The Grand Old Days- Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

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***
A music hall variety show indebted to the “Good Old Days” format which was so popular on television fifty years ago. Vintage films were playing in the foyer to capture the mood for the audience. On stage, period photograph projections evoked chattered reminiscing. Ian Adams is chairman for the evening, combining master of ceremony duties, with solo and ensemble singing. Confident and ebullient, he kept proceedings moving at a brisk pace. All of the acts made two appearances, one in each half. Panto and comic local favourite Don Maclean topped the bill with material which was aimed squarely at the predominantly elderly audience. It is quite common to observe parents waiting for their children in the foyer as the evening ends, this night, there were children waiting for their parents!

 

 
The star was singer Julie Paton. Her vocals, stage craft, and charisma engaged all whenever she was on stage, her performance of “Burlington Bertie” was a sassy delight. Magic duo Van Buren and Allyson managed to combine retro kitsch with a smile. Plate spinning, unicycling, straight jacket escaping, and dress changing all made an appearance, with Van Buren providing the gasps, and the glamorous Allyson the sighs and sights. All the traditional songs that you would expect were there. An onstage three piece band provided musical accompaniment. With all the ingredients in place, the audience were given what they came for- plenty of sing a long opportunities, and no shortage of laughs, particularly from Don Maclean.

 

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Audience members entered into the spirit of the evening

 
This, the first of three performances, was not without its teething problems. The Director’s notebook will have been full. Soloists went unlit, microphones did not come on to cue, and so many songs were crammed in that, particularly in the second half, they were performed at a speed which the Ramones would have been proud of. The projected finishing time was significantly over run resulting in some members of the audience leaving early too. Presumably to meet travel commitments. Although Julie Paton excelled on the vocals front, some of her fellow cast did not. A more ruthless approach from the Director and Musical Director can easily correct a show whose fundamentals are strong, but whose discipline on the opening night, was weak.
Finishes its run with two performances on 5/6/18.

Gary Longden

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