Me And My Gal Made In Yorkshire
Andrew Liddle, Features Writer
Pick Me Up Theatre, York’s amazing amateur dramatics’ troupe, are a real tonic. Last year they did a fantastic version of Cats and it almost goes without saying they always put on a great show. Me And My Gal is certainly a great show to put on - in the gilded surroundings of the Grand Opera House.
When it hit the West End in 1937, it was the considered the best British musical there had ever been, scooping all the accolades, running continuously for five years in the most prestigious theatres and being beloved by everybody, royalty included. Even today some of its big numbers, for example The Sun Has Got Its Hat On and, not least, the stomping showstopper of all showstoppers, The Lambeth Walk, remain in the public consciousness.
What is perhaps not so well known - and will be of special interest to our readers - is that the man who wrote the score, for the original book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and Arthur Rose, was Reginald Moxon Armitage, a one-time church organist, born in Wakefield, where he attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar. Noel Gay, as he is better known, took his stage forename from Noel Coward and his surname from one of The Master’s leading ladies.
The version we see is the revision by Stephen Fry and Mike Ockrent of 1984, which includes Gracie Fields’s big hit Leaning On A Lamp-post, written by Gay but not in the original show. It received two Laurence Olivier Awards and ran for eight years. The same production was revived on Broadway in 1986 for a three-year run and to great acclaim.
Robert Readman’s lavish production, with choreography by Jessica Hardcastle, appears to have pepped up the show even more with some of the dancing raunchier than previously seen and by introducing more pratfalls than Norman Wisdom might have contrived in a summer season. Most of them are pulled off by Finn East (well remembered for his Rum Tum Tugger in Cats) who bounces around with more brio and buffo than a pantomime Buttons. Actually he’s playing Bill Snibson, a Cockney geezer who suddenly discovers himself to be the illegitimate son of an aristocrat and, by default, the new Lord Hareford.
To his credit, Bill’s head is never turned by his elevation to the peerage, and his enduring love for his childhood sweetheart is never for one minute in doubt. The blowsy attractions of blonde bombshell Lady Jacqueline, gloriously hammed up by Katie Melia, never for one minute seriously appeal to him, not even when she pulls him out of the bath and somehow finds herself on top of him.
His heart belongs to Sally, the all-singing, all-dancing Eliza Dolittle character played with customary flair by Emily Chattle, bright star of many PMU shows. Clearly there’s far more about Sally than her humble origins might suggest and the effete aristocrats who hang about Hareford Hall suffer by comparison.
The huge cast provides first-rate support. There are outstanding performances from Andrew Roberts (Skimbleshanks in Cats) as the bally silly ass Gerald, Beryl Nairn as the Duchess of Dene, trying to make a gentleman out of the resisting Bill, and veteran Tony Froud, as Sir John, having more success in turning Sally into a lady.
This s a production on a grand scale, with the sort of numbers of personnel and costume changes that only amateurs can afford these days. It’s a glorious spectacle, a cornucopia of good things, dancing, singing, clowning, burlesquing. As this critic made his merry way to the bar at the interval, it seemed that everyone on a similar mission was singing, whistling or humming along to The Lambeth Walk that had just closed the first half. A few of younger provenance were actually doing it. They don’t write them like this anymore.
Me And My Gal runs until 18th of May (2019) at York Grand Opera House.
Me And My Gal Made In Yorkshire, 15th May 2019, 21:09 PM