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Worzel Gummidge
The Musical
(Original London 1981 Cast Album)


Music: Denis King
Lyrics: Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall
Performed by: John Pertwee, Una Stubbs and Geoffrey Bayldon
Label: Stage Door
RRP: £12.99
STAGE 9037
5055122 190370
Release Date: 10 November 2014

It seems to have been the year for issuing '80s musicals on CD. We had Dad’s Army, Privates on Parade, Andy Capp and Tess of the D’Urbervilles to name but a few, and to fill your Christmas stockings we now have, wait for it, Worzel Gummidge - The Musical. Yes, you heard me right. No, it had totally passed me by too. But yes, there was a musical in the '80s based on the hit Children’s TV show, and the wonderful team at Stage Door have managed to get it released on CD for the very first time.

in 1980, following the successful UK television series based on Barbara Euphan Todd's children's classic, writers Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall and composer Denis King created a new stage musical adaptation of the story of 'Worzel Gummidge'. The naughty, petulant, greedy, yet always lovable scarecrow was reimagined for the stage with all the familiar characters: Aunt Sally, The Crowman, Sergeant Beetroot and Sue and John.

Featuring the principal cast members from the TV series (Jon Pertwee, Una Stubbs and Geoffrey Bayldon), the Worzel Gummidge musical was first staged at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre over the 1980 Christmas period, receiving sensational reviews from the press. The production transferred to London’s Cambridge Theatre for the following Christmas season, opening on December 22nd, 1981 and by popular demand extended its run through till February 27th, 1982.

An original cast album produced by Norman Newell was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in the weeks preceding the London opening. The Original London Cast Recording now makes its debut on CD and is accompanied with the The Worzel Gummidge Christmas Maxi Single featuring songs from the 1980 Christmas TV spectacular 'A Cup Of Tea And A Slice Of Cake’.

Stage Door have done a marvellous job here. Unfortunately, the master tapes are long lost to this one, so what they have done, working with the LP, is truly outstanding. Sure, there’s a little noise and clipping here and there, but it in no way detracts from the overall experience. As usual, the artwork and packaging are top rate, as we’ve come to expect from their releases, and it’s great that they are continuing the London cast album series, and preserving these lost British scores for generations to come. I hear there are some great releases in 2015 too, and I can’t wait.

Back to this one, and whilst the material isn’t challenging (there’s no Sondheim-esqueness here), it’s pleasant and melodic as all King’s scores are. I loved some of the numbers, and the rest were ‘ok’ and nothing special, but I really enjoyed the whole experience of the album. ‘Make Yourself a Friend’ could only be King’s, and it’s '80s-ness is there and proud. King has a great way of writing just what you expect, but also manages to keep it interesting and fresh. ‘Slice Of Cake and a Cup of Tea’ is a great example of this, as is ‘We’ll Be There’.

The talent on here is clear - Pertwee and Stubbs are as endearing as they were on the TV series, and it’s great that this transferred to recording so well. I’m sure the musical was a hit, and it’s a shame that a visual recording is probably long gone. A great addition to the recording is the maxi Single of Christmas numbers - who can resist the 'Scarecrow’s Carol'? - along with the hit ‘Slice o’ Cake’ single.

A perfect Christmas stocking filler for anyone remotely interested in musical theatre - I loved it!


Ian Gude

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