Super troupers get ready for Gang Show

IT'S a bit manic in the rehearsal hall at the back of Christchurch in Tacket Street.Costumes are being tried on, routines being gone over, directions being directed as more than 70 youngsters are busy getting ready to strut their stuff on the stage of Ipswich's Corn Exchange.

James Marston

IT'S a bit manic in the rehearsal hall at the back of Christchurch in Tacket Street.

Costumes are being tried on, routines being gone over, directions being directed as more than 70 youngsters are busy getting ready to strut their stuff on the stage of Ipswich's Corn Exchange.

Co-producer Keith Smith, by day a financial advisor, said: “We've got 65 Scouts and Guides and a mini gang of 12 Cubs.


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“The show is an old fashioned review. It's a mix of song and dance, comedy and sketches and yes we've got the traditional songs like Crest Of A Wave.”

Starting rehearsals in October, the Gang Show is a stalwart of the Ipswich entertainments calendar.

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Keith said: “We start planning the show in May. We do it every year. The first Ipswich Gang Show was in 1939 but we missed a few years during the war years so this year is our 60th show.”

Taking place from March 26 to 29 and including a Saturday matinee, the Gang Show contains about 20 different items including: Cliff Richard songs, Madness tribute, comedy sketches, a men's drag section and a Robin Hood sketch.

Keith said: “It's a traditional mixture but there's also a lot of modern stuff. We are moving with the times.”

Allowing every participant the chance to perform - the gang show is open to all scouts and guides in the Ipswich area.

Keith said: “We give everyone the chance to perform and do something on stage. They are working towards an achievement and taking part teaches some self-discipline and builds confidence.

“It's going to be our best show ever. There will be lots of fun and it is something people of all ages can come along to and enjoy.”

With lavish and colourful costumes and a collaborative effort the sound of teamwork is palpable as rehearsals get under way.

Keith, 56, who has been involved with the gang shows for more than 30 years, met his wife Diane, 54, during a show back in the early 1970s.

Today the couple are among the show's production team.

Diana, a craft shop owner, said: “I've been involved since 1970 and we met in the early 1970s. The Gang Show is really for young people who like to perform, sing, dance and act within the confines of the scout and guide movement.”

Diana said the couple's three children have also been involved and appeared in various gang shows.

EMILY Sheridan, 24, of St George's Street, Ipswich, said her mum and sister had also been in the shows.

She said: “I first appeared as a baby so I've been in gang shows all my life. This year I have choreographed the men's drag section and I'm doing some dancing and singing. I like the people. It's like a big family and you know everyone. When you miss a show you miss everyone.”

Ashley Betts, 17, a student, of Robin Drive, said this year would be his ninth gang show.

He said: “All the effort is worth it when you are on the stage. I like performing and I'm also in the Co-op Juniors.

“There are lots of friendships in the group as well. This year I'm dressing up as a toothbrush, a Baywatch Babe and helping produce the Madness tribute section.

Lizzi Titchmarsh, 17, of Notcutts Road, East Bergholt, said: “This will be my seventh gang show. I like acting, singing and dancing. It's very sociable and I've made lots of friends.

“I'm singing in the Cliff Richard medley and doing a girls dance number which is a cover of Elvis Presley and rock and roll songs.”

Father-of-three Jeremy Startup, 37, of Fountains Road, Ipswich, said: “I've been involved with the gang show since 1984. It's good fun. I'm in the men's drag section and singing a quartet. I like singing and dancing and being in sketches.”

Gang show facts

The show's format was introduced by Ralph Reader the first gang show producer, who went on to write many sketches and songs including the signature tune Crest of a Wave.

The first production, under the title The Gang's All Here ran between October 30 and November 1, 1932 at the Scala Theatre in London.

Productions have been organised in many countries around the world including England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, United States, the Netherlands, and South Africa.

It is claimed that a gang show is being produced somewhere in world every day of the year.

All gang shows have some common elements such as a finale which almost invariably incorporate at least some traditional Reader scouting standards such as On the Crest of a Wave.

Are you a fan of the Gang Show? Have you appeared in a previous production? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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