Blonde bombshells arrive with a bang

Blonde Bombshells of 1943 by Alan Plater at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.If you don't leave the theatre with a grin on your face after this, I'll eat my tin helmet.

David Henshall

Blonde Bombshells of 1943 by Alan Plater at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.

If you don't leave the theatre with a grin on your face after this, I'll eat my tin helmet. My toes are still tapping from the sheer swinging entertainment generated by super music and singing from seven females and a fella who also rattle out great gags with machine-gun rapidity.

The Blonde Bombshells are a wartime all-girl band with a problem: every time they play the American bases several of their number do a runner with GIs who all seem to be New York millionaires, Texas oilmen or film producers.

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Right now Betty, the leader, is pretty desperate because tonight the band has its big chance, a BBC show that could lead on to fame and fortune, but she's four members short and auditioning like mad for replacements in a bomb-shattered hall.

She doesn't care where they come from but they must be good. She's in luck with Liz the sixth form clarinetist and a bit worried when a sax-playing nun turns up (instructed to do her bit for the war effort by Mother Superior) but Lily also plays the ukelele and wins her over with an innocently saucy George Formby number.

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Upper-class Miranda is an ATS driver who keeps wrecking the CO's car and he's despatched her to join the band in the interests of road safety. She can't read a note of music but plays trumpet like the legendary Nat Gonella.

But they still need a drummer and in comes Pat, who turns out to be a chap dodging the draft and who's prepared to slip into a dress to save the band's bacon - and his. He's a cracking drummer but the girls don't like his cowardly attitude to the war.

When shown his dress Pat says: 'Red's not my colour', one of them responds bitterly, 'We didn't have anything in yellow.'

There's not too much of a story but the jokes and witty banter keep coming, wrapped occasionally in a bit of wartime sentiment but, who cares? It's the music that matters and every so often these eight talented musicians let loose with the songs that kept the home fires burning, 16 in all: Body and Soul, Fats Waller's Until the Real Thing Comes Along, Tuxedo Junction, The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy etc, beautifully sung and played with zest and jazzy flair.

The line-up is Jane Milligan, piano; Sarah Whittuck, sax/ukelele; Rosie Jenkins, trumpet/trombone; Barbara Hockaday, double bass; Susie Emmett, trumpet; Matthew Ganley, drums; Laura Stevely, clarinet/sax; Charlotte Armer, sax.

It's a night of great fun for all ages, with the wartime audience asked to join in. So. all together now...'I lift up my finger and say tweet tweet, shush shush, now now, come come.' But look sharp - tickets are going faster than off ration eggs at the local corner shop.

David Henshall.

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