REVIEW: Curtain Up! at the Windmill Theatre, Littlehampton

On Saturday, March 3, audiences were enthralled by a musical themed extravaganza Curtain Up! being staged by the mayor of Littlehampton, Councillor Billy Blanchard-Cooper at the Windmill Theatre in Littlehampton.

The review show, featuring eight local societies each offering something different to the mix, was raising funds towards the mayor's chosen charities this year the Friends of Mewsbrook Park and the Littlehampton Heritage Railway Association.

Billy Blanchard-Cooper with the performers of Curtain Up! at the Windmill Theatre in Littlehampton

Billy Blanchard-Cooper with the performers of Curtain Up! at the Windmill Theatre in Littlehampton

The Mayor stated one of his objectives during his mayoral year was to host a show at the Windmill as he is a big fan of this theatre and loves to see it being well used and supported.

He said: “I have been incredibly lucky to have so much support in staging this show and would particularly thanks Jan Combes and Lynne Jones, along with all the societies involved and the many individuals behind the scenes that have given their time freely to make it such a success”.

He also wished to thank his family, friends and particularly his husband Chris for his help with this show and for putting up with him during its conception.

The money raised will go to the Friends of Mewsbrook Park and the Littlehampton Heritage Railway Association to help with their plans for the future.

The concept behind the show was to celebrate the town and the talents that is has. All the groups involved are based in Littlehampton and all their performances took place under the town crest and motto 'progress' as a centrepiece on stage.

As the final curtain closed, the audience left to the towns own song A Place in the Sun which was composed by local resident Joe Butt for the town in 2000, and they were waved off by the town's own mascot Hampton the Hedgehog.

With probably one of the biggest casts to ever assemble on the Windmill Theatre stage, Curtain Up! proved to be a tour-de-force of local talent.

Over 190 members of various theatrical and dance organisations came together to support Mayor Billy Blanchard-Cooper’s fundraising show – and what a show it was!! There was probably at least a seventy year age gap between and youngest and oldest performers, but all participants lit up the stage with sheer talent and enthusiasm.

The show opened with a powerful rendition of Everything’s Coming Up Roses by Bev Seal, and this set the scene for the opening act, The Star Ignited Performance Academy with a selection from Elf, the Musical.

One of their enthusiastically performed numbers was Happy all the Time - and all the young performers certainly were! Their accomplished performances were a delight, and were seamlessly followed by the Virtuoso Dance Company with spirited dance routines from Oliver!

Their bright costumes and energetic dances to Oom-Pah- Pah, It’s a Fine Life, and Got to Pick a Pocket or Two were much appreciated by the full-house in attendance.

Next it was the Stage Door Theatre Company’s turn to entertain with delightful excerpts from Annie, Wizard of Oz and Oliver!. The Company will be performing the latter show at the Windmill Theatre in November, and will surely be a treat in store for everyone.

The final slot before the interval saw members of Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society don stunning costumes to stage items from A Chorus Line, Chicago, Sweet Charity, Funny Girl and Mamma Mia.

Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society was founded in 1951 and 67 years later continue to provide top-class entertainment.

After Deputy Mayor Cllr. James Walsh drew the grand charity raffle in the interval, the second half was opened by the Edwin James Festival Choir – and what fun it was!

Songs from Follies, My Fair Lady, Grease, Half a Sixpence and La Cage Aux Folles were beautifully sung and performed by elegantly clad members of the choir. This versatile group

had the audience in stitches when their pantomime horse raced through the auditorium during the Ascot Gavotte.

The joyful sound of tapping feet followed with Charlotte Reader’s Adult Tap Dancers uplifting performance of 42nd Street. It was a joy to watch these ladies, of all ages, simply having the time of their lives.

Littlehampton Players Operatic Society were up next with a moving performance of songs from “Les Miserables” all sung with expression and beautiful voices. The audience were left spellbound and showed their appreciation with loud applause. The society will be returning to the Windmill next month with Guys and Dolls.

The last act saw Dance Industry Studios showcase some of their young dancers. Beautifully costumed, the dance routines were exquisitely performed with elegance and poise far beyond their tender years, and proved how important dance and theatre arts are in building confidence, teamwork, and creativity.

The Finale featured the powerful voice of Amber Newbery leading the whole cast singing Raise Your Voice from Sister Act the Musical, and what a voice was raised.

Hours of rehearsal were involved in devising and co-ordinating this show, and it is impossible to name all those involved, but mention must be made of accompanying musicians Daniel Payne and James Rushman, and overall producers Jan Combes, Lynne Jones and Chris Blanchard-Cooper.

All proceeds from the show are to go to the mayor’s fundraising efforts for the Friends of Mewsbrook Park and Littlehampton Heritage Railway Association and it is anticipated that this event will surpass the £5000 target that he had hoped.

To sum up, Curtain Up! was a superb evening’s entertainment, and may the curtain never come down on the Windmill Theatre and its performers.