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PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES IN YOUR OLD KIT BAG FOR A ‘REET GRAND’ SING SONG

December 10, 2013

Gracie Fields in France  CAN you imagine a concert of wartime songs with Vera Lynn, Marlene Dietrich, Gracie Fields Alma Cogan, Doris Day, Judy Garland, Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby or Johnny Mathis – shall I stop?

OK maybe they all will not be on the stage in person at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch in a couple of weeks, but two professional singers are going to give it a try with a hat full of songs and no doubt, loud backing from the chorus in the auditorium.

Beryl Korman and Carolyn Allen, (pictured below) both seasoned TV and west end performers, bring a show of pure nostalgia for some and revelations for others, in a parade of songs and melodies that made war time Britain just that little more palatable.

Forces Sweethearts webThey relive the time when stars of stage, screen and film, joined together to entertain the troops in many theatres of war.

The organisation that provided the stars had the illuminating title of Entertainments National Service Association or ENSA for short.

Squaddies shortened it further with ‘Every Night Something Awful’, but as a morale booster, it had no equal.

Performers were paid  £10 a week while those who worked in the chorus were paid £4 a week. By the standards of the time these were generous amounts of money.

ENSA became England’s singing equivalent to radar and Errol Flynn Dame Vera Lynn weband was formed in 1939 by Basil Dean and Leslie Sir Laurence_Olivier_-_1939Henson to entertain service personnel.

The effect of a household name standing on stage in a windy hanger, camp parade ground or muddy site just to entertain the troops was a winner.

And it was not just music hall troupers with, Arthur Askey, Gracie Fields, Vera Lynn, (pictured left) Gorge Formby, (pictured below aboard HMS Ambitious in Normandy), Tommy Cooper and even Joyce Grenfell all did their bit.

George Formby entertaining sailors on HMS AmbitiousThe heavy guns turned up in 1945 with Sir Laurence Olivier (pictured above)  and Sir Ralph Richardson made honorary Army lieutenants when they embarked on a six week tour of Europe performing Shakespeare.

With that picture in mind, Beryl and Carolyn bring their show ‘Forces Sweethearts’ to Hornchurch just in time for Christmas with the duo parading a full repertoire out of their kit bag from, ‘All I Want For Christmas’, ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ to the Andrews Sisters big hit with the Glen Miller Orchestra, ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.

Accompanied by Paul Smith and Will Hill on the drums, past performances have rated high on the emotional scale and the odd ream of Kleenex is regarded as essential

The show is two hours packed with songs and melodies that reminded the troops of the homes they left behind, and those at home of loved ones fighting for their country.

The show is at the Billet Lane theatre on Friday, December 20 at 2.30pm. Tickets are £12.50 and available form the box office on 01708 443333 or book on line at http://www.queens-theatre.co.uk

Pictures; Imperial War Museum

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