The Musical Produced
RADIO DAYS Music by Noel Gay Book by Abi Grant
INTRODUCTION ew years back, I read about a musical entitled adio Times and after talking to somebody who had seen the show, I had a feeling that perhaps one day we could consider producing it, as members of our group were often asking whether we could put on a musical. A member of our company had obtained the CD of the show and after listening to it I knew this was a show which I could put on the back burner for future consideration. To fulfil members' wishes, I knew we needed the right sort of musical, as we are a drama group and not an operatic society. Certainly shows such as West Side Story, Brigadoon or The Sound of Music are not suitable for us. We have some good singers and have specialised over the years in pantomime productions, comedies and farces. However, I felt that Radio Times was a type of musical that was within our grasp. I waited patiently for news that the show had been released, but it remained on the restricted list for many years. However, last year, I asked our Publicity Manager to contact Samuel French and find out if they could tell us of a release date. To our amazement we received a reply telling us we could perform the musical. A script and vocal score would be sent to us so we could make a decision on whether to proceed. After reading through the material and talking to
12 Amateur Stage
several people I made the decision to go ahead. Now we are not a society with a big bank balance but I thought that this was a musical which could be done without a full orchestra, which in this day and age can be quite a considerable expense. I had an inkling that a piano on its own would be sufficient and this has proved correct. I knew a very good pianist, who is also a very good accompanist, and after an OK from her we were on our way. The musical is set in the spring of 1941 , at the Criterion Theatre in London. Just up my street as I lived in London with my parents right through the war years so I knew something about the blitz and life in those times. The stage setting is a rehearsal room complete with a broadcasting area so no real problems there. Now our audiences have always supported us with our programmes of comedies and pantos, so how would they take to Mow Cop Players venturing into the musical scene? Well this show is a cO!l)edy with music. It has its pathos, but so do a lot of comedies. The feeling was that our regular patrons would still turn up. The only thing that we had to do at that time was to get a panto, a comedy and the local One Act Drama Festival out of the way, and then we could start production.
PLOT As already stated, this musical is set during the war
venturing into the music I cene?
years in London. Broadcasting was done by the BBC from the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus because this theatre is below ground. The action takes place before, during and after a live radio transmission, which unfortunately has not received security clearance due to one characters' forgetfulness. The cast of Variety Bandwagon are broadcasting live to the United States of America. Unfortunately, nothing is going right and Hitler is showing a total lack of concern with his blitzkrieg . The bombing has blocked off the way to theatre which is stopping some performers from getting to the performance. But the show must go on and what a show, full of song, dance and laughter. Noel Gay was a prolific songwriter with a genius for writing spirit lifting tunes. Twenty three of his numbers are in this show including: Hey, Liff/e Hen, Run Rabbit Run, The Fleet's In Port, Let the People Sing, A Song of Tomorrow.
CHARACTERS There are seven principals and a backing group called The Grosvenors. This group needs four people but can contain as many others as you wish. We had nine ladies and one mal1l. Recruitment you know! The main star of the show is Sammy Shaw, a comedian, then comes Olive James his hen-pecked girlfriend. Next Amy Chapman a young singer known as the Radio Girlfriend who realises that Jeeps, the JANUARY
young sound effects man, is the one for her. Heathcliffe Bultitude is the man who bears the responsibilities of the radio broadcast as the show's producer. A stout upper class Englishman! Then there is Wilfred Davies whose music hall career began in his hometown of Bristol. He had a double act with Sammy. Lastly there is Gary Strong , although born in England went to the United States as a young man. He became a movie star and has returned to England to join the RAF as a Pilot Officer. Before leaving for the States he was part of a double act with Olive and as he has now returned from America, thinks he can pick up where he left off with Olive after ten years!
REHEARSALS We normally rehe.arse in a Youth and Adult Centre, which has a small hall about the same area as the theatre stage, but there is no piano in the place. Luckily enough, next door to the Centre is a Methodist Church. which allowed us to use their hall complete with piano. Using our pianist for rehearsals in the church meant that pianist and cast were on the same wavelength right the way through to the show itself.
