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Sheffield Crucible revives Me and My Girl

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Outside the west door of Wakefield Cathedral is a blue plaque commemorating the fact that Noel Gay, the celebrated composer of “The Lambeth Walk”, was a member of the cathedral choir, though in those days about a century ago he was known as Reginald Moxon Armitage. Next month, on December 2nd, less than 30 miles to the South, Sheffield Crucible starts an eight-week run of his most famous and popular show, Me and My Girl.

Originally staged at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1937, My and My Girl racked up 1,646 performances, becoming so popular that in 1939 it was televised live from the theatre, a rare occurrence even now. In 1984 L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber’s book was revised by Stephen Fry for a production initially at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester, and later at the Adelphi Theatre, that ultimately closed eight years and 3,303 performances later!

Despite (or, perhaps, because of) Stephen Fry’s much-praised revisions Me and My Girl remains a charmingly old-fashioned show, with its story of how barrow-boy Bill Snibson proves to be the long lost son of the late Earl Hareford and heir to the title. With other Noel Gay hits, “The Sun Has Got His Hat On” and “Leaning on a Lamp post”, added to the show-stopping “Lambeth Walk”, the new-look Me and My Girl is an exhilarating show that picked up the 1985 Olivier Award for Best Musical nearly 50 years after the original West End run.

So it’s an appropriate choice for the Crucible’s first musical since the theatre’s £15 million redevelopment. Stephen Fry certainly thinks so: “The reputation of Sheffield Crucible is immense and the talent that has been assembled for this show is simply awe inspiring.”

Bill Snibson, the role in which Robert Lindsay picked up the second of the show’s Oliviers in 1985, is played by Daniel Crossley, familiar to Yorkshire audiences from A Chorus Line at the Crucible and Twelfth Night at West Yorkshire Playhouse, with West End appearances including Chicago at the Adelphi. Jemima Rooper (playing Sally Smith), most recently seen in All My Sons at the Apollo, made her Hollywood debut in Black Dahlia and has starred in television series from The Famous Five (as a teenager) to the much more recent Lost in Austen.

The aristocrats are well served by Patrick Ryecart and the redoubtable Miriam Margolyes, late of Blackadder and winner of two whatsonstage.com awards for Best Supporting Actress as well as a BAFTA for the film The Age of Innocence.

A formidable production team includes director Anna Mackmin, designer Peter McKintosh and choreographer Stephen Mear. Mackmin’s work when an Associate Director at the Crucible included memorable productions of Cloud Nine and The Arbor, McKintosh has a fine track record of musicals at the Crucible (Fiddler on the Roof, Assassins and Ain’t Misbehavin’), while Mear picked up the 2010 Olivier Award for his choreography of Hello Dolly! at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

So, any time you’re Sheffield way, any evening any day, it’s worth reflecting that the quintessential East End anthem had its origins in the musical talents of young Reggie Armitage from the West Riding!

Me and My Girl runs from December 2nd 2010 to January 29th 2011


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