Happy As A Sandbag
Wed 30 November to Sat 3 December 2005
Kingsley College Theatre, Redditch
Producer – Marcus Bridger
Musical Director – Pauline Sherlock
Choreographer – Nigel Buckley
Assistant Producer – Tony Lacey
Nominated for NODA West Midlands Region 10 Best Musical Award
A wonderful nostalgic evening for the patrons who remembered the Second World War, and looking round, most of the audience did – including me.
The show tracks the progress of the war from Chamberlain’s famous announcement through to VE Day celebrations. Air raids, evacuation, life in the forces, home guard, GIs, and much more, all linked by the most popular songs of the time. The whole company were superb.
Rob Wilton, Winston Churchill, and countless other characters plus so many wonderful songs and a dramatic piano solo of the Warsaw Concerto from Pauline Sherlock made this a terrific night out.
NODA News, Midland Area, 2006
Our usual home, the Palace Theatre in Redditch, was closed for a period over 2005/06 for extensive renovations to the auditorium and foyer areas. Therefore, we had to find a new venue for our main performance for 2005. The alternatives in the area are limited, and since we didn’t want to venture out of town, we decided to perform at the Kingsley College Theatre.
The limitations of the venue, which has no fly tower, little wing space and no proper space for an orchestra, combined with a maximum audience number of 200 persons per night, meant that we had to downscale somewhat, so we had to look for a suitable show to fit the venue.
Happy As A Sandbag was chosen since it filled a number of criteria: it did not require much in the way of scenery, it did not require a big orchestra (we used a three-piece band of keyboard, bass and drums), and it fitted in superbly with the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, which fell in 2005.
Marcus Bridger volunteered to direct the show, for his first time, and our regular accompanist Pauline Sherlock also took on the role of musical director. It was a difficult show to plan, but Marcus aimed to give ‘something to everybody’, and achieved this admirably.
The show is a review, rather than a musical play, being full of (part) songs and small sketches of war-time life. This variety meant that most of the ‘acting’ chorus members were kept very busy as they changed from character to character. The other half of the chorus – the ‘singers’ – sat at the sides of the stage for most of the time, busily singing away, but also featuring in the action when appropriate.
Rehearsals were sometimes difficult – mainly due to the limited score and libretto, which had to be enhanced and adapted at times. However, everything came together with a bang with the dress rehearsal (for which we imported a very small paying audience) when we heard an audience laugh for the first time! Thereafter, each night went down an absolute storm, with the packed-out houses laughing, crying and waving their Union Flags enthusiastically during the patriotic finale of Rule Britannia and Land Of Hope And Glory. The audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive – they loved it!
Further proof of the success of this show, which also made a decent profit for the Society, came with a nomination for NODA’s Best Show in our area (Midlands Region 10).
Synopsis of the Show
Happy As A Sandbag was devised some 30 years ago by Ken Lee for a cast of ten people. It was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Lincoln in May 1972. The London production opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in September 1975.
The show focuses on the spirit of those who lived through the war at home. The warmth and courage shown by the British people, coping with rationing, the separation of families and the loss of loved ones, is a great testimony to all the people of the time. This show focuses on the nostalgia of the war and the songs that got people through the darkest days.
The radio was the central part of people’s lives and gave the only ‘window’ on the world. News was dominated by the war and, for the first time ever, location reports were part of the bulletins, read by such esteemed announcers as Alvar Liddell. The radio was also a great morale booster, allowing the public access to the stars and music of the time.
When we think of the Second World War now, there are still certain personalities we identify with the period, and many of them are featured in the show.
Happy As A Sandbag tracks the progress of the war from Chamberlain’s famous announcement right through to the celebrations of VE day – sixty years ago to this year. We will take you on a journey through air raids, evacuation, life in the forces, the Home Guard, health and nutrition, the roles of women, GI’s and more – all linked by the most popular songs of the time!
Happy As A Sandbag by Ken Lee, by special arrangement with Cecily Ware Literary Agents.