The Gang Show format for 2023 is reassuringly familiar. This year’s production is divided into four discrete sections, each introduced by a librarian, and each containing songs and sketches following a specific literary theme. These undertakings are large in scale and have considerable complexity. Maddie Gray, the overall Director, and her team of assistant, deputy, item and sketch directors, along with Head Choreographer, Rachel Berlemon and her fellow choreographers, and Musical Director Jaxon Joy, provided the audience with an enjoyable performance in its venture into the worlds of literature and imagination. As usual, there was a large component of original material, both in the musical numbers and dialogue. All of that is to be admired, and indeed, wondered at.
There were a number of noteworthy individual and group performances. Because the individual performers were not identified in the programme, they can only be described here by reference to the characters they played. In the jungle and pirate segment Treasures of the Black Clam, the pirate captain was very strongly played, as were the two lead performers, playing Professor Plum and Stew Dent. Their characterisation, clarity of expression and dramatic timing were outstanding. The Victory song was well led, which lifted the energy of the crew, and the fight between the captain and the local chieftain was thoroughly entertaining and well choreographed.
In the second thematic sequence, The Kingdom of Maddonia, the trio of princesses in the tower performed their song admirably, and the song Champion was very well sung and acted by the lead who was articulate and animated. Further, the Queen of Hearts performed well. Her solo was well devised and the small group of dancers supported and illustrated the song with style and precision. In the third section of the production, The Midnight Circus, the cast did well in presenting the songs Freakshow and Carousel. They both had an eerie, other-worldly feel, as intended. Also, in We’ll Be Back, the ring master successfully created a decidedly menacing mood. The final sequence, Thyme Travel had the advantage of being a quirky look at cuisines of different times and places. That was a nice idea.
The librarians’ dialogue served its purpose well enough, linking the four parts of the show, and the sketches and dialogue within the sections were functional enough. At times there were some technical issues with sound cues and the paucity of radio microphones. In the latter instance, it was occasionally the case that only some of those engaged in dialogue were amplified, which was a pity. It should be noted, however, that those without microphones did rather well in projecting their voices in the big auditorium. With such a big undertaking, in coordinating all those cast members, the stage crew and the various scene and costume changes, the Gang Show team showed their experience and attention to detail. And the cast were engaged and energetic at all times.
In all, it was an entertaining night in the theatre, and a credit to the organisation.