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53sots01_WEB.jpgSpotlight on theShow

There is no doubt about it-the " Gang Show'' spirit his " captured" Teesside!

Three years ago, there were thousands of Tees-siders who had only the vaguest idea of what a " gang show " was. Then, in 1950, Middlesbrough Scouts presented their first Show in St. John's Hail. They were rewarded with an outstanding success and the following year moved into a theatre proper-the Empire-to stage their second production.

Again, after probably the most tense " first night '! ever, the cast played to packed houses for the rest of the week.

Pressure of other Scouting activities prevented the presentation of any show last year, but this 1953 production has already shattered previous booking records easily. Almost a week before the opening night the last of the bookable seats was sold at the box-office-and without the need for extensive " boosting." The show, in fact, had sold on its previous reputation-an encouraging pointer for " The Gang " and one which spurred them on in their efforts to make their Coronation Year Show the best yet.

53sots03_WEB.jpgThe enthusiasm of the boys themselves has again been the overriding factor in the preparation of " The Gang Steps Out," but putting on this 23-item programme has required teamwork of a high order. The cast of nearly 150 Scouts and Scoutmasters, for instance - let us reiterate once more that there are no girls in the show, despite appearances !-are drawn from 28 different groups scattered throughout the town and backing them up is a complex organisa-tion involving more than 100 adult helpers. The " boffins' " duties have been multifarious. Sets, for Instance, had to be designed, constructed and painted, including such diverse features as a gipsy caravan, an impressive staircase, palm trees and a church screen. Many hours have been spent by this team working in a large North side warehouse. Native assagais and shields, grass skirts, gamelan (Pacific island) " orchestral " instruments and a host of other " props " had to be acquired, in addition to nearly 800 costumes and a large assortment of wigs for which women Cubmasters, Scouters' wives and other feminine helpers have been responsible for fitting, altering and keeping presentable.
53sots04_WEB.jpgThen there was the business side, the compilation of this programme and, far from least, the transport and catering problems which had to be overcome. Arrangements had to be made to take some of the boys home after rehearsals and after this week's performances, while the womenfolk rolled up their sleeves and tackled the organisation of tea for some-thing like 500 members of the cast, helpers and Scout visitors from distant areas between shows on the last day of the show. Rehearsals themselves began last autumn, individual items being practised in school rooms and at Levick House and the massed numbers at the co-operative Hall on Saturday nights. While the show was being planned it was realised that " The Gang " would be appearing little more than a fortnight after Middlesbrough celebrated its


centenary as a borough, so a message was sent to Ralph Reader, the acknowledged " Gang Show " expert, who readily agreed to write a song specially for the occasion.

The production chiefs sent him a list of notes on the town's growth and achievements-and back came an adapted ' Just a Thing called Love " BY RETURN OF POST! Recordings were made of sounds in a local steelworks to add effect to the " rolling mill " scene which resulted.

Rehearsals were not without their " incidents." On one occasion a visiting member of the Whitley Bay " gang " was discovered to have a violent attack of toothache; a Middlesbrough official promptly drove him by car to a dentist friend's house and the offending tooth was withdrawn quicker than one could say " Sorry, house full." The dentist was an Old Scout.


At a later rehearsal at the Empire the producer was leading members of a cast in a dance sequence tapping his foot to guide the pianist. All was going well when suddenly the dance was thrown into confusion; the pianist had "got lost." She had Inadvertently taken up the staccato rap of a stage carpenter's hammer in mistake for Mr. Galloway's footfalls.

If there was a bouquet for the keenness supporter of " The Gang," it would probably go to a man who, one of our hardest workers backstage in the past, was very ill when this show came along.

Determined to play his part, he secured his doctor's promise that if he followed instructions carefully he might be allowed to put in a couple of weeks helping behind the scenes. He did so, going to bed early, adhering to a strict diet and carrying out a rigid programme laid down by his doctor-and turned up at the Empire at a recent rehearsal to lend a hand.

That spirit is typical of the " Gang Show' and the Scout-tradition.


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