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Whistle Down the West End
22nd to 27th October 2001

Devised by Richard Gill and Craig Allen

Reviews in the local press....
"Company whistles up another hit show"
By Ann Mayo of The Lichfield Post
Reproduced by kind permission of The Lichfield Post

A company 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"
By Tony Wood of The Lichfield Mercury
Reproduced by kind permission of The Lichfield Mercury

Congratulations 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.

After 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.

About the show...

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 tour.

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.

Our Performers...
   
Dawn Bloxham
Jenny Brown
Wendy Clarke
Siobhan Dillon
Frances Welch
Pam Finnigan
Vicky Harrison
Caroline Hartley
Wendy Hawkins
Katherine Jones
Jenny Lowe
Julie Mallaband
Sue Morgan
Jo McAllister
Faye O'Leary
Abigail Pretty
Helen Poole
Rachel Price
Karen Taylor
Catherine Thompson
Clare Wade
Janette Walton
Anthea Weekes
Dawn Welch
Nichola Welch
Joanne Wilkins

Our Orchestra

Trumpet Alistair Nunn
Trombone David Thomas
Alto Saxophone Sarah James
Keyboards David Easto
Guitar Steve Cooper
Bass Richard Bateman
Drums James Tennant

Thanks

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
Our Advertisers
George Robinson & Partners
Christchurch Church
John Brough and Friary High School
Nether Stowe High School
Rocklands 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.
Behind the Scenes...
   
Production Director Lynne Hill
Musical Director David Easto
Choreographer Frances Welch
Rehearsal Pianist David Easto
Stage Director Quinton Faircliff
Stage Manager Ian Rose
Stage Crew Matthew Garfield
Chris Rose
Bob Tweddle
Dave Hopkins
Dave Burke
Lighting Designer David Ashton
Lighting Crew Steve Baker>
Stephen Rainsford
James Terry
Sound Design Ian Oakland
Leigh Yeomans
Scenery The Society
Curtain Decoration Linda Rubisch
Property Mistress Maggie Faircliff
Assisted by Lynn Baker
Mandy Rose
Gwyn Tait
Costumes Lichfield Costume Hire
& The Society
Wardrobe Mistress Jean Taylor
Assisted by Chris Bloxham
Leah Keay
Kath Marks
Claire Tiplady
Make Up Chris Sewell
Hair Chris Bladon
and Melissa Bladon
Prompt Linda Rubisch
House Managers Bob Wilson
and Brian Smith
Stewards Members &
Friends of the Society
Programme Brian Smith
and Nigel Lowe
Publicity Peter Harrison
Photographs Robert Yardley of Lichfield
Publicity Banner Rob Wilson
Foyer Display Peter Harrison
& Jean Taylor
Patron's Lounge Beryl Clare, Members &
Friends of the Society
First Aid British Red Cross
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