GOLDEN OLDIES: Kay Cross (left) and June Pidgeon use a jukebox they saw in Alice Springs as inspiration for this Miss Saigon stage prop.
GOLDEN OLDIES: Kay Cross (left) and June Pidgeon use a jukebox they saw in Alice Springs as inspiration for this Miss Saigon stage prop. David Nielsen

Dad's Army can create a wonderful world of fun

A SMALL but active bunch of retirees works literally "behind the scenes" for the Ipswich Orpheus Chorale.

Known affectionately as Dad's Army, the seven men and three ladies have built all the scenery for Orpheus productions for the past 14 years.

In recent months they've taken on their biggest project so far, creating the set for Miss Saigon which will be performed at the Ipswich Civic Centre in August.

"Army" chief George Hogg designs a rough model of the set for each production - he's had plenty of experience in 40 years of bringing musical scripts to the stage.

George is also familiar with staging productions at the Civic Centre after a 20-year stint as the centre manager.

In Miss Saigon, Dad's Army is tasked with creating the backdrop to 20 scene changes.

"Ladies are mainly painters and create any artistic touches to the scenery," George says.

"Men construct and modify scenery... also do the heavy lifting.

"The chorale has a well-equipped scenery shed which means nobody is obliged to bring tools.

"Building sets is a very social and friendly occasion as well as a work commitment.

"Everyone works very well together for the six months' of preparation of the scenery.

"They're a very agreeable bunch and there's no personality clashes.

"They provide their own morning tea - and occasional bottles of wine for lunch, which is provided by the chorale."

Recruits to Dad's Army range in age from 60 to 80 years young; most still sing with the chorale.

Miss Saigon is enjoying a revival at West End theatres in London, but has never been performed in Ipswich.

Chorale musical director Tom Keenan is co-producing the show with George, while the director is Sheryl Roche.

Miss Saigon tells the tale of a young couple who find each other during the Vietnam War, exploring the life, romance and tragic circumstances surrounding an American GI and a young Vietnamese bar girl.

They become separated in the fall of Saigon.

The girl, Kim, begins an odyssey to escape her Communist homeland and reunite with the man she's sure is waiting for her - and their son.

Since premiering in 1989, Miss Saigon has become one of the most successful musicals in history.

"This musical is written by the same people as Les Miserables," George said.

"It's very dramatic and has a good story.

"We've got about 60 in the cast - from 14-year-olds to 80-year-olds, and a little girl aged five."

The scenery is rapidly taking shape in the chorale's well-equipped workshop.

A deadline for the building project, George jokes, is "10 minutes" before the trucks pick it up and transport it to the Civic Centre.

"We bring the scenery in within four hours," he says.

"We cart it in and put it up."

Three weeks to go before opening night, and the helicopter - a centrepiece of the evacuation scene - has arrived.

With a little help from the smoke machine, the scene is set...

Miss Saigon

  • Ipswich Civic Centre
  • August 22, 23, 29 and 30 from 7.30pm and a matinee on August 23 at 1.30pm
  • Adults $35, concessions $28, children $15
  • Block bookingsb(10 or more): $28
  • Inquiries and early bookings available from Helga onb3812 1271.
  • Bookings: Ipswich Civic Centre 3810 6100 or www.ipswichciviccentre.com.au/.


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