I must declare an interest from the start: the ’50s and ’60s are exactly my era, and back then I must have bopped, smooched or sung along to just about every number on the programme. But even someone without my enthusiasm for the music of these two decades would have agreed that Wimborne Musical Theatre gave us an evening of high quality and enormous enjoyment. Most of the company of 22 had their moment in the spotlight and not one of them let the others down. The quality was variable, of course, not so much in the singing as in that elusive gift of putting a song across so that it gathers the audience up and takes them with the singer, but it never dropped below a very high standard.
The company would no doubt consider themselves an ensemble and say that it is unfair to single out individuals, but there were several outstanding performances. Duncan Sayers has a powerful and expressive voice, heard at its best in ‘Life could be a dream’ and ‘Maria’. Sharron Pearcy gave high-class renderings of ‘The look of love’ and ‘Crazy’ among others. John Bounds has a touch of Dean Martin about him and a voice that is ideal for the ballads of the time, like ‘Stranger in Paradise’, although he will be more watchable when he stops being one of those singers who are never quite sure what to do with their hands. Sally Ager’s voice has bags of character and she moves beautifully on stage; not only did she nail the high note (top E flat?) at the end of ‘I could have danced all night’, her duet with John Bounds in ‘Somewhere’ was the stand-out highlight of the evening. Hermione Mason gave us a touching rendering of ‘Secret love’ as well as an impressive en pointe ballet solo to ‘Nutrocker’. Those who took only one solo kept up the standard and I would have liked to hear more of Jemma Cable (‘Stupid Cupid’) and Julia Wass (‘Those were the days’).
The hugely appreciative audience responded particularly to the full chorus numbers, like ‘That’ll be the day’ and ‘Shake, rattle and roll’, which were performed with great energy and self-evident enjoyment. Both the men’s chorus (‘Hello, Dolly’) and the ladies (‘Da doo ron ron’ and ‘Why do fools fall in love’) had their moments in the spotlight. There was excellent harmony singing by smaller groups in numbers like ‘Lollipop medley’, ‘Walk right back’ and ‘Mr Sandman’.
The staging of the show by Suzi de Villiers, with Roy Joseph as Artistic Director, was impressively slick, one number leading almost seamlessly into the next. The choreography was fairly simple, but there was an awful lot of it and with over twenty items in each half, the feat of memory by all those on stage was impressive. The same applies to the hard-working trio in the pit: Lee Redwood (keyboard), Richard Pearce (bass) and David Waller (percussion). Such a huge amount of preparation had gone into the show that it seems a pity that it was on for only two performances.
Perhaps inevitably, the number of audience members under the age of 50 could have been counted on the fingers of one hand that had suffered an industrial accident. No matter: the show knew its market and catered for it wonderfully. Nostalgia, they say, is not what it used to be, but Wimborne Musical Theatre triumphantly proved ‘them’ wrong.