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Nell Gwynn Comes to Scarborough
Andrew Liddle, Features Writer
The lion of this shining hour was undoubtedly Bill Scott. He’s been organising, directing, presiding over these annual spring charity concerts since 2005, and this one - at the Westborough Methodist Church, Scarborough - was said by veterans of such occasions to be one of his best and most hands-on.

The Sandside Players were performing a revival of one of his many musicals, Oh Nell, a spirited romp around Restoration London, Peter Kaye’s original script from the 1980s having been brought up to date by Tim Tubbs, who also took a prominent role as John Lacey (sic). Lacy was held to be ‘the greatest comedian of the age’, but he is clearly no match for our eponymous heroine when it comes to the old quickfire repartee and cheeky quip.

It is this and, of course, her unusual attractiveness that endears Nell Gwynn, the orange girl from the humblest of backgrounds, to almost all she meets. Rebecca Kelly-Evans, of the bright eyes, sweetly powerful voice, to say nothing of the flaming red ringlets, is ideally cast in the starring role, winning the hearts of a succession of men on stage and in the audience. To get her picture think of a sultry Jane Russell sounding like a Cockney sparrow Barbara Windsor.

First of her conquests is young Will, whose selfless love and devotion is caught admirably by Nathan Munday. Even the old curmudgeon Thomas Killigrew, manager of the King’s Theatre where it all starts to happen for Nell, is not blind to her manifold attractions as well as her commercial possibilities. That hugely experienced, all-purpose bavarder and savoyarder Dave Blaker provides a rich comic turn in his own right bestriding the stage of his own theatre, cynically appraising his performers one minute, grovelling to the high-born the next.

Also by Andrew Liddle...
Heart Of Darkness In York
A Grand Edmond De Bergerac
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Andrew Clay contrives to look and sound like the great classical actor Charles Hart, the man whom history most credits with polishing up the rough diamond that was the young Nell, so that she might glitter for the king. Charles II is, not surprisingly, instantly smitten with her and adds her to his ever-increasing ménage, where in quick time she wins his heart and comes to hold a prominent place, outranking even Queen Catherine (Lesley Machen) and Lady Castlemaine (Kathryn Irwin).

Not the least of the play’s attractions were the gorgeously colourful costumes, particularly of the orange girls, the extravagant wigs and indeed all the flummery of the resurgent times, beautifully captured to delight the eye - almost as much as Bill Scott’s original music delighted the ear. Bill and brother Richard (now happily fully recovered from serious illness) sat alongside each other at keyboards, orchestrating the musical numbers, a score of catchy tunes, shared among the ensemble and leading actors.

It almost seems wrong to single out individual items from such uniform excellence but Nell’s highly appropriate Star of the Show lingered in my mind long after the show was over. This was amateur dramatics at its very best and an ideal occasion for Linda Polkowski to make an auspicious stage début as Nell’s sister Rose.

The evening had begun with Bill’s very own songsters, the Scarborough Community Choir, performing a diverse concert. Singing beautiful in-part harmonies, they gave stirring foot-tapping renditions of everything from Glen Miller to Lennon and McCartney. The Everly Brothers’ medley found members of the audience of a certain age in happy, full-throated accompaniment. Piano maestro, Frank James, described by Bill as ‘one of the greatest musicians Scarborough ever had’, made light of an injured left hand to fire off some classical bravura, full of witty improvisations and quotations from other pieces.

The applause he received was thunderous and prolonged – as of course was that reserved for one man, the lion of the hour, when the proceedings regrettably came to an end.

Bill Scott is already looking forward to next year’s concert.

Oh Nell and the Annual Community Choir Spring Concert were performed at Westborough Methodist Hall, Scarborough, on Saturday 9th March.

Nell Gwynn Comes to Scarborough, 10th March 2019, 11:30 AM