COSTUMES At the start of the show everybody, with the exception of Sammy, Bultitude and Gary, wore normal, everyday wear of the 1940's. We found the local charity shops very useful for gathering these garments JANUARY
together at a very cheap cost. This applied espe.cially to shoes! Minor alterations to the clothes, but that was all. When the production moved into the broadcasting part of the show, the costumes then became show time ones. For the nine ladies of the Grosvenor group we hired sparkling blue outfits for them all and the Grosvenor gentleman wore an evening suit. Sammy Shaw had several changes of outlandish costumes. Mr Bul:t itude was in evening dress throughout and Gary, apart from his RAF uniform wore evening dress. Olive and Amy both had full length glamorous dresses. Wilfred wore a chequered jacket with plain matching trousers and Jeeps has a plain suit and at times, when working his props, would take off the jacket to display his braces. Most of the costumes for the broadcast part of the show were hired and so were the wigs for the ladies styled in the fashions of 1941.
pushed sl ightly off stage so there was obstruction, from an audience point of view, of the back stage area. By the door flat we had a trolley with a tea urn on it plus cups and saucers. Folding chairs of the
period were scattered around the stage for use when required. Close to the piano was Jeep's prop table complete with all the apparatus for sound making. I had the red (ON AIR) and green (OFF AIR) lights put
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SCENERY AND LIGHTING I split our stage into two by having a rostrum , which ran right across the stage and went back eight feet in qepth. White curtains were placed behind this and a gold curtain in front , which opened when the broadcast took place. The front part of the stage area was open all the time to the audience; this had some flats with a door flat stage right. On the opposite side of the stage was the piano. This was
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The Musical Produced
on the front of the props table, this being the best place in our theatre, for the audience to see them, On the Broadcast stage area were three microphones of the period on stands, These were working microphones, Dependent on your own theatre will rest the problem of where to put sound equipment so as not to distract from the period, The full stage area had to well lit, At times blackouts occurred and at others the lights were dimmed to allow a follow spot to take over, There is a very loud explosion towards the end of Act I when a bomb falls close by, We had a maroon fired' in a bomb tank above the stage, Authorisation by the Stoke Fire Department enjoyed themselves and our first duly obtained and a risk attempt at a musical went well, assessment form completed, For the moment it's back to pantomime, Radio Times is a CONCLUSION comedy with music which many Speaking to members of our drama groups could handle audience after the show, it was providing you have the singers found that Radio Times was a and a good pianist or small success, In face, we had to put musical group, up the "house full" sign on the Saturday, The cast thoroughly
TRADITIONAL PANTOMIMES by Colin Wakefield and Kate Edgar (Published by Josef Weinberger plays)
ALADDIN "traditional to the tips of its turned-up toes", has the Playstation generation screaming with delight", (The Independent)
CINDERELLA "one of the finest Christmas shows I have seen for years ", (Ramsey Advertiser)
DICK WHITTINGTON "An absolute joy ", (The Punter)
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THE SLEEPING BEAUTY "Another mini-masterpiece of mirthfulness", (Western Daily Press) ,
JACK AND THE BEANSTALIK "You won 't see a better performance this side of the moon ", (Blakemore Vale Gazette)
AND THE BABES IN THE WOOD
"Children seeing this show as their first visit to pantoland are lucky indeed ", (Salisbury Journal)
MOTHER GOOSE "This could well be the mother of all pantomimes in a fine blend of old and new", (Southern Evening Echo)
LITTlE RED RIDING HOOD First performance: Winchester Theatre Royal- 12th December 2002)
2nd - 7th June 2003 Adjudicator: Tony
Comedy, Drama, Tragedy, Fantasy 足 they are all seen at this famous festival,
now in its 69th year
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Entry details from Jenny Armstrong,
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For full detaiJs: www.traditionalpantomimes .co.uk JANUARY
Cyril Bennett discusses his production of Radio Days musica by Noel Gay and book by Abi Grant for the Mow Cop Players at the Mitchell Memori...