Not many of us can claim to share a royal birthday, but like Queen Elizabeth, the Hastleons are 90 years young this year, and they celebrated in style at the Stables Theatre.
And what a cracking idea to share the occasion with our Monarch! Well, not actually in person, but the Society had sent loyal greetings to Her Majesty and received a lovely letter in return – published on the back of the programme – to wish Hastleons well “at this very special time”.
On the night, the performers’ fine concert was equally appreciated by an audience which packed the theatre to the roof.
The company has always majored on musical theatre, and Saturday’s programme drew on a rich back-catalogue from past White Rock productions. Much-loved numbers cascaded one after another and the audience loved it. From the golden cornfields of Oklahoma, via smoky Dickensian London, to the crystal air of the Austrian Alps, an experienced set of singers climbed every musical mountain.
With 19 shows featured, director Claire Adams kept the staging simple and allowed the songs to tell the stories - but with the charming extra dimension of projecting slides from the original productions behind the performers.
There were, in the nicest sense, a good few chuckles from the audience and knowing grins from the singers, as a dashing hero or a sparkling leading lady took the stage in front of a captured White Rock image from 2002 or 1982. The heroes just a little greyer, of course, and the ladies simply ever more elegant - but their voices as accomplished as ever. Michael Woodhams was a genial compere, drawing on a sheaf of anecdotes from the society’s past and adding his own unmatched tenor in a beautifully lilting Younger Than Springtime. Sheri-Ann Fido delivered a smashing Kiss Me Kate number and also a delicious Gypsy duet with Helen Rogers. Bernard Simon reviewed the situation as a perfect - and admirably word-perfect - Fagin, while Ann Lyon’s Mother Abbess thrilled us with her power and range. Past members had come from far and wide; Lorraine Potter travelled from Wiltshire to render an immaculate Eliza Doolittle. Italia Conti graduate Lucy Anderson returned to reprise, with Andrew Pilcher, her touching No Matter What from Beauty and the Beast.
Too many more numbers to mention. Chloe Hurst’s smooth choreography and Mark Napier’s faithful keyboard underpinned what was truly an ensemble performance. On reflection, it was quite an irritating night. After a good musical performance, you always leave the theatre humming a favourite number. At the Stables on Saturday, there were simply too many great songs to hum them all at once.... Well done, Hastleons, and now onwards to the century mark! By Kevin Anderson