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Gang Show rides on the crest of a wave

March 29, 2018

Coventry Gang Show, Belgrade Theatre until March 31.

It's good to see the Coventry Gang Show is still riding along on the crest of a wave with its mixture of songs and sketches, some dating back to the 1950s, others of startlingly more exotic vintage. 

  On opening night I adored the sequence on Heroes performed by the beavers, cubs and youngest scouts who darted about the stage in capes before introducing us to the true heroes of our everyday lives, like the firefighters, police officers, doctors and nurses.

  But my puritanical soul was quite shocked by the start of the second act when the older girl scouts offered a burlesque-style routine with songs like Big Spender and Blame it on the Boogie.  There must have been a general call sent out among the mums for basques to be donated.

  Scouting and guiding was never like that in my day.  We got tea-making badges and sang Land of the Silver Birch, Home of the Beaver...

  And the showgirl singalong was soon followed by the cross-dressing men hilariously hitching up their ill-fitting evening gowns as they tried to get in on the act.

  Before that we had some very funny sketches: the first with the traditional ventriloquist's dummy that surely Ralph Reader himself devised,  and

 

the second the aftermath of a disastrous football match where the players had to get their excuses in fast.

  I would have liked a few more sketches but with nearly 90 - yes 90 - people on stage, there needed to be a lot of big numbers.  How director Clive Bennett and artistic director Kayleigh Sheerman got the choreography together is a downright miracle and a tribute to all the youngsters' hard work.

  Apart from the one eye-opening diversion, this Gang Show, like all others, provided a nostalgia fest for grandparents and great-grandparents. There were old standards like All I Have to do is Dream and Bye Bye Love from the Everly Brothers, and extracts from the hit show Half A Sixpence.

  And for me you can't go wrong with any lyrics from Guys and Dolls - this came right after the colourful Arabian Nights segment of the show and before a very accomplished and sophisticated Tell Him  - the love song originally tackled by no less than Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion.

  There was a spot of first night nerves as youngsters performed for the first time with a full orchestra conducted by Martin Sleaford  but the show started with the audience on its feet for the national anthem, and it ended with us all back on our feet again as  the young performers paid tribute to the late Ralph Reader and really bounced along on that wave of wonderful nostalgia.

For tickets go to: www.belgrade.co.uk

  

 

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