Peter Barber, and Maria, Duchess of Dene, played in full wonderful battleaxe mode (and with some great comic delivery) by Annie Tatnall, whose glorious soprano is given full rein in act two’s ‘Song Of Hareford’. We also meet Herbert Parchester, the unexpectedly (and hilariously) ebullient Family Solicitor of Simon Meanwell-Ralph, whose revelations in the opening scene cue the fun that is to follow, much to the consternation of Gerald (a pricelsss silly-ass performance by Daniel Williams), and the man-and-money-chasing Lady Jaquie. As characterized by Molly Moffitt McGrath, Lady J is a delightful yet formidable minx, hurling herself (literally!) at the newly-discovered Earl of Hareford, while singing and dancing with enormous skill and charm. (Just wait til you see what she gets up to in the number ‘You Would If You Could’!)
The Earl in question is Bill Snibson, a Lambeth Cockney, who for reasons you’ll need to see the show to find out, has suddenly come into a massive inheritance. Not surprisingly, his arrival at Harefield Hall is akin to a box of fireworks being set off in a public library, and the Aristocracy can’t believe what’s hit them. Matt McGrath’s assumption of this massively demanding role triumphantly ticks all the right boxes, and sweeps the audience along with him from the moment he bursts onto the stage. He’s the driving force behind so much of the comic mayhem, and his physical comedy (his legs occasionally seem to have a mind of their own….just watch!) is a hoot. But this is far from a one-note performance – he also has great charm (if this character doesn’t have charm by the bucketload, the show and the story would be very much the poorer), and his tender moments are reserved for his girl Sally, a delightfully appealing Olivia Conroy, who gives a sweetly touching performance of (for me) the show’s prettiest song, ‘Once You Lose Your Heart’. She also shares, with Matt, the show’s title song, arguably one of the most enchanting title songs to come from a British musical, and their performance is every bit as enchanting.
The settings and lighting are elegant, the period costumes are lovely to look at. Supporting and Ensemble roles (everyone is a character) are witty and well-drawn, and it’s impossible not to be caught up in such a high-spirited romp, packed as it is with such fun and so many gloriously daft jokes and one-liners. By the end of act one, as the ‘Lambeth Walk’ number builds…and builds… and builds….resistence is useless, and you’ll probably find yourself clapping along as willingly as we did at the opening night performance. If you’re in need of a bit of cheering up – or even if you’re not – this is a wonderful and heartwarming night out for all ages. When Bill and Sally (and later, the entire company) sing “And we’ll have love / laughter / be happy ever after”, it doesn’t just refer to the plot of the show. It’s what we’d all like Real Life to be like, and it’s thanks to WMOS that we leave the theatre having been gifted a generous helping of it.