Summer Show: Spies, Lies And Wild West Skies!

Ringwood Musical & Dramatic Society [RMDS]    Greyfriars Community Centre, Ringwood

KD Johnson 25 July  2023

If you’ve ever been to one of the RMDS Summer Shows at the Greyfriars Community Centre in Ringwood then you will need no introduction, but for those who haven’t been a brief explanation is required.

There are three performance stages, each with its own audience seating, set, lighting, musical director and crew – in three halls dotted around the venue.  There is a meeting area and a cash bar in the middle.  On arrival, each ticket holder is allocated a coloured wristband and becomes a member of the Red, Yellow or Blue audience and is assigned a team-leader from RMDS to guide each audience group around the various performances.

The RMDS performers are split into three groups and each performs their own self-contained, 40 minute or so, production within one of the performance areas – the Red, Yellow and Blue audiences rotate around until they have seen each show. Drinks and nibbles are taken between the showlets in that area in the middle.

In which order you see the shows depends on what colour armband you are wearing – but each audience member sees each show once each, while the performers perform each three times, which must be exhausting.

“Once Upon a Time in the West” revolves around a wagon train on the Oregon Trail and a selection of medleys and show numbers, including snippets from “Rawhide”, “The Deadwood Stage” (Calamity Jane), “Anything You Can Do” (Annie Get Your Gun) and “There’s a Coach Coming In” (Paint Your Wagon).  There is dialogue and characterisation which drives it along with lots of humour, dancing, yehawing and even a gunfight.  The wagon-train set and props are excellent and plaudits are due to Stage Manager, Mike Briggs, and his team.  It is difficult to know who sings what from the cast list in the programme but we enjoy the rendition of “I’m Tired” (Blazing Saddles).  Music for this one – which could perhaps be a bit louder – is by Alistair Hume and the direction is by Dave and Cindy Wischhusen.

“Casino Banale” is a Bond spoof in the manner of Austin Powers or Russ Abbot.  The set paintings of fashionable (Regency?) ladies (by Lianne Anderson) are very striking as is the trompe-l’œil spirit bar.  The music (Matt Timmins) opens with Monty Norman’s classic Bond theme to which the performers sing a lyric “Secret Agent Man”.  The action moves on through a spoof plot with Tom Buxton as Bond (Brooke Bond – aka Seymour) and Jemma Wright as Dr. Maybe with a variety of musical numbers including “The Winner Takes It All”, “Suddenly Seymour” (Little Shop of Horrors), “When You’re Evil” and a nice rendition of “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” (Book of Mormon) by Richard Shaw and Denise Hield – we even get a bit of “Kung-Fu Fighting”. Notable is the performance of “I Know Him So Well” (Chess) by RMDS newcomers Courtney Buttigieg and (standing in at short notice) Lianne Anderson. Direction and writing is by Andrew Chappell.

“Politics, Parties and Plunder” is a brilliant musical parliamentary satire by Rich Bennett with choreography by Charlie Squires, direction by Suzy Collins and music by Jono Spratt. The House of Commons set, complete with green benches and a drinks cabinet behind the speaker’s chair, is very good. The music opens with a spoof version of the Ascot Gavotte song (My Fair Lady) and moves on to “Speaker of the House” adapted from Les Misérables but most of the music here is from popular songs – including ones by Madness and Carly Simon – rather than from Musical Theatre, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer singing “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” (Oliver!) is a notable exception. Tom Andrews plays a brilliant part as the PM and the other players are also excellent.  Eleanor Cheetham is the undoubted star of this piece as the newly elected member for New Forest West.

Taken together as an evening’s entertainment for a £15 ticket price, this triplet of showlets is a feast to the eyes, the ears and the organs of laughter – it is on in a great venue near you and there are still tickets left for some performances this week.  It runs until Saturday 29th at 19:45 in the Greyfriars Community Centre in Ringwood.