UK Cabaret review
Those Were the Days
City Varieties Musical Hall- Leeds
Cast includes: Andy Eastwood, Chris Ritchie and Helen Farrell
Reviewer: Mark Ritchie
The pre-show open tabs revealed the welcome sight of all the accoutrements of a live band at this historic and iconic chocolate-boxy musical hall venue.
I even spotted the star of the show, Andy Eastwood in the circle, taking photos of the auditorium about ten minutes before the show went up. There was a nice busy matinee house for this show which focusses astutely on the music of the 1950’s and 60’s. I opine about the astute nature of this show pitch due to the the age profile arithmetic of the audience., It is easy to calculate how old senior citizen audience members were during this period.
Time moves on and while the audience were by no means all of pension age, the musical content has moved on, since the old-time music hall past heydays of The City Varieties. During that period chairman Leonard Sachs introduced stars who recreated The Good Old Days of the music hall and variety, armed with extravagant gestures, a gavel and superbly delivered superlatives during the telly show of the same name, which ran for 30-years, until being quite scandalously cancelled by the BBC back in 1983.
Andy Eastwood is himself steeped in the creed of Music Hall, playing a multitude of instruments, violin, guitar and ukelele to name a few. He also sings the songs and tells the gags and everyone seems to marvel at skills he has learned in how to pitch at 21st century audiences.
Chris Ritchie (no relation) looks immaculate and sounds smooth, with his Matt Monro medley a particularly strong and integral part of his vast repertoire. Humorous and personable, Mr Ritchie looks completely at home on this famous stage and in this smashing show.
Singer and entertainer Helen Farrell completes a cast, which holds a collective suitability for the job of delivering material from another long-gone era. In short, a perfect fit, with well-rehearsed and performed collective snippets and solid and hugely enjoyable solo stints.
MD Wendy Richardson is the wife of Chris Ritchie and the mother of Helen Farrell, who has herself only very recently become the wife of Andy Eastwood. This is a true family affair and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to discover that this show’s celebrated percussionist Phil Jeffery is somehow related to someone or other in the cast.
I suspect the casting is more to do with convenience than any form of nepotism, so what a bit of luck to find a cast so smooth and assured in their task, who happen to gel off stage as well as on.
The swinging sixties and the decade which followed are surely today’s ‘Good Old Days’, when entertainers had to learn instruments, sing live and dress to impress. I know I am far from alone in missing such shows. Indeed, it is a titled truism that those were indeed the days!
UK Cabaret review