Betty Blue Eyes

Date 3rd November 2023
Society West Kirby Musical Theatre Company (WKMTC)
Venue Gladstone Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Sharon Henderson
Musical Director Robert Bowness
Choreographer Deborah Clark
Producer Sharon Henderson
Written By Alan Bennett

Report

Author: Joanne Rymer

Betty Blue Eyes

West Kirby Musical Theatre Company

4/11/23

 

Betty Blue Eyes is a lesser-known musical written by Ron Cowan and Daniel Lipman, based on the Alan Bennet story a Private Function.  Music by George Stiles and Lyrics by Andrew Drewe this is a charming family show, funny, uplifting and memorable just what we needed on a cold autumn evening at the Gladstone Theatre Wirral. Set in 1947 and, having won the war, Britain seems to have lost peace, and the country is staggering under the burden of rationing, unemployment and the coldest winter for decades. The opening song of ‘Fair Shares for All’ instantly establishes the fragile optimism of austerity Britain.

This is an absolutely charming production, directed with a playful sense of period by Sharen Henderson who clearly knew what she wanted from this production, with so many elements working brilliantly together. Musical Director Robert Bowness and his splendid orchestra were outstanding as were the young stars of The Wallasey School of Ballet, the choreography was in keeping with the period and was used in appropriate scenes managed expertly by Deborah Clark. Having seen and enjoyed A Private Function I was doubtful of it being rejigged into a musical, how wrong I was, it affectionately pokes fun at the small-town politics and petty snobbery of post-war Britain a real triumph. The songs are lovely, the dialogue is witty, costumes are outstanding. West Kirby Musical Theatre chose well, this show was perfect for them. The talented cast work their socks off to give their audience a great night out, it was obvious by their smiling faces they enjoyed every minute.

Looking to lease a property on the sort after Parade in the village of Shephardsford we meet Gilbert Chilvers (Nick Hawkswell) as a likeable chiropodist, his gentle personality captures the audience hearts, his rendition of the song ‘The kind of man I am’ was truly beautiful an accomplished sensitive performance from a very talented actor. His Lady Macbeth of a wife Joyce Chilvers, all ruthless ambition is stunningly portrayed by Joanne Poston, superbly delivering her big numbers; ‘Nobody’ ‘and Kill the Pig. The Primrose Ballroom sequence, also beautifully choreographed by Deborah Clark was a delight, Jo sang ‘Lionheart’ with such passion, supported by the glamorous vocal trio (Tia Gill, Cressida Barker, Samantha Arnald) an accomplished performance. Mother Dear (Kathy Jordan) was the perfect addition to the Chilvers family and her old lady antics and characterisation provided much of the comedy, her face stole the scene in “Pig, no Pig!”. Hilarious performance.

The storyline is centred around, an adorable pig ‘Betty’ (brilliant job by puppeteer Ruth Stenhouse) who is being illegally reared to ensure the local dignitaries can celebrate the Royal Wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Phillip Mountbatten with a lavish banquet while the local population make do with spam. With only the well-connected invited including Dr James Swaby (Mike Ellis) Henry Allardyce (Andrew Lee) and Frances Lockwood) all members of the Town Council.  Poor chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers and his aspiring wife Joyce are not included, Joyce was furious.

Gestapo like meat inspector dressed in black leather Mr Wormold (Dave Swift) is ready to shut down and lock up any butcher contravening food rationing, painting them with bright green paint, an unfulfilled Picasso his song ‘Painting by Heart’ is gloriously unique. Our heroine Betty Blue Eyes is being kept hidden away by Farmer Sutcliffe (Dave Don) on his farm.

However, when town officials turned down Gilbert's application to open his own surgery, plus Joyces anger about not being invited to the banquet he decides to steal Betty from Sutcliffe’s farm, with hilarious consequences. Together with Joyce we see action packed theft of Betty via projection on the set very clever and absolutely hilarious. Jo Poston and Nick Hawkswell are expertly cast , they were indeed Joyce and Gilbert.

As always with an ensemble of this size it is impossible to mention everyone, so I will not try, you were all magnificent. However, I must mention a number of exceptional moments, for me: ‘Magic Fingers’, is a seductive little number, Gilbert’s clients Mrs. Roach (Helen Roberts) Mrs. Lester (Amy Duggan) and Mrs. Turnbull (Becki Jenkin) all personally grieving for loss of their men. However, his last appointment of the day Mrs Metcalf (Tia Gill) seducing poor Gilbert, not only was she hilarious but her voice was outstanding. The very funny ‘Since the War’ with all the men in the urinal “piss-stained, piss-poor, pisspot of a country” need to change is so funny a laugh out loud moment.

The title song ‘Betty Blue Eyes’ is so beautifully sung by Allardyce and Gilbert, two such rich singing voices worked so well. Then there is Betty herself and her beautiful blue eyes, who lived to fight another day, she stole our hearts, what a performance. 

Congratulations West Kirby Musical Theatre Company for this great family show, talented cast, fabulous songs and stunning set.  It made me laugh, cry and touched all our hearts what more could you want from a night at the theatre. 

Thank you so much for inviting me. It is a performance I will remember for a long time.

 

Joanne Rymer

NODA

District