Old Time Music Hall

Date 27th October 2017
Society Hinchley Manor Operatic Society
Venue Vera Fletcher Hall
Type of Production Concert (Music Hall)
Director John Harries-Rees
Musical Director Debbi Lindley
Choreographer n/a


Author: Jon Fox

A real old time music hall, with a charismatic, hugely engaging chairman complete with harmless but effective innuendo, running, even directing, the show both off and even onstage, was the key role in this enjoyable production.   John Harries-Rees masterminded and provided the professional quality that elevated this music hall from the so-so to the so much better.

Between sketches - even taking part in several - John's delivery, timing, mastery of  dramatic pauses provided a masterclass for many of the numerous young or very young performers to admire and more importantly, to learn from.

As a NODA Rep. it was a pleasure to see this comparatively rarely done type of entertainment  on the amateur stage and to note the growing degrees of real talent that HMOS now provide. Several had really good singing voices and I will highlight the young and handsome George Lester whose personality and suitability for the stage stood out. His "Roses of Picardy" and "Shall I be an angel, Daddy?" were both excellent.    Matching George in tone quality was the elegant Claire Weston with the well loved "The boy I love is up in the gallery" and " Let the Great big World keep Turning", using her high soprano to great effect. Celine Croes gave a splendid rendition of "I want to sing in Opera" - very well received. "One Finger, One Thumb" by Gill Varon, Kay Colston, Frank St John and Sandra Mortimer was really top class with skilful timing.

Sandra, enticing the men at their tables with her swishing skirt, stood out with her "Ta-Ra-Ra Boom De-Ay!" - a song made famous by Lottie Collins and  performed  in London in 1892 onwards - and Catherine Quinn with "Why am I always the Bridesmaid?" immortalised by Lily Morris. Last but not least, the sweet voiced Shannon Hearn sang "You made me Love You"

There were many comic sketches, some fleeting, others longer running.   That perennial favourite "If I were not upon the stage",  with slosh sparingly but effectively used here, is often used in pantomime. This eight hander was sheer delight and rightly brought the house down. The vulgarity of it may seem tame by today's standards, but it rarely fails and I have rarely seen it bettered. It featured Catherine, George, Gill, Sandra, Frank, Shannon, John Stanley-Smith and Claire.

The bus stop innuendo sketch was enacted with a certain aplomb! I really enjoyed the Victorian melodrama narrated by the Chairman and acted out by the players in mime. A marvellous script for certain. There was an acrobatic see-saw act, in swimwear, using a wooden plank that finally snapped, which "went down" well and, joy of joys, an audience participation envelope game which all clearly relished, again beautifully marshalled by John Harries-Rees, awarding the £10 prize to the winning gentleman. We all enjoyed and applauded this game. Other players who also did well in smaller roles included Linda Stanley-Smith, Sue Letheren and Kelly Neilson.

Musical Director Debbi Lindley had worked to good effect on the music as had director John on the whole production. Costumes, which were not specifically credited to anyone in particular in the brief two page programme, were effective and some of the ladies' gowns were special.

There were some well rehearsed company scenes including the opening Cockney Scena - in which I noticed to my surprise that the women wore no hats (these would have been more appropriate) and a rousing Patriotic Scena to close the evening with a well chosen list of  WW1 songs including  "It's along way to Tipperary" and "Pack up your Troubles" - sung against each other, as is common - with a plethora of Union  flags, the evening came to a spirited close.