Theatre review: Burnley's St Cuthbert's Operatic and Dramatic Society's production of 'Me and My Girl'
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With wonderful musical numbers, likeable characters and hilarity at every turn, this show really is one of the greats and the team at St. Cuthbert’s absolutely did it justice. The shadow of the pandemic seems, at last, to be lifting for local amateur theatre and, as this was only their second show since 2019, it’s testament to both the show’s title and the reputation of the company that their opening night audience was almost full.
So what makes this society so special? Like all good amateur societies, they are a family and that really shines through both on stage and in the auditorium. The front of house team are just as integral to the society as the leading man and that makes for a winning recipe. Well done to all on your part in such a successful show.
Directors Janet Gilbert and Lesley Riley have put together a cast of real talent. Jamie Gane plays Bill Snibson, a loveable Cockney rogue who finds he is the rightful heir to the Hareford estate. Jamie was born for this role.
He reminds me of a young Michael Crawford: perfect comic timing, a physicality rarely seen and the ability to get the audience in the palm of his hand. He has a lovely singing voice and great rhythm, both of which lend themselves perfectly to his scenes with Sally Smith.
Sally, played beautifully by Marina Murray is the love of Bill’s life and the two of them sing some memorable songs together, my favourite being the title song, ‘Me and My Girl.’ Jamie and Marina have great chemistry and I really believed they were sweethearts. Another highlight for me was ‘Once you lose your heart,’ which Marina sang with genuine emotion.
The entrance of Richard Parrish as Gerald left no one wondering where the night’s laughs would come from. His almost Mr Toad (of Wind in the Willows fame) –like characterisation was hilarious and he never missed an opportunity for innuendo. Laughs came also from Sir John, played expertly by Robin Reid. I think the mark of a great actor is the ability to play drunk, and he did it brilliantly! The scene between Sir John, Bill and Parchester had me laughing out loud- they were a perfect comedy trio. Parchester was played by John McNabb and I loved his transition from seriousness to song. His rendition of ‘Family Solicitor’ was charmingly twee.
I thoroughly enjoyed Heather Nicholas’s powerful performance as the Duchess. She commanded the stage and it was lovely to see her relationship with Bill blossom. Her fellow aristocrats, Lady Jaquie and Lady Battersby, played respectively by Marcia Turner and Rachel Barrowclough oozed experience. Both ladies had excellent stage presence and I particularly enjoyed Marcia’s performance of ‘You would, if you could.’
Ben Atkinson played Charles, the butler and I must say, I think St Cuthbert’s have unearthed a gem of a performer. His delivery of lines was fantastic and the little bit of solo singing he did was very promising. Another supporting role was Sir Jasper, played with heart by Lawrence Whittaker. I loved it when he joined in with Marina’s rendition of ‘Take it on the Chin.’
Of course, this production was a group achievement and the ensemble have to be commended for their varying roles, from tennis players to policeman and my personal favourites, the Hareford ancestors. The society have clearly worked hard on their vocals and MD, Mick Dawson, should be commended for some great harmonies. Choreography was arranged by Janis Condon and Marina Murray, with a mixture of everything from tap to contemporary - I wanted to jump on my feet and join in with the ‘Lambeth Walk!’
Lighting, set, costumes and props were all perfect for the period and the cast are very lucky to have such dedicated teams behind them. Congratulations to all at SCOADS – if you need a pick-me-up this week, I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to St Cuthberts and their production of “Me and My Girl.”
*’Me and My Girl’ is on every night this week at 7-15pm in the community hall in Sharp Street, Burnley, with limited tickets left, especially for Thursday and Friday. Tickets are available on ticketsource.co.uk or the society’s facebook page.