There'll be Bluebirds Over

Date 6th April 2019
Society Wigan Musical Theatre Group
Venue St Michael's Parish Hall, Shaw Street, Wigan
Type of Production Concert
Director John Clinton
Musical Director Joan Bond


Author: Jim Briscoe

THERE’LL BE BLUEBIRDS OVER  a revue presented by Wigan Musical Theatre Group at St. Michael’s Parish Hall, Shaw Street, Wigan on Saturday 6th April, 2019.

Back in 1995, ‘There’ll be Bluebird’s Over’ was originally a Wigan Little Theatre production; devised, written, produced and directed by Bob Bartholomew.  Bob was a local man, described as a talented actor, fabulous comedian, who sadly passed away in August 2017. In tonight’s programme, Wigan Musical Theatre Company thanks Bob’s family for allowing them to stage their version of his nostalgic revue.

We were taken back to the 1940’s, at the height of the Second World War; the peace of the night is shattered by yet another air raid and so the cast, crew and audience of the Wigan Hippodrome are forced to take shelter in the basement of the theatre.  We join them as they try and ‘keep calm and carry on’ with an evening of laughter, singing and dancing!  (PS: Wigan Hippodrome survived everything thrown at it during the war, but in April 1956 succumbed to a fire, believed caused by a discarded cigarette)

There is little or no doubt that Wigan Musical Theatre Group is blessed with a talented group of people, both on and off stage, people who know their audience well!  So with a revue written by a local writer, containing local dialogue, local humour and detailing local events... this was always going to be a winner!  So, many congratulations to John Clinton (Director) and Joan Bond (Musical Director) and her orchestra for brining this piece together again with such wonderful results. 

Everything about this production was first-rate.  The set, although minimal, worked well and made best use of the space and facilities available.  Lighting and sound was good with no problems during the performance. The Orchestra outstanding!  Costumes/Props were appropriate and in keeping with the era... so congratulations to all the ‘Production Team’ for their efforts and for producing and staging a programme of music and sketches that was apt and entertaining and contained a little bit of something for everybody!

Act one: was divided into four scenes, ‘The Air Raid’, ‘The Sing-Song’, ‘What’s on the Wireless’ and ‘The Evacuees’. We were welcomed into the basement by a ‘very local, very vocal, funny lady’ who certainly put us straight as to what was going on!  Then the ‘war time classics’ began - ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, ‘Lambeth Walk’, ‘We’re Gonna Hang out the Washing’, ‘You are my Sunshine’... we the audience being encouraged, at every opportunity, to join in with the well known chorus’s!  

‘What’s on the Wireless’ included a very funny sketch called ‘The Radio Doctor’ one of the highlights for me, I really did not stop laughing from start to finish.  Then, after a ‘little bit of Vera’ (Vera Lynn), we were then introduced to our ‘The Evacuees’....five young members of the society who entertained us with Run Rabbit Run, Hey Little Hen, Quarter Masters Store and many more...a fitting end!

Act 2: ’The Singing Continues’, ‘The Home Guard’, ‘London by Night’, ‘Hollywood High Spots’, ‘Gert and Daisy’, ‘GI Medley’, ‘The Yanks in Lancs’ ‘Flanagan and Allen’ and ‘The All Clear’ were the eight scenes in Act 2.  More classics....’Long Way to Tipperary’, ‘Pack up your Troubles’, ‘Who Do You Think you are Kidding Mr Hitler’  ‘Roll Out the Barrel’.   ‘The Home Guard’ section (The LDV’S - Local Defence Volunteers) was ‘hilarious’.....where else could you possibly get away with a ‘Singing Gas Mask’!

Wigan Musical Theatre Group is blessed with many talented, well established singers, but how often have we heard people say, ‘OH I’M JUST ONE OF THE CHORUS’!  But the chorus is just SO important! In this production, the chorus had every reason to be so very proud of themselves!  Not only did they sound and look good – but their ability to stay in character, their facial expressions, their ability to react and look interested in everything that was being said and done, was credit to them all ....well done really was noticeable and really impressive!  (PS: Think the butties and cakes may have helped!)

I have again, purposely excluded cast names from this revue simply because I honestly believe that this was a great ‘team effort’ and that everyone gave of their best and that’s all one can ask! 

I was sat next to and spoke with a lady and a gentleman, who’d performed in the original 1995 production and although they said it wasn’t identical to their version, they were both really impressed with the production!  I always think a good gauge as to how well a production has gone, is to listen to the audience as they leave.....think I can say with all honestly ‘That we all enjoyed what we’d seen’!

Thank you so much for inviting me, making me feel more than welcome and a special thanks to Frances Cheetham for looking after me again and for another wonderful slice of homemade Victoria Sponge.

Jim Briscoe