Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Happy Days Are Here Again!

"We're havin' a heatwaaaave, a tropical heatwaaave, the temp'rature's risin', it isn't surprisin', we're havin' a heatwave," so the backcourt chorus girls would sing at the start of another summer show.  A full season of sell-out performances would be on offer as long as the schools were off and the sun was shining.

It is roasting today and here we are, sitting in the sun and reminiscing over our days as stars of the backcourt stage. Curtains and sheets were hung over the clothesline and performers would queue up to sing their hearts out or shimmy and shake to an eager wee audience, who'd respond in turn with a rousing cheer or a hissing boo. 

Hollywood was always top of the bill, even from movies that had come out decades ago. Most shows started with "There's no business like showbusiness," with full cast of singers and dancers, Busby Berkeley style. Then on with soloists, duets, and ensembles, who'd practised long and hard together and sometimes fell out - even onstage. Up tempo was the order of the day and any long, slow ballads were met with jeers and yawns, as were poems.

By the late 60s/early 70s, Oliver! was a standard and produced enthusiastic renditions of "I'd Do Anything" and "Gotta Pick A Pocket or Two". These were fully choreographed with Cockney accents galore (which also came in handy for Mary Poppins numbers, such as "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious") and which couldn't have sounded any more phoney than Dick van Dyke's.

Tillie recalls extravagant costumes being fashioned from crepe paper for shows out the back in the 1940s. Tiller Girl style bows in the hair and on shoes, sashes around the waist and even capes. Bridal gowns of white satin and lace and bridesmaids dresses of every hue were luxurious additions to the wardrobe. Donations from aunties of stilleto heels and fancy jewellery showered us with showbiz glamour.

Songs from the movies were top of the bill, including "Happy Days Are Here Again!" and a few artistes specialised in scenes from Singing In the Rain and the songs of Al Jolson.  The Highland Fling also made an appearance, as did the Sword Dance, with a couple of walking sticks for the swords.

The shows were free, although there was sometimes an impresario who'd demand payment of the audience. They didn't last long as there was always another show starting up at the next close or so.
Adults sitting out in the sun would watch, help with the curtains, give a hand with the costume making, sometimes you'd get a mammy who'd join in for a wee minute with a dance or a song.

I've been looking out for open air concerts this heatwave, but haven't managed to see one yet. Come on, let's get the show on the road!

What memories from Govan backcourt shows of the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, now? Would love to hear -


Sandra PA said...

Our wee backyard concerts couldn't have been much good as we never had an audience;-p Didn't stop us performing, though, and we had great fun making up a name for our group (Limelights or Starlights was my favourite) and belting out what words we knew from the latest hit songs of the 50's. Happy days :-)

Ellen said...

Remember them well, Sandra. I can recall singing "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do....(or is it true?) wearing trousers and jacket. I wasn't happy. I think we had an audience once in the high back in Water Row - 3 'bad' boys climbed up the drainpipe and over the wall into the back. They watched for a while, then disappeared back over the wall and down the pipe. The door and stairs would have been easier.