Cockney capers clash with posh priggishness as award-winning Clitheroe Parish Church AODS Lambeth Walk their way to another sure-fire hit with “Me and My Girl.”
Once again, this accomplished society demonstrates the talent and professional attitude that won NODA “best ensemble” and “best musical director” district awards for last season’s “Oliver!”
After the hair-raising darkness of their bold production “Jekyll and Hyde” and the underlying social comment of “Oliver!” this musical from the 1930s is an undemanding, light-as-air, feel-good offering that sends the audience home from St Mary’s Centre with a melody on their lips and an “Oi!” in their step.
Noel Gay’s “Me and My Girl” is a tale of a cheeky jack-the-lad who unexpectedly inherits a fortune and an earldom, if he can prove he is worthy of the title. The show was a largely forgotten museum piece until a 1985 West End revival, with a book revised by Stephen Fry, gave it a sparkling new lease of life...and Clitheroe’s version really does sparkle.
To steal the soccer terminology, director Richard Sanderson has coaxed 110% effort from the cast, while musical director Chris Andrews conducts an orchestra which is completely together and never overpowering, and choreographer Lindsay Pollard succeeds on two fronts; both with the lively full-ensemble numbers and the routines with dancers only.
Nicholas Gunn obviously relishes the lead role of Bill Snibson, a Cockney with loud clothes and an even louder manner. Mr Gunn wins over the audience from the moment he is brought into the high society of Hareford Hall, all swagger and sauce, enjoying his new-found riches but with his heart in Lambeth with his best girl Sally.
Multi-talented Katie Cowburn is a most engaging Sally, a feisty fish out of water among the upper crust as she fights to keep her man against the double onslaught of Lady Jackie, a man-eating sexpot played with verve and abandon by Rose Lambert, and the formidable battle-axe Duchess of Dene, played to haughty perfection by Jean Croft.
David Hulme gives an enjoyable comic turn as lisping upper-class twit The Hon. Gerald, while Damian Marsh is a splendid Sir John, the henpecked knight with a heart who sympathises with the beleaguered young couple and helps true love to find a way. Richard Hubbard gives an excellent turn as Parchester, the singing solicitor dealing with the legalities.
The principals are supported by a superb range of minor roles, and the ensemble work is outstanding. No-one is “just a chorus member”; each creates his or her own character and lives it through manner and movement, whether high-ups, servants or Cockney hoi-polloi.
It’s hard to resist joining in with the show’s best-known catchy songs including “The Sun Has Got Its Hat On”, “Love Makes the World Go Round”, “Me and My Girl” and, of course, the infectious “Lambeth Walk” that closes the first and second acts.
Another Noel Gay song added for the 80s revival, “Leaning on a Lamp Post”, provides one of the show’s many highlights, as Bill goes into a dream sequence surrounded by no fewer than eight near-identical Sallies performing a supremely dainty ballet.
The singing is top-notch throughout the show, with not a weak link anywhere and ensemble singing worthy of a full-blown G&S society.
If you like your comedy low-brow without being vulgar, there’s plenty of it here. There’s knockabout farce, a wrestling bout with a tiger rug, a drunken pals act, lots of old favourite one-liners dusted off, and a running joke with Bill repeatedly pinching Sir John’s pocket watch. It’s all harmless belly-laugh stuff.
The old West End cliché for a hit show urges people to “kill for a ticket”, but the way sales are going, you may have to do just that. But first, try the ticket hotline on 07974 323823.It runs until Saturday at the St Mary’s Centre.