Whistle Down the West End
Devised by Richard Gill and Craig Allen
"Company whistles up another hit show"
Mayo of The Lichfield Post
Reproduced by kind permission of
The Lichfield Post
of extremely talented people transported audiences in Lichfield to the realms of the West
End musical theatre last week. Lichfield Operatic Society's Whistle Down the West End saw
singers, dancers and actors give polished performances fit for any stage. Devised by
musical director Richard Gill and Craig Allen, the show moved smoothly from one hit to
another and had a few not so well known songs as well.The
company's more seasoned performers were joined by many not so used to the spotlight, but
everyone, principals and chorus, turned in brilliant performances.
The show opened with
songs from Fame and took us through some of the greats from Miss Saigon, The Lion King,
Phantom, Blood Brothers and Sweet Charity - and that was just the first half.A medley
from my favourite musical, Les Miserables, opened the second half which switched from the
up-beat Chicago and an hilarious Dirty Laundry from the Witches of Eastwick to the
emotional How Many Tears from Martin Guerre and the title song from Whistle Down the Wind.
The finale of Abba numbers from Mama Mia was great, but far too short. With many of the
cast coming into the audience to sing and dance, we were distracted from the Abba
impersonators - Wendy Hawkins, Julie Mallaband, John Cantrill and Nigel Lowe - on stage. Nevertheless,
a wonderful night with some great music from many talented people.
And I must mention the
incredible orchestra under the baton of Richard Gill - just seven people who added
immensely to the professionalism of the show. Lichfield Operatic Society have performed
many fine musicals in the past, but, judging by Saturday's audience reaction, can we say
more of this type of show please.
"Whistling up a real treat on stage"
Wood of The Lichfield Mercury
Reproduced by kind permission of
The Lichfield Mercury
to Lichfield Operatic Society for their whistle stop tour of West End musicals. The
audience were on their feet before the end of the show, there was dancing in the aisles.
The success of this great evening Whistle Down the West End was a combination of
many aspects of the musical stage. First there was the imaginative construction of the
programme, selecting contrasting numbers from current productions.
Next there was the
indefacable orchestra under the talented leadership of Richard Gill who with Craig Allen
devised the show. The clever costumes and the brilliant lighting designed by David Ashton
played their part with of course the dynamic cast, all contributed to everyone's delight.After an
effective opening with songs from Fame we were projected to the Vietnam of Miss Saigon.
Beaming lights flashed over the audience, the grinding noise of propellers could be
clearly heard, really one thought the helicopter featured in the Drury Lane production was
about to land on the Friary Grange stage!
Needless to say these were the dazzling effects
which occurred throughout the show. James Pugh came into his own as the American
Serviceman enchanted by the local girl, with Why, God, why? Jo McAllister and
Catherine Thompson came together for I still believe. Bui Doi ended the sequence.Focusing on
Willy Russell's Blood Brothers, the whole show was presented in cameo. Pam
Finnigan as the mother headed the company in a medley of song. Wendy Hawkins delighted her
audience at the end of the first half with Big Spender from Sweet Charity.
The black and white costumes, the flags, the half light and the second act was launched
with the stirring well known numbers from Les Miserables, the longest running of
all musicals. A touch of a more recent success came when Dawn Welch headed the dancers in And
all that Jazz from Chicago. No one will forget Maurice Buxton as Buddy Holly from the
show all about himself Buddy. He delighted everyone with Peggy Sue and
was great when joined by the Twiglets for Oh Boy. White scarves on black costumes
and the cast with candles brought back a more serious side with numbers from Martin
Guerre. This was indeed a show of contrasts.
Siobhan Dillon gave us Whistle Down the West End the whole company burst into the
ABBA tribute show Mama Mia. It was Waterloo with Wendy Hawkins, Julie
Mallaband, John Cantrill and Nigel Lowe convincing, in a light hearted way, as ABBA
themselves. The whole audience wanted more with Waterloo we could have stayed all
night. Was the society's president that was seen dancing in the aisle as the whole company
surrounded the audience? A truely magnificent first venture for the society at their
temporary home, the comfortable Friary Grange Theatre. Plaudits to the musical and
production director Richard Gill, Choreographer Mary Phillips, stage director Quinton
Faircliff and the hard working accompanist David Easto and well done, everyone.
Welcome to the Friary School Theatre for the Society's
first visit during the refurbishment of the Civic Hall. As a member of the staff at the
school I am proud of the facilities we are able to offer here at The Friary and I trust
you are pleased with what you have seen so far and agree that this is no normal school
theatre. I am confident that you will be as comfortable here as you were at the Civic Hall
- if not more!It is very difficult when putting together a compilation
show not to choose a list of personal favourites and if I was honest I would have to admit
that to some extent this is exactly what Craig and I have done.
However we were also keen
to select numbers that the Society would not normally have an opportunity to perform and
we both felt it was right to get away from the traditional selections that you are used to
seeing in compilation shows and perhaps try some new material. Although a small number of
songs from the Society's past productions have crept in, the programme is largely a
selection of songs from musicals of the past decade, much of which is being performed by
the Society for the very first time and every single number in tonight's programme is
presently entertaining thousands on a nightly basis either in the West End or on national
Some of the faces you will see tonight are trusty leading
lights from past productions but this is also an opportunity for some of the less well
known members to grab the spotlight and enjoy their moment. I hope you will be suitably
impressed with some of the talent the Society has to offer. So sit back, relax and enjoy
our celebration of the wonderful world of musical theatre - Whistle Down The West End.
Songs include :- FAME;
Hard Work, I Wanna Make Magic, Fame, Love Scene - MISS SAIGON; The Heat
Is On In Saigon, Why God Why, I Still Believe, Bui Doi - SINGING IN THE RAIN;
Singing In The Rain - FOLLIES;
Losing My Mind - THE
LION KING; Medley of sings from "The Lion King" - PHANTOM OF THE OPERA;
Phantom of the Opera, All I Ask Of You - BLOOD BROTHERS; Medley
of songs from "Blood Brothers" - SWEET CHARITY; Big
Spender, I'm A Brass Band - LES
MISERABLES; Medley of songs from "Les Miserables" - CHICAGO;
And All That Jazz - NOTRÉ DAME DE PARIS; Live For The One I Love - THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK;
Dirty Laundry - THE
SECRET GARDEN; A Bit Of Earth, How Could I Ever Know - BUDDY;
Peggy Sue, Oh Boy - MARTIN
GUERRE; How Many Tears?, The Holy Fight - WHISTLE DOWN THE WEST END;
Whistle Down The Wind - MAMMA
MIA; Mamma Mia, Waterloo.
|The Society would like to thank the following for their
invaluable assistance :-
|Our Vice-Presidents & Patrons
|Ed Doolan Radio WM
|The Lichfield Post
|The Lichfield Mercury
|George Robinson & Partners
|John Brough and Friary High School
|Nether Stowe High School
|Queens Croft School
|The British Red Cross
|Dennis Gilbert for Scenery Storage
|Richard Dabrowski and Civic Theatre Staff
|Also a special note of thanks to Lynne Hill for her help in
directing some of the set pieces.
||Lichfield Costume Hire
||& The Society
||and Melissa Bladon
||and Brian Smith
||Friends of the Society
||and Nigel Lowe
||Robert Yardley of Lichfield
||& Jean Taylor
||Beryl Clare, Members &
||Friends of the Society
||British Red Cross