In 2013 I took my Brownies to see the Hastings Gang Show. For those who don’t know, a Gang Show is a variety show put on by an area’s local scout and Ranger groups and they are great fun to watch. Well, I thought they looked liked pretty good fun to be in as well, and I knew other Brownie leaders who were in it, so 2014 rolled around, and I signed up. Turns out you have to be a part of the Scout Active Support unit (they volunteer as occasional support for Scouts in order to take part as an adult, so I signed up for that too.
Now, I have no problem acting and dancing in front of people, or even singing in a group, but I do have quite bad stage-fright about singing solo in front of people, so I was nervous about that part of auditions. (Auditions are to help casting decisions, not to see if you can or can’t take part.) I needn’t have worried though, I managed to do much better in auditions than I thought and ended up with some quite good parts.
In my dressing room
We spent weeks rehearsing and also fundraising; you wouldn’t believe how much it costs to put on a show like this in a proper theater. Eventually, performance week arrived. We were doing one show Thursday night, one Friday night and two Saturday -a matinee and an evening show. I was partly nervous but mostly excited. All the rehearsal time had paid off and I wasn’t scared of my solo bits anymore, I was looking forward to them.
Opening night came and we gathered backstage in our our jeans and black t-shirts, bedecked in bandannas and rock accessories, clutching our neon inflatable guitars. Since we arranged youngest/smallest to oldest/tallest, I was in the back row and one of the last to emerge on stage. The music reached our cue and we danced out singing to a mash up of We Built This City and Here I Go Again.
Up next was a quick change and then it was ‘The Gang Can’t Sing’, featuring a (pretty dreadful) song based on X factor auditions and an amazing singer who thinks she can’t sing. I feel I should clarify that it wasn’t our performance I think is dreadful, just the actual song. I was mostly filler in this one, a ‘fan’ who spent most of my time shouting for Simon Cowell’s autograph and reacting to other characters.
The next thing I was in was ‘Dance around the World’, where each age group (Cubs, Beavers, Scours, Rangers and Adults) represented a different country via an approximation of it’s national dance. Adults were doing England, so we were ‘morris dancing’. As an actual morris dancer, I know exactly how much was wrong about our dance but since most of my well-meaning advice to the choreographers fell on deaf ears I had to let that slide.
Then it was the last bit before the interval, ‘We Remember’ a long section commemorating the 1914 war, as it had been 100 years. Many people had not bothered to check the era of their costumes (we provided our own for this part) and were dressed more appropriately for World War Two than One but never mind. Our songs led us through the camaraderie of street parties and the sadness of waving our loved ones off to war (where my solo came in) through the tragedy of the battlefield and the eventual return (or not) of the soldiers. It was pretty moving stuff.
After the interval, it was time for ‘Doo-Wop’, set in a 50’s diner, I was playing a teenage girl who meets a teenage boy and through flirting and the various interference of his and her friends, ends up with a sweetheart. This was really awkward, because I was the only one of the six main actors who wasn’t actually a teenager. My ‘love interest’ had only just turned 15 -and I was a 26 year-old married woman. I’m pretty sure I was cast in the role because I’m a really confident public speaker and looks-wise I could still just about get away with it but like I said, it was awkward and we made the producers write the kiss out of the script in favour of a more chaste hug.
The next item I was in was Sink or Swim, a synchronised swimming comedy skit where the girls were all serious competitors and the blokes were larking around. We had to pretend to dive, swim and do tricks behind a barrier of fabric. It was pretty funny but I’m sure the audience in the higher seats could see us crawling around behind the blue fabric ‘waves’. I’m the girl at the front on the right-hand side.
In the next bit, Way Out West, I was background filler, a random Oklahoman singing songs from the musical Oklahoma. It was alright but I could have done without being in this number because it made it a very tight costume change for the next one, where I had a solo.
Up next was The Sing-Off, inspired by the movie Pitch Perfect, it featured a ‘Girls vs Boys’ premise. I had a solo verse in ‘Money’ and did harmonies in the other numbers. We finished with girls and boys joining together for ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. This was probably my favourite part of the show.
Last of all the Finale, where again, we were arranged by height and age group, so I was in the back. We sang several songs, including the famous ‘Crest of a Wave’, without which no Gang Show would be complete. Flash pots went off, glitter fell from the ceiling and we took our bows.As the curtain fell, the cast burst into one last song- “We love you Gang Show, we do! We love you Gang Show, we do! We love you Gang Show, we do! Oh, Gang Show, we love you!”