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A Special Celebration In South Shields
The Dolly Mixtures
by Tom Kelly and John Miles
South Shields Customs House
until Saturday 3rd September 2016
At times hilarious and at other times extremely moving, this uplifting musical is based on the true story of a band of intrepid fundraisers.
The Dolly Mixtures were formed in South Shields when a group of friends decided to raise funds for a hospital where one of their husbands was terminally ill with cancer.
The eight women went on to raise more than £100,000, entertaining the tough North Eastern clubs with a mixture of songs and comedy.
Their tale, expertly told through the words and songs of Tom Kelly and John Miles, makes a great musical.
Director Ray Spencer keeps the pace frenetic, but is blessed with a superb cast who make the most of some great songs and some brilliant comedy set pieces.
Angela Hannon plays Hilda, the leader of the gang and sister of Ken, whose death from bowel cancer at 34, provides the inspiration for the fundraising. Feisty and determined, Hilda is the organiser who ensures every single penny raised goes to Cancer Research or other charities.
Angela is perfect in the part, as is Patricia Whale who plays Margaret, Ken’s widow. Patricia and Steve Halliday (Ken) provide some of the show’s most moving moments with two wonderful, heartbreaking duets.
But there are also plenty of laughs. Georgia Nicholson as Doris and Kylie Ann Ford as Liz provide many of these.
The squabbling between two sets of sisters within the group is life-like and funny, as is the portrayal, by the women, of overly officious club committee men.
Many of the songs had the audiences in stitches, none more so than Squawk, Rattle and Shake and The Pheasant Plucker’s Song. The audience also loved the portrayals of Bobby Thompson and Hilda Baker.
At the heart of the show is the theme of love. The love of a husband and wife that inspired such a marathon effort and the love between eight friends determined to ensure some good came out of tragedy.
The camaraderie between Hilda, Margaret, Doris, Liz, Joan (Christina Dawson), Sylvia (Victoria Holtom), Jean (Samantha Phyllis Morris) and Betty (Sarah Boulter) is brilliantly portrayed and you get the sense the performers thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.
A word too for the costumes. The Dolly Mixtures were fundraising for 15 years, from the early 1970s to the mid 80s, and costume designer Paul Shriek captures the differing fashions perfectly.
Photo: Tim Richardson
Praise too for the live band, expertly led by Dave Bintley.
This is a special show, a show of laughter and tears and one that ensures you leave the theatre with a smile on your face. What made the press night even more special was the introduction on stage of the five remaining Dolly Mixtures by Hilda’s grandson – Joe McElderry. Cue tissues all round for the audience, already on their feet for a standing ovation.
What a night, what a show.
Review by Rob Lawson
The Dolly Mixtures runs from Wednesday 24th August to Saturday 3rd September 2016 and follows last summer’s smash hit Geordie the Musical, also written by Tom Kelly (Geordie Musical NETG Review LINK).
Tickets are from £15 and for more information or to book tickets, go to www.customshouse.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 454 1234.