Back in the Gang again

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 21st July 2009.

For the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to consider that I have two families. I have my parents and family in Sydney, and now I also have my partner’s family here in Orange. This past weekend, I was reacquainted with a third family that I had all but forgotten about. And it felt great to be back.

Earlier this year I received an email out of the blue, asking me to return to the stage for the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Cumberland Gang Show. Based in Western Sydney and performing out of Parramatta Riverside Theatres, the Gang Show is a variety style review performed by the Scouting and Guiding Movement. Based on a format created by Ralph Reader in 1932 in London, Gang Shows are now performed all over the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand and Australia. Cumberland Gang Show is the biggest in NSW, and between 1988 – 1994, I was a cast member.

Being onstage was more than just singing and dancing, it was a family affair. Mum was the marketing manager. Dad painted sets and still does every year. My younger brother, a fantastic soprano in his time, was also in the show. At one point, two of my cousins were also onstage. From February every year, the show rehearsals absorbed almost every weekend, leading up to a two week season in July, the highlight of my year.

Essentially, I grew up with the Gang Show, part of an extended family. The other boys and girls were my brothers and sisters. The scouting leaders and volunteer parents became my uncles and aunties.

In 1992, Cumberland Gang Show toured Orange. Incorporating many local scout and guides into the cast, we performed at Orange Civic Theatre over a chilly weekend in August. I don’t remember a great deal about the tour, except travelling up on the bus (singing all the way), that it was really, really cold, and travelling back on the bus (singing all the way). Little did I know that 16 years later, I would be making Orange my home, and treading the boards again at the theatre as part of Orange Theatre Company. The Gang Show returned to Orange once or twice again in the nineties.

By the mid-nineties, I had finished high school, left Scouting and gradually lost all contact with my Gang Show friends, so you can imagine it was with a great deal of trepidation and nervousness that I agreed to return for a special appearance singing with other “veterans”.

This past Saturday, I stepped back into the Riverside Theatre for the first time in 15 years. Many of my friends had also returned or were amazingly still involved in the show. The day was spent giving hugs, shaking hands (I had forgotten about shaking with my left), catching up with mates and reminiscing about the old days. Although a little fatter and perhaps with a few more wrinkles and with the odd kid in tow, everyone was essentially the same. It felt as though not a second had passed since we were all last together. For two performances on Saturday, we stood on stage together, sang our hearts out for two minutes or so, and then got out of the way for the more talented and youthful cast of 144 to do their thing.

It was a wonderful experience to return to the Gang Show fold, even if it was just for a day. The overwhelming feeling of being part of a long forgotten family again was very emotional, and I may have even shed a tear onstage when the curtain came down (although I’ll probably deny it).

I certainly won’t leave it another 14 years before I see my Scouting friends again. Perhaps it is time for another Gang Show tour to Orange?

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 12:26  Comments (1)  
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  1. Fantastic, Peter. It’s good to know that you’re still treading the boards, even on a one-off occasion. I hear that you’re doing well and, for that, I’m so glad. CGS was my family, too, and it seems a million years ago, now. Cheers, Mark.

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