Gyspy The Musical, Shinfield Players Theatre
April 21, 2010
April 29-May 1
(0118) 975 8880
A YOUNG 60-year-old who cut his stage teeth playing Enid in Pirates of Penzance when he was just 11 is looking forward to curtain up next week of his latest show.
Joff Hamilton, who lives in Ashampstead Common near Pangbourne, is directing the Shinfield Players’ new production of Gypsy, one of the best-loved musicals.
And he can’t wait.
Taking a break from his day job as a solicitor to talk about the show he says: “The music is superb, there are a lot of catchy tunes in it and there are enduring well-known songs. It’s the story of the ultimate pushy stage mother: she wanted her children to achieve and then didn’t like it when they didn’t want to do what she wanted them to do. I just love it.”
The show is being put on because members of the Shinfield Players were keen to do so. “My two lady choreographers always wanted to do it, so we decided we should put it on,” Joff explains.
Gypsy, based on real events, tells the story of Mama Rose who wants to put her young daughter June on the stage. When she refuses, sister Louise is seen as the next great hope. They arrive at a theatre expecting to do vaudeville, but discover it’s actually a burlesque house. When one of the ladies fails to appear, Louise has to step in to her shoes, eventually becoming the fabled striptease artiste Gypsy Rose Lee.
With strippers and burlesque, surely it’s not a show that vicars would be welcome at? “He would not blush,” assures Joff, who also serves at the theatre’s chairman.
“Gypsy Rose Lee never actually stripped. She hinted at it, and was persuaded to take off a glove or leave a bra strap on her shoulders. She never did anything other than slightly risqué in the 30s. It’s a perfectly good show for vicars, tarts and children and everyone else.”
Joff chuckles, something he does rather a lot of during our chat.
The production aims to be as professional as possible and will feature an eight-piece orchestra even though there’s no room for a pit in the Players’ theatre.
“We’re being slightly avant garde and putting the orchestra backstage and showing them when appropriate,” Joff says. He also says that the stripping requires “dirty saxophone” music.
To accompany the action there are some spectacular costumes, Joff promises. “There’s a lovely bit with three girls who show June – Gyspy Rose Lee – how to do striptease,” he continues. “One of them shows how to do it with a trumpet and shows how to bump and grinds. And that’s all there is to it, just bumps and grinds.
“The next one bumps and grinds along with her light switches– her costume has fairy lights on itr. The last one does it to ballet.
“That scene alone will bring the house down: three girls showing different ways of bumping and grinding and entertaining in a risqué fashion.”
Joff is proud of the production, and wants everyone to come along.
He has “a great concern that people sit in front of the television all the bloody time and they don’t know and recognise what live theatre is all about”.
“Live amateur theatre has had several years of an extremely bad name because of Jeremy Beadle [and You’ve Been Framed], and sets built from this that and other – we are not that sort of theatre.”
Instead, Joff promises that the Shinfield Player will offer a slick show that will give the West End a run for its money. “It’s frankly the cheapest evening out you will have – I mean what are we charging? Ten pounds a ticket. People are missing out on live theatre and musicals. It’s good fun as usual.”
Gypsy should have been performed at the Shinfield Players Theatre in Whitley Wood Lane, Shinfield, this Friday and Saturday but had to be cancelled due to Annette Chiswick being stranded in Portugal due to the air ban. The Players hope to perform the show from Thursday, April 29 to Saturday, May 1. People with tickets for this week will be contacted but they can can rebook by ringing ( 0118) 975 8880. Tickets cost £10 or £8 for concessions and are available from the same number or from www.boardtreaders.tgis.co.uk.