What is Gang Show?
A Gang Show is an amateur theatrical performance where the auditioned cast is made up of youth members of Scouts and often Guides too. Adult leaders help out, often backstage rather than on stage. The aim of the shows is to give young people in Scouting and Guiding the opportunity to develop performance skills and perform in a near-professional theatrical environment.
Opportunities are also afforded to young people to work backstage, in front-of-house roles, and to perform as musicians in the show’s musical items and in the orchestra.
Generally, youth members, adult leaders and volunteer helpers have to participate in many hours of planning, writing, composing, choreographing, building stage scenery and props, and making costumes over several months before the actual performances in addition to rehearsals. In order to reach what is perceived to be the required performance standard for a Gang Show, a high level of commitment is needed from all involved in the production and, to a marginally lesser extent, their families.
A typical Gang Show would require participants to attend between 15 and 30 rehearsals in preparation for the actual performances. In addition, some Gang Shows are organised in the manner of a typical scouting/guiding activity with the participants perhaps grouped into patrols, or attending special Gang Show camps, away days and activities in order to develop and enhance team cohesion. Performances take place in commercial theatres or community centres, with runs of anything from one day to two weeks. They are open to the general public.
While a Gang Show is always a performance by ‘amateurs’, the show attracts costs similar to a professional production, despite the huge amount of volunteer hours put in. Many shows are lucky enough to have the support of local businesses through advertising and sponsorship.
The format of a Gang Show
The format of a Gang Show is generally that of a variety show; song, dance and short comedy sketches are the most common items. The number of items varies (commonly ranging between 12 and 25): some are stand-alone, others are a series of songs conforming to a chosen theme or a recurring set of skits with the same characters. A typical show will include an opening number, five or six comedy sketches, several musical items with a mix of group and solo work, dance numbers, as well as a grand finale.
Some of the material is well-known, other material is original to Gang Shows, sometimes even penned by the young people themselves. The show’s format was introduced by the late Ralph Reader CBE, the original Gang Show producer, who went on to write many sketches and songs for Gang Shows, including the signature tune On the Crest of a Wave. Other “standards” Reader wrote include Strolling, Great Great Game, Gee, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Touch of Silver, Three Cheers, Show Time, Together, and Scout Hymn. (Many of Reader’s songs are no longer usable due to the change of language use and the rather dated style of much of his music. Every Show, however, retains one or two of its own particular favourites. See the coloured block below.)
What is the history of Gang Shows?
This is an edited extract from “The Scout’s Pathfinder Annual” originally published in 1969 by the Scout Association (England)
Somewhere in the world, a Scout “Gang Show” is being produced every day of the year. Since the first “Gang” took a bow in 1932, this unique entertainment has throughout the world raised millions of dollars for the Movement. The creator, writer and producer of the “Gang Show” was Ralph Reader, C.B.E., who was born in Crewkerne, Somerset, England, and who for many years was a leading actor, choreographer, and theatrical producer in New York and London. He sacrificed a brilliant career in the theatre for an ideal and was known throughout the world as a champion of youth. Through Gale Pedrick, who wrote it down in 1969, he tells you here the story of the “Gang Show”, how it began, how it grew, and how it spread all over the world.