“DAD’S ARMY – What a Song and Dance!”   20 November 2010   Merton Hall

Thank you very much for inviting me to WLOS’s production of “’Dad’s Army – What a Song and Dance” recently at Merton Hall. Something new for me and anything upbeat and lighthearted is always welcome. Thanks also to Dianne Norton for arranging the tickets.

Synopsis

Two of the iconic episodes from this beloved series – the action takes place in a Walmington-on-Sea church hall. Includes – ‘The Deadly Attachment’ – A German U-boat crew are captured but the roles are soon reversed and Corporal Jones is caught in an awkward position. – ‘Mum’s Army’ – Mainwaring enlists women into the platoon and soon falls for the charms of one of its newest members, but as in most circumstances a heart has to be broken! Add to this a fantastic plethora of interwoven songs and ditties from the war period, some easy on the eye dance routines and your appreciative audition were very happy.

I was really looking forward to this WLOS production and I am especially pleased that the society has continued to compile these secondary productions in the overall repertoire in order to satisfy as many of the members and patrons as much as possible. In doing so, the coffers should hopefully have been swelled in an attempt to off-set the cost of the annual main production. I especially enjoy attending a production which is light-hearted as there is nothing better than a good comedy.

This was a great choice of production for WLOS. I had some initial misgivings about how you would recruit the required level of competent men to make the production hold together but I needn’t have worried. A mixture of strong acting, strong singing, strong direction and authenticity made for an excellent production. The vision and foresight to turn this into a musical was inspired.

I had forgotten how well written this sitcom actually was. Jimmy Perry and David Croft went on to make many sitcoms but Dad’s Army is the one they are best remembered for. It may seem an unlikely source of comedy to have an inane look at the Home Guard during a world war but it some ways that is what makes british humour marvellous – a chance to laugh at ourselves. Any good play needs characters and these are without doubt some of the best. Two separate episodes were brought to life fantastically by a dedicated team of players and a first class creative team. Congratulations to Director Marilyn McPherson and Musical Director Jon Mizler for pulling together all these disparate characters and shenanigans on a very busy stage to create an immensely adhesive product.

I have mentioned authenticity in a previous paragraph and from the moment we entered Merton Hall we were transferred back seventy years. It isn’t easy to assemble paraphernalia from a different era but it was there in abundance. Bunting, Posters, war themes wherever you looked and good old fish’n’chips for supper. Costumes, Lighting and Sound issues were well thought out and executed to perfection.

A large and varied cast all acquitted themselves admirably. Some were more experienced than others but there no weak links. The cast is too large to mention individually but I have commented on the main principals;

Captain Mainwaring – Paul Sadler – I have always been an Arthur Lowe fan but I thought Paul did a good job. Not a direct copy but containing the essentials of Mainwaring’s attributes and foibles

Sergeant Wilson – Michael Howard – a warm, gentle characterisation which was entirely endearing. At all times keeping Mainwaring on his toes with his own unique observations

Lance Corporal Jones – Des Muller – another gem of a part and Des adopted the nervous mannerisms and extracted whatever humour was available

Private Godfrey – Geoffrey Greensmith – a well judged portrayal of this meekest of men

Private Fraser – John Vallance – the funerial Pve Fraser was well conveyed by youthful John. A lot of his delivery came out of the side of his mouth as he prophesised forthcoming doom

Private Pike – Ali Ghiassi – Ali convinced as the bumbling, mother’s boy.

Private Walker – Nick Simpson – Nick plays a good spiv. Sharp, alert and always had some business going down

U-Boat Captain – Jason Thomas – a great german accent was the hallmark of this austere of cameo roles

Other privates, ancilliary staff and ladies of the parish all portrayed their characters successful in full support of the main principals. There were some lovely cameos amongst these lesser parts.

Although an A4 style of souvenir programme is not to everyone’s taste, this format you have now settled on is well layed out and sufficiently comfortably to read. In addition it contains some show background information, some excellent and interesting society information and some very welcome biogs and photos.

Congratulations to one and all. Once again thank you for inviting me to Merton Hall and best wishes for your next production “Singing in the Rain”.

I look forward to seeing you again very soon.

Kindest Regards

Stephen Macvicar

NODA Rep

London Area 3

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