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Churchill on Board HMS Scylla 1943

Terry Wills enjoys some wartime memories at Birmingham Town Hall – and you can still catch the show tonight and tomorrow at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

Air raid warnings blaring, criss-crossing searchlights, Winston Churchill proclaiming “We’re at war with Germany” and members of the armed services, looking resplendent in uniforms, striding proudly onto the stage of the wonderfully refurbished Birmingham Town Hall to herald two hours of great nostalgic entertainment.

For those of a certain age this turned out to be a ‘glad I didn’t miss it’ production. And what a treat for those who managed to get along to enjoy unashamed sentimental memories that can, and never will be forgotten.

Two musicians and five solo artists who down the years have worked with some of the biggest names in show business.

Step forward Steve Barclay, Shelley James, Tony Leyton, Andy Eastwood, and Mervyn Francis. Not forgetting the talented backing duo Martyn St James and Phil Jeffrey.

The whole spectrum surrounding the Second World War years being bought sharply back into focus.

‘Welcome to Workers Playtime’ incorporating songs and music made famous by Anne Shelton, Arthur Askey, Donald Peers, ‘Two Ton’ Tessie O’Shea, Stephane Grappeli, Gracie Fields, and the ‘Cheeky Chappie’ himself Max Miller.

Inevitably there were nostalgic ‘Sing Along’ sections. Who else remembers dashing into Air Raid shelters to the strains of ‘Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit, Run. Run’ among others?

Shelley James paid tribute to the ‘Forces Sweetheart’ Vera Lynn and the poignant lyrics of ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘Well Meet Again’ which must have bought lumps to throats, and recalled memories, both happy and sad, to many in the audience.

Andy Eastwood, a multi talented musician, was simply amazing. Not only perfectly replicating the Ukulele playing of George Formby with a medley of his numbers but astoundingly playing ‘The William Tell Overture’ at a phenomenal speed! Little wonder he’s recognised as being Britain’s foremost exponent of the instrument.

Our American cousins weren’t left out of the entertainment. Memories of Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, the immortal James (Jimmy) Cagney and the music of Glenn Miller.

Traditional and ‘cheeky’ comedy from Steve Barclay, knowing just where to draw the line, more singalong songs, all perfectly rounded off by Shelley James, in a stunning black and white dress, leading the company, and the audience, in rousing rendition of ‘Rule Britannia and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and inevitably ‘Well Meet Again’.

Congratulations has to go to Duggie Chapman, an entertainer and producer in his own right, who not only has a string of pantomimes to his credit but is also a great supporter of charitable causes.

Suitably rewarded by him accepting an invitation to become a member of the ‘Grand Order of Water Rats’.


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