Cheltenham
The Cheltonian > Articles

Everyman Theatre

Michael Hasted brings you News, Views and Interviews from the Everyman Theatre crack

There was a time, throughout the 1970s and 80s, when the classic Broadway/Hollywood musicals were considered old hat, old fashioned and decidedly kitsch. They were the stock in trade of local amateur operatic and dramatic societies but nobody else wanted to know. Audiences only wanted the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber and Les Mis.

Then, out of the blue in 1992, The National Theatre decided to mount a revival of the 1945 Rogers & Hammerstein show Carousel. Eyebrows were raised and some tut-tutting took place. Nevertheless, the show was a great success and ran for years. The old 1940s and 50s shows had become sexy again and in 1998 the National revived another great Rogers & Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma, again to public and critical acclaim.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, needed to watch his back. No matter how successful his shows were, in all honesty they were not in the same league as the classics. And these great Broadway shows are now back with a vengeance.

Breaking all Broadway box office records when it opened in 1943, Oklahoma! was the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein III - the legendary team who went on to create the aforementioned Carousel as well as South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music.

A new production of the show comes to The Everyman on the 20th September for one week only starring Marti Webb as Aunt Eller and Mark Evans as Curly. This is a fast-paced, high energy show with colourful costumes, exciting dance routines and big, big numbers against a big, big sky.

The show is set in the Indian territory of the American Wild West at the turn of the century against a background of conflict between farmers and cattlemen, it is the story of Laurey and the two rivals for her affections: Curly, a cowboy, and Jud, the hired farmhand.

Famously, the show opens with Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ and contains a abundance of wonderful, hum-along songs such as The Surrey with The Fringe on Top, People Will Say We’re in Love, Many a New Day, I Cain’t Say No, and the final rousing chorus of Oklahoma – they can’t write them like that anymore, not even Mr. ALW.

With the autumn evenings beginning to creep in, Oklahoma will warm you heart and have you leaving the theatre with a big smile on your face and a tune on your lips. It is a musical treat for all the family.

Maybe you don’t want to go quite so far down memory lane. If your musical preferences demand more of a back-beat and you prefer blue suede shoes or winkle pickers to cowboy boots and spurs then the show for you is Dreamboats and Petticoats which opens the new season at the Everyman on 6th September.

This show comes straight from a West End run and features some of the greatest hit songs of the pre Beatles rock ‘n’ roll era, including classic numbers by Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Eddie Cochran and Billy Fury. This is a highly energetic, feel-good show in which you can sing along to some of the best loved songs of all time, such as Let’s Dance; To Know Him is to Love Him; Shaking All Over; Three Steps to Heaven; Little Town Flirt; Only Sixteen; Happy Birthday Sweet 16; Let it Be Me; Great Pretender; C’Mon Everybody and Let’s Twist Again. The big numbers just keep on coming...

The story is set in 1961 and emotions are running high as young musicians Norman and Bobby compete to win a national song writing competition – and, more importantly, the attention of the gorgeous Sue! But when Bobby discovers that shy Laura (will I be surprised to also hear Runaraound Sue, Bobby’s Girl and Tell Laura I Love Her? I don’t think so…) is no slouch on the piano, love and rock ‘n’ roll fame beckons... Not much of a story I admit, but then who wants a story; it’s all about the music. Get out the Brylcream and the fluffy petticoats and get to down to the Everyman where you’ll find there actually is a cure for the summertime blues.

Join the Circle of Friends and support the restoration

The Everyman Theatre is looking for a up to 25 loyal supporters, a Circle of Friends, who will each give £1,000 plus VAT, to see their theatre restored and revived.

The main benefits of membership of the Circle of Friends include 2 dress circle seats for the re-opening production in October 2011 and an invitation to the reception; a framed certificate of membership; an acknowledgement in theatre brochures and programmes for the 2011/12 season and a brass plaque with the donor’s name or dedication on one of the new seats in the refurbished auditorium.

The Victorian theatre needs urgent and serious attention and is closing from May to September 2011 to carry out the first proper restoration and refurbishment for over 30 years.

Geoffrey Rowe, CEO of the theatre said, “The Everyman is in a poor way. It is not an exaggeration that without a restoration, the theatre will begin to fail as attendances and income start to decline.” 

The Everyman recently celebrated a £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which will be added to the £760,000 already raised by the Everyman fundraisers, a £1 million loan from Cheltenham Borough Council and a grant of £250,000. A further £240,000 has come from charitable trusts and foundations.

REVIEWS

What you’ve seen or what you’ve missed

Mum’s The Word, which was at the Everyman at the end of July, was perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. I thought it was too full of in jokes. Now admittedly they were in jokes for the benefit of 98% of the audience and admittedly talk of childbirth, placenta and shit filled nappies is not always the sort of thing men like to
discuss or, in this case, to hear women discuss. What I’m trying to say is that I felt a little left out. If ever there was an evening’s entertainment aimed exclusively for women, this was it. The only possible exception would be The Chippendales, but it in view of the lady’s reaction to this show, I think the G-strings would fall by the wayside and the nappies would win.

In spite of my squeamishness and my paying more attention than was perhaps necessary to the state of my fingernails, I was able to appreciate that most of the show was beautifully written and well conceived (yes, that is a pun). Written by six Canadian women who obviously knew what they were talking about, the evening consisted of series of monologues skilfully and convincingly delivered by a group of mainly soap stars led by Gillian Taylforth, Tracy Shaw and Sally Ann Matthews. Had I been a mother, no doubt I would have enjoyed it immensely.

Did You Know...?

The Everyman officially opened as The New Theatre & Opera House on 1st October 1891 when the greatest of Victorian stars, Lillie Langtry recited a specially written ode to the theatre and Cheltenham before appearing in a production of Lady Clancarty.

The theatre was designed by Frank Matcham who also designed the London Palladium, the Grand Theatre Blackpool and the London Coliseum. He built 82 theatres around the UK and was involved in the rebuilding of 79 others between 1973 and 1913. The Everyman is believed to be the oldest surviving Matcham theatre still in use.