Saturday afternoon and the young members of the Limelight Theatre Group (among them Team Baldwin, aka Jack and Hazel) are preparing to wow the crowds swarming about the Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke.
Well, crowds is perhaps a bit of an over-statement as it’s a beautiful sunny day leading many likely shoppers to head for the park, the beach or even the back garden
in preference to the shops. Nevertheless there is still a good potential audience for an hour of song and dance promoting the Limelighters’ next show, Fame Jr.
Jack and Hazel are clearly relieved on arrival to find microphones set up and a sound system in place – all left over from the morning when it had been the turn of the cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie to entertain the shoppers. We all
gather in a little huddle while quantities of fliers are dished out to each Limelighter with instructions to hand out to any passer-by who looks remotely interested. The Son In Law takes a trip to Costa Coffee to buy us all a drink and I find a comfy seat
from which advantage point I have a good view of the action. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters asks if I could look after her handbag. Several other people take note and before I know it I am the unofficial guardian of all manner of handbags, shopping
bags, sandwich boxes and half-finished drink bottles. I look like the original Bag Lady.
The Son in Law asks if I have seen his shoulder bag. It’s about
the only bag I am not looking after. We are not panicking just yet but it contains his Mac Air and his e-reader. If we were to choose any bag to lose, then this would not be the one. Stuck as I am in my post as Guardian of the Handbags and Assorted
Clutter, I am not able to assist in his search so he ambles off to the Lost Property Office, trying to look nonchalant and completely unbothered at the thought of the wifely wrath which might be unleashed upon his head, should he fail to locate the missing
bag. At the microphones, the Limelighters start to sing: “Pray, pray,pray...” It seems most appropriate.
If you were around in the 1980s, you may remember
that Fame is the bitter-sweet story of a group of students at New York City's celebrated High School for the Performing Arts. The students are starry eyed and hopeful - and haven’t the faintest idea just how hard the next four years will be. Along the
way, friendships develop, ambitions are realised and the kids learn a lot about themselves and each other. Could there be a more appropriate choice for the theatre-mad youngsters of Limelight to tackle as their next full-length production?
My Hazel steps up to the microphone and, all alone in the spotlight, sings her big number “Let’s Play a Love Scene.” “Find a way to start, and play it from the heart, a perfect scene from a play
unknown, let’s play a love scene of our own...” It’s heart-tuggingly beautiful.
Next minute, her heart apparently miraculously mended, she’s
jumping in the air as the whole gang belt out the most (if you’ll excuse the pun) famous of all the songs from this particular musical – and a security man stalks up to tell us that he has received three complaints about the loudness of our music.
What a cheek, we think – but we tone it down. Just a bit. A chap comes up and asks if the Limelighters might be able to perform at a charity function in return for a not-inconsiderable payment. A young lass asks how old you have to be to join the
gang. These two approaches alone, we tell ourselves, have made the musical outing worth the effort.
The Son in Law returns in triumph, the missing bag slung safely
on his shoulder. It had been whisked away by security staff when his back was turned for a nano-second but he has now reclaimed it from Lost Property. All is well that ends well.
We travel home with the songs still reverberating in our heads. Hazel is high with excitement, Jack is quietly pleased that everything went so well.
all had rather more than our fifteen minutes of Fame....