Happy and Glorious

Date 13th April 2016
Society York Musical Theatre Company
Venue Joseph Rowntree Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Paul Laidlaw
Musical Director Paul Laidlaw
Choreographer -

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Author: Terry Harrison

Those of us who love musical theatre probably need little excuse to put together an evening of songs from the shows but the Queen’s imminent 90th birthday is as good a reason as any. The task of exploring some popular shows over ten decades is a difficult one as the possibilities are endless but the ultimate choice was good and we heard songs which, although mainly familiar, were not always the most obvious items to pick.

The somewhat less than politically correct “It takes a woman” from “Hello, Dolly!” is an example but this introduced a little humour and an opportunity for the gentlemen to take centre stage. Items from the Company’s youth section included a short medley from “Oliver!” but not the boys’ opening number (“Food, glorious food”) which is the usual choice. Later these youngsters gave us a selection from “Whistle down the wind”, again a welcome change when others have used more popular shows such as “Matilda” or “Billy Elliot”.

I enjoyed the inclusion of the twin soliloquies from “South Pacific” as an introduction to the more familiar “Some enchanted evening”. That these items followed “A cock-eyed optimist” provided a brief excerpt from the early moments of the show itself and Jessa Liversidge and Larry Gibson were well matched in the roles. The use of part of the finale from “Camelot” to end the first act was another way in which the programme sought to avoid being described as just a collection of  “ballads, songs and snatches”.         

One of the benefits of a programme like this is the opportunity it provides for some more mature members to achieve greater prominence than book shows which often demand younger principals and all the soloists were good to hear. The show had been devised and directed by Paul Laidlaw, who also provided the piano accompaniment and some excellent choral arrangements. In addition, he shared the narration with Richard Bainbridge who featured strongly in many of the items. So too did one of the younger members, Matthew Ainsworth, whose excellent voice was perhaps heard to best effect in songs from “Miss Saigon” and “Aspects of Love”.

From the opening, the 1920s favourite “Spread a little happiness”, the programme did just that and, although I felt we might have ended with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, it was perhaps appropriate instead to close with what is said to be the Queen’s favourite song, “People will say we’re in love”. Music to do your courting by, I understand.

It was, however, an item from a forgotten show which I found particularly appropriate. David Heneker’s “Phil the Fluter” had followed his more successful “Half a Sixpence” but within its score is a gem of a piece which was new to me. In the style of Noel Coward, this was expertly performed by Moira Murphy. Its title, “They don’t make them like that any more” could well sum up what the evening was all about.  As 1927’s “Show Boat” begins a revival in London and we wonder whether some of today’s shows will last for 90 years, it’s a statement which could well be applied to musical theatre. It’s surely true of Her Majesty.