AUDIO REVIEW: WORZEL GUMMIDGE THE MUSICAL (ORIGINAL LONDON CAST RECORDING) / COMPOSER: DENIS KING, KEITH WATERHOUSE, WILLIS HALL / LABEL: STAGE DOOR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
People of a certain age will no doubt remember the children’s show on which this short-lived and forgotten stage musical was based. Those memories will either be of a fond nature, the stuff of nightmares, or as is the case for some, downright hatred.
The stage musical wasn’t the glossy, popularist thing it is now in the early ‘80s, and spin-offs from TV shows were quite common – even Doctor Who made it to the stage at one point. And it was the former Doctor that was the big star on this show. Indeed, all three of the TV series’ principal cast transferred to the musical – Jon Pertwee (as Worzel Hedgerow Gummidge), Una Stubbs (Aunt Sally) and the great Geoffrey Bayldon as Worzel’s maker, The Crowman. All three get their solo spots throughout this misjudged effort. Another Pertwee appears - no, it’s not that fella who’s currently massacring the London dialect in Gotham, but former Dad’s Army star Bill Pertwee, once again in a ‘authority’ role as the army sergeant, although this one is also a scarecrow. While it’s a great trip down memory lane hearing the brilliant Pertwee’s genius accent and the show’s amusing tropes (“I’ll get me counting ‘ead on…”), it’s just that the songs are fairly unmemorable. That said, the dialogue peppered throughout is enough to raise a smile (or make one shudder… dependant on the aforementioned point of view) and bring those Saturday early evening viewings come flooding back. The songs featuring the leads are fun, but the ones containing the pretentious stage kids (all shrill, chipper and no doubt sporting forced smiles) are just grating. The accompanying booklet outlines the show’s plot, and has some great stills which display the actually quite impressive production values which turned Pertwee into the bumbling straw man on a nightly basis.
As a bonus (or further punishment…) there’s all four tracks that appeared on the ‘hit’ (with a silent ‘s’) ‘maxi single’ Christmas Isn’t Christmas. Admittedly, two of them are versions of songs which appear in the musical. What do you mean, that hasn’t swung it for you? There’s no pleasing some people.
It’s a fun throwback to a more innocent time - albeit one which is better off in the past mostly – and it’s certainly more entertaining than listening to some wannabe screeching in a karaoke contest, but blimey, don’t expect to play it more than once, unless you’re a glutton punishment! We’re off for a cup o’ tea an’ a slice o’ cake an’ a lie down now…