Review: Chesterfield Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s Show Hits & Stage Stoppers

Chesterfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society
Chesterfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society

Costumes, set design, dances and storyline occasionally detract from the singing in a full-scale G&S production.

So once in a while, it’s good to catch a company putting on a no-frills performance in a village hall.

This weekend sees Chesterfield Gilbert & Sullivan Society returning to its roots by performing concerts, which is what it was launched to do in 1971,

Nearly half a century on with numerous operettas and concerts to its credit, the society has claimed new territory by performing in Hasland Village Hall for the first time.

Heartened by a large crowd last night (Friday, October 10). the choir, musical director Andrew Marples and pianist Chris Flint put heart and soul into a wonderful performance of songs from the shows, under the tongue-twister title of Stage Hits & Show Stoppers.

Uplifting, powerful and at times, moving, the concert featured some of the best ensemble singing to be heard in the Chesterfield district. HIghlights included Can you Feel the Love Tonight? from The Lion King, Seventy-Six Trombones from The Music Man and a lovely arrangement by the late Richard Barnes, of Bakewell, of The Rhythm of Life from Sweet Charity.

Eighteen-year-old Laura Garner launched the solos with a fine performance of Memory from Cats, Judith Hill led the team in a wonderful rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel and society chairman Penny Fairs drew cheers for her performance of Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina from Evita, the latter featuring accomplished musicianship from pianist Chris.

Excerpts from Iolanthe were launched by soloist Peter Smith singing When Britain ruled the waves, with two members of chorus waving union flags. The Yeomen of the Guard, which the society will present at the Pomegranate Theatre in October next year, featured Rosalind Combes in a great solo of When our gallant Norman foes, followed by a coquettish performance from Julie Currey singing Were I Thy Bride to Phil Aldred, masquerading as Wilfred the jailer in a wig. Seventeen-year-old birthday girl Lizzy Blades sang a lovely solo and a duet with her grandfather Max Taylor in an extract from the finale of The Yeomen of the Guard. Andrew Marples’ narrative scene setting and dialogue leading up to the songs in both Iolanthe and The Yeomen of the Guard added variety to the evening’s proceedings.

Andrew also launched the society’s poignant commemoration of the First World War centenary by reading In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, followed by Honor Aldred reading the poem We shall keep the faith by Moina Michael. A medley of songs from the period found the audience in good voice and singing along to It’s A Long Way To Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles.

Last night’s fire on Devonshire Street East delayed one of the singers from getting to her home but she arrived suitably attired in the uniform red and black outfit in time for the second half. Another couple of members were absent due to illness. However, these setbacks didn’t deter the society from putting on a great show and promising the large audience a return to Hasland.

The good news is that the society will be doing it all again tonight, this time at Holymoorside Village Hall at 7.30pm. The not so good news is that it’s almost sold out. To check ticket availability, call Julia Tew on 01246 418887.

GAY BOLTON