THE GRAYSHOTT STAGERS
For their spring show, the Grayshott Stagers have chosen to perform the little known musical "Windy City". Based on the classic stage comedy "The Front Page", it boasts a fast moving story set in the cynical world of Chicago newspapers, catchy tunes, memorable characters and a good dose of drama and romance.
The story centres on the Herald Examiner's star reporter Hildy Johnson. He is on the point of quitting the newspaper and heading to Hollywood with his fiancée Natalie, but has one last story to write. Earl Williams, a young anarchist, is due to hang the following morning for the accidental shooting of a policeman, and Hildy has an exclusive opportunity to interview him first. When streetwalker Mollie Malloy turns up at the pressroom, the other reporters sense a story and it is revealed that she was with Williams the night before the shooting. The corrupt Mayor Gruber and Sheriff Hartman who are more concerned about their re-election to office than justice, hide a reprieve sent for Williams. Meanwhile, Williams shoots his way out of police custody and escapes to Hildy's office. Managing Editor Walter Burns, determined to get Hildy to stay in Chicago, announces that he will write the Williams scoop himself and take all the glory. Williams is recaptured. Hildy is arrested and jailed. He and Natalie are reunited but Burns has one more trick to play…………
As Hildy Johnson, Tony Creasey gave his customary confident and professional performance. Torn between his job and his fiancée, he has some touching moments with Natalie and great fun with his sparring partner Walter Burns. Their duet "I Can Just Imagine It" is one of the best songs in the show.
Andrew Boughton played the crooked Walter Burns with his usual flair. He successfully portrayed the hard-nosed newspaper editor, combining menace with comic touches as he double-crossed anyone who stood in his path to success.
The glamorous Natalie was played by Alexandra Legat. She looked stunning and acted the part of the long-suffering fiancée most effectively. The duet "Wait Till I Get You On Your Own" was particularly well sung.
Laura Musco, in her first principal role, clearly enjoyed playing the heavy drinking tart-with-a-heart Mollie Malloy. With gin bottle in hand, she had an enjoyable world-weary rapport with the newspaper reporters, followed by a poignant reunion with Williams.
The quintet of rival reporters - Alan Clarke, Tommy Trussler, Richard White, Bob Fells and Richard Milla - worked together as a team very well and had some of the best lines in the show. They successfully managed to personalise their characters so that each stood out as separate individuals. Alan Clarke's alcoholic Kruger and Richard Milla's fastidious Bensinger were particularly good cameos, with Richard giving a delightful rendition of "Bensinger's Poem".
As Earl Williams, young Kevin Sampson spent most of the time cooped up inside a cavernous desk in Hildy's office whilst hiding from the police. He was suitably belligerent in his earlier scenes and touching when later reunited with Mollie.
As the corrupt officials, Sheriff Hartman and Mayor Gruber, Malcolm Dobson and John Dowsett made a fine double act. Their duet "Ten Years From Now" was excellent and they were joined by Mike Lee as the lugubrious Pincus in a memorable tap dance routine.
Completing the cast list with cameo roles were Peter Sillick as the psychiatrist Dr Egelhoffer, Tony Krauze as the bootlegger Diamond Louie, Jeff Morris as Duffy and Alan Stone and Peter Budd as Policemen.
The ladies chorus also produced some eye-catching characterizations. Appearing as an assortment of showgirls, secretaries, charwomen and tarts were Jennifer Charters, Liz Dobson, Pauleen Dowsett, Shirley Jelliss, Merrill Lamont, Judy Lee, Claire Miller, Lynn Patton, Jane Sargeant, Mandy Sutcliffe, Melanie Tyrrell and Sue Winstanley.
Musical Director Milva Sandison got the best out of her soloists. There were some very effective harmonies in the big chorus numbers and she handled the orchestra with her usual panache. The larger auditorium of the Haslemere Hall (where the Stagers are performing this week) will doubtless enhance the quality of the sound.
Director Heather Legat has once again delivered a winner and the show breezes along at a lively pace. Her production team successfully recreated the 1929 era: costumes and hairstyles were excellent and the split set – pressroom and sheriff's office – was most effective.
Windy City has seldom been seen since its original West End run in 1982. Then it starred Denis Waterman and Anton Rodgers, played for 250 performances and was nominated for the prestigious Musical of the Year prize in the Laurence Olivier Awards.
In spite of this accolade, it remains relatively unknown and is rarely performed, either professionally or on the amateur stage. Many theatregoers will have never seen the show, so do go along to the Haslemere Hall this weekend (2-4 May) and see it whilst you can. You will be guaranteed a thoroughly enjoyable evening.