Time to go “Back to those Music Hall Days”

Musical Director: HELEN CAMPBELL
Stage Manager: ROBERT BILL

The Potato Festival has been put to rest for another year and the Crookwell community prepares to hunker down for the winter recess, or does it? Not on your Nelly.

The Crookwell Amateur Dramatic Society, known more commonly as CADS, is gearing up for an extravaganza of musical entertainment next month, as it presents its fifteenth Music Hall show since it reformed in 1987. This one will be a celebration of good times past.

Back to those Music Hall Days will see a return to the good old days of CADS in the 1990s with a selection of some of their popular 'old time' musical numbers and skits. Not only will the material be plucked from the archives, but so too will be a number of cast members who took part in those early shows.

Thirty of CADS's leading characters have responded to director Anne Cleary's call for a special show to honour musical director Helen Campbell who turned 90 in February. And it's not just Mrs Campbell who admits to having the energy for another show.

Those cast members making a return to resurrect their roles on stage are 25 years older than when they originally played their parts or sang their songs. The high kicks originally required may now be more like gentle knee bends, but the cast is up for the challenge.

It will be the greatest of pleasures to welcome back to the stage old time favourites Annette Prell, Debb O'Brien, Chris Croker, Christine Bentley, Stephen Rigby, Margaret Wheelwright, Ken Wheelwright, Tory Simmons (Croker), Narelle Kennedy, Andrew 'Boots' Harborne, Sarah Lowe and Des Rowley.

CADS stalwart performers Heather Davies, Wal Smart, Michael Lowe and Rechell Naughton, all recently seen on stage, will be joined again this year by Rob Huskinson, Maggie Rikard-Bell, Lyn Green, Margaret Hudson and CADS's latest newcomer to the stage from the 2018 Lady Godiva, Dallas Atkins.

For the very first time, Darren 'Buckets' O'Brien will be making it a full family affair as wife Rie and teenage children Ellis and Misha join him on the Memorial Hall stage.

CADS has always encouraged new members to its ranks. This year's production welcomes making their CADS debut, local student Nic Bensley and Kevin Breen from Goulburn. Chris Hinton, recently known to CADS patrons for his direction of Cinderella in 2016, will fill the role of Music Hall Chairman, so capably controlled through the 1990s by the irrepressible Phil Meckiff, now retired to the South Coast.

Of course, no CADS music hall can happen without the magic fingers of Mrs Helen Lowe as she once again takes her rightful place alongside Mrs Campbell in 'tickling the ivories' for their fifteenth music hall. These two ladies form the keystone of CADS's live musical performances. Many times they have enjoyed the accompaniment of Drummer Boy Dale Chalker who will once again be keeping the beat.

What is going to make this show something special is its salute to those music hall days that have been such a standout feature of CADS offerings over the last 32 years.

The effort required to stage the music halls is enormous. The search for material, the construction of sets and lighting design, the organisation of casting and scheduling of rehearsal times, make music hall productions a time-consuming and exhausting venture which takes many months of preparation by a small group of dedicated theatre-loving volunteers.

Some behind-the-scenes drivers who have remained loyal and committed to the success of CADS since 1987, seldom - if ever - missing a production, deserve highlighting.

The triumvirate of Robert Bill, Sandra Bill and Rhonda Cummins ensure CADS and KAOS (Kids Acting on Stage) get a theatre event happening at Crookwell Memorial Hall every year. Simon Bill, son of Robert and Sandra, is also now invaluable to the production team as CADS's lighting designer.

While CADS will continue the tradition of providing quality entertainment for the good folk of Crookwell and surrounds for many more years to come, it will, sadly, be the Rowley Champagne Coach's last hurrah.

CADS patron Desley Rowley has been responsible each show for gathering the troops from out of town, literally in the thousands over many years, organising the coach, the driver and tables for two of CADS's BYO Supper Shows performances.

Departing from Goulburn, theatre-goers from Sydney, Wollongong and Canberra climb aboard the 56-seat coach which offers a bottomless glass of champagne, served with Desley's famous Cote d'Or chocolates and fresh strawberries.

The cast has been known to hold up their performance, waiting for the merry revellers to arrive. "Sydney people are fascinated, they have never seen anything like it," Desley says. "I love seeing their reaction. A man from Canberra turned to me one night and said, 'Desley, this is amazing.' He has been coming ever since."

The call is going out now to all entertainment-loving citizens of the Upper Lachlan to acknowledge and celebrate Helen Campbell's 32 years continuous commitment to CADS including musically directing 15 music halls.

It's also timely to pay tribute to CADS patron Desley Rowley for her tireless organisation of those well-travelled champagne coaches as they make their final road trip to Crookwell in June.

Originally published in the Goulburn Post as Back to those Music Hall Days | CADS new show.


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