NODA’s review of Bah Humbug!

Wadhurst Dramatic Club presented
Bah Humbug!
music and lyrics Bill Francoeur
book adapted by Rebecca Ryland
Wadhurst Commemoration Hall
reviewed on Friday 25th January 2019
Director/Choreographer: Kay Sasada
Musical Director: Veronika Reeves

A warm hospitable welcome from Jan F of H and her team on a ‘special night’ performance of ‘Bah Humbug’ the celebration of a special birthday of whiz of all things technical – John Bush’s 80th and in fact the exact number of shows with the Club he’s actively been involved with! An amazing achievement – so with thanks and love, glasses were raised, cards and pressies presented together with a photographic display and two beautiful birthday cakes and HB sung. Then another birthday wish and song went to Stage Hand Joe Madden too.

A rather attractive programme was produced on good quality firm card, with a silhouetted Scrooge in top hat, carrying a cane, in a snow-covered, tree lined scene.  Such a pity with a well presented interior, the NODA crest outside had no wording beneath, or the alternative logo together with ‘inspired by amateur theatre’, criteria for our Programme competition!  However, this is not the requirement for posters, so if you can save 5 posters, I can forward them for next year’s judging.

Lamplighter Merlin Beedell, warmly attired opened lighting, a street scene with cast entering up the two ramps, mingling with the young waifs. Behind – the open set was split into Scrooge’s sitting room and bedroom with walls painted green and maroon, candle wall lights – a room divider, a bed and a lit fire, mantle shelf displaying a clock and a single candle, clothes hooks on the wall. The sitting room contained a semi-circular desk set with quill pen for Beth at her ledgers.  Set at an angle was a smart front door with knocker. Either side flats detailed two shop frontages one a Toy Shop, the other The Ironmongers, both very colourful, another great contribution from Colin and Nance Hand. With addition of small table, chair and benches with use of good props – cider jug, tankards etc.  cameo scenes in the Cratchit household were placed. The same position used for the cameo of Nanny and a young Scrooge dressing a small Christmas tree too.

OK it’s January but in theatre we can be whenever we want, so it’s Christmas Eve, an old fashioned chilly Dickensian setting, lamp lights flickering and candles aflame. Elegant gowns and bonnets, gents in toppers, Christmas carolling, general good cheer, rich, poor, the charity collectors, the street vendor then there’s wealthy in money, miser Ebenezer Scrooge with a niece who warmly invites him to share their festivities, and the struggling Cratchit’s with their hopes.  The familiar tale of ghostly visitations from his old partner Marley clanking in chains with a warning, as the clock strikes, further apparitions appear from Christmas Past, Present and Future. After a frightening lesson, Scrooge the mean becomes Scrooge the benevolent, joins his family, makes peace with the world with Tiny Tim the cripple boy and memories of his dead sister Fanny melting his heart.

Recorded back tracks were just at the right level and coordinated well with the singers. With catchy tunes, MD Veronika, doubling as SM put the cast through their paces with familiar ensemble carols, some lovely solos, harmonizing duets and bright singalong chorus numbers. With Kay’s imaginative cast entrances, placings and choreographed movement through the hall and stage action was slick with sound of both script and song lyrics strong. The use of special effects with lighting on walls, backdrops, head dresses etc. use of dry ice all most atmospheric. Outstanding chorus numbers included ‘Chains’ led by Catherine Whitehead as Marley’s Ghost, Alison and Jon Bolland with ‘Dead and Buried’ with Katie Ann Driver as a very sparkling Christmas Present singing ‘Fiddle de di, Life was meant to be’. James Edwards appeared as if an Arabian Nights genie, wearing a head wreath of coloured lights and doubled as ensemble too. An uplifting ‘It’s Christmas’ finale.

The whole company was particularly well-costumed with thanks to neighbouring societies for  loans, plus input from the Wardrobe team Jill Haskell, Penny Bones and Gill Gordon Williams. Stunning colours for ladies’ gowns, children breeches, waif caps, the green and yellow of the fantasy scene, added sparkles, ribbons, green and white tights, gloves etc. Changes of Scrooge from smart day attire into white nightshirt and cap, slippers with pompoms, elaborate waistcoat and smoking jacket. Men most elegant.  Marley looked sinister in her dark tattered garb, high hat and chains and the hooded souls threading their chains, perfect. Cloaks, masks, hair and makeup first class.

Playing opposite Mike Reeves, a convincing ‘Bah Humbug’ Scrooge, credit goes to Alison Bolland who portrayed a gentle Beth, striving for her lovely family confidently played by young Tom Madden, Maddie Valli, Esme Spink, Lauren Perry and especially Tiny Tim delightfully played by Olivia Drewe, singing a beautiful ‘God Bless Us Everyone’. Annamay Porter Reed played Fran – a niece with a real concern for her Uncle with Lauren Perry appeared as a beloved lost sister, with young Chloe McCarthur as the Young Ebenezer.Very strong ensemble and cameo support throughout. Altogether a musical festive piece with meaning, well executed.

A précis of this Review will be posted on the NODA website shortly.

Anne Lawson
Regional Representative
District 3