Sunday, 29 September 2013

Why am I dressed in these beautiful clothes? What is the matter with me?



It has been a very slow Sunday. I have been in a bit of a haze after partying on Friday for the History Boy's 40th, and our gang's trip to the legendary Wilton's Music Hall (both followed by verrrry late drinkies at Halfway to Heaven- oo-er).

But what a show we were treated to last night! The Players' Theatre Company - founded in the 1930s to keep the spirit of the old-time Music Hall alive - is a fine collective of troupers, and in true Variety fashion they created a wide-ranging bill of entertainment in the fitting surroundings of the oldest surviving Music Hall in the world.

Hosted by the traditional patter and gavel-banging of our "genial and worthy Chairman" Johnny Dennis, we had comedy characters such as John Styles' "Chelsea Pensioner" (who also came back later and did a very entertaining magic show), a pair of energetic young dancers The Todd Sisters (Tiffany and Georgina, who gave us a tribute to The Dolly Sisters as well as traditional rousing Victorian numbers) and another youngster, the banjolele-playing Mark Walsh.

Among the rollicking ditties the marvellous Players' stalwart Jan Hunt sang for us was Why Am I Always The Bridesmaid - which was fab! Here's the original by Miss Lily Morris, for your delectation:



Why am I dressed in these beautiful clothes?
What is the matter with me?
I’ve been a bridesmaid for twenty-two brides
This one’ll make twenty-three
Twenty-two maidens I’ve helped off the shelf
No doubt it seems a bit strange
Being the bridesmaid is no good to me
And I think I could do with a change.

Why am I always the bridesmaid
Never the blushing bride
Ding, Dong, wedding bells
Only ring for other gals
But one fine day
Please let it be soon
I shall wake up in the morning
On my own honeymoon.

Twenty-two times I have been to the church
Following the bride up the aisle
Twenty two maidens have answered I will
Meaning I won’t all the while
Twenty-two couples I’ve seen go away
Just to be on their own
Twenty-two times I’d wished it was me
And gone back home to Mother alone.

Why am I always the bridesmaid
Never the blushing bride
Ding, Dong, wedding bells
Only ring for other gals
But one fine day
Please let it be soon
I shall wake up in the morning
On my own honeymoon.

I had a good chance a week or two past
And took my young man home to tea
Mother got playful and gave him a pinch
And pinched my fiancée from me
Being a widow she knew what to do
No use for me to complain
Then they got married today if you please
I was only the bridesmaid again.

Why am I always the bridesmaid
Never the blushing bride
Ding, Dong, wedding bells
Only ring for other gals
But one fine day
Please let it be soon
I shall wake up in the morning
On my own honeymoon.


Operetta star Marilyn Hill Smith gave us a beautiful tribute to "dear old" Ivor Novello as well as the eternally catchy Oh Velia, Oh Velia from Lehar's The Merry Widow. We all had song sheets for some of the Players' sing-along numbers such as Daisy, Daisy, Down At The Old Bull and Bush, Hold Your Hand Out You Naughty Boy, Pack Up Your Troubles, Knees Up Mother Brown, My Old Man (Said Follow The Van) and the like, but we couldn't quite hit the high notes during Miss Hill Smith's repertoire...

Unfortunately our headliner was the smarmy Don Maclean (not that one), who was never particularly funny as a TV host in the 70s, let alone now. His routines were dated, un-PC and cringeworthy on occasions, as one might have expected from someone whose career began on The Black and White Minstrel Show. More importantly, they were not what we would call "Music Hall".

However he was merely a part of a greater whole, and there were certainly some very memorable moments indeed. Apart from the ever-marvellous Miss Hunt, the two appearances by Julia Sutton were exceptional - especially her hauntingly beautiful take on Albert Chevalier's The Coster's Serenade. [No video footage exists of anyone doing this song unfortunately (in fact there is a shocking lack of actual Music Hall performances on the web).]



But the avowed highlight of the evening was the legendary character comedian Peter John with his "Coster songs" - and, best of all, "Bertha the Barmaid" and her Stout and Bitter routine, which was deserving of a show all of his/her own!

I have written many times about our trips to Wilton's before (fortunately the venue has recently benefited from some Lottery money to help its much-needed conservation), and about our "Late Joys" courtesy of the Players' Theatre. They are national institutions, both deserving of every support we can give - and long may they carry on!

Here's a special feature, on the occasion of the Players' 75th anniversary two years ago:



Players' Theatre Company

Wilton's Music Hall

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