History 2011 – 2019


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2011 was in many ways a new team effort, as a number of our long-serving backstage and production people took on new rôles, and there was an influx of new blood and new ideas. The programme was a mix of “something old, something new”, and revisited a couple of numbers which have been very successful for us in the past – although presented with a new twist! Perhaps one of the greater challenges was the amount of part-singing that had to be learned; for some that was a steep curve and a new experience. The end result, though, was outstanding as we traversed the realms of (amongst others) KiwiMusic, MovieMusic, QueenMusic, ClassicMusic, Folkmusic, and the Finalé containing some of our best original songs. The Show was interrupted occasionally by a couple from a down-country Gang, and a clumsy Super Scout, to name just two. In all, another step up, and another step forward.

Saying “goodbye” is hard to do – but it’s something we all experience, and the 2011 Gang have had the sad occasion to have to say farewell to Randal Harding, one of the still very active founding members of our Show from 1969 to the very end, who died before our auditions in 2011, Dean Gillard, a young member of the Gang for the last two Shows who died in 2012, and John Hargreaves, a former Musical Director and Rehearsal Pianist in the years from 1970, who died this year. The members of the Gang turned out in force at the funerals of Randal and Dean, and were well represented at John’s service. May the three of them rest in peace and rise in glory.

During the past forty-two years of Auckland Central Gang Show, representing twenty-three shows, we’ve had over ninety-nine thousand people come and support us as audience and well over 2400 people have been in the Gang, as cast, as crew or as support.

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2013 brought a number of important developments and crowned all of these with a sense of real achievement as the Show was awarded the highest assessment our Adjudicator has given for the seasons to date.

Because our Gang was hosting the Australia and New Zealand Performing Arts Conference (ANZPAC), we were joined by representatives of Shows from around New Zealand and Australia, and our season was graced by a very widely representative group of people from both countries.

What was interesting (from a performance point of view) was that the cast for 2013 were a very young, new group – only a few had trod the boards before – so this makes the overall sense of achievement even more creditable. The Show itself was a mix of new and old, bringing together Gang Show items written by ourselves, some Australian Shows, Ralph Reader, and combining that with a good helping of recognizable and commercial material. The whimsy of Akelology, the wit of The Brain Surgeon, the hilarity of the diminutive Cubs in Gang Show; the complexity of Calon Lân, the fun of The Muppets, a generous serving of Rock ‘n’ Roll, a state of the art dance number, and even the Orchestra with their own “spot” – all these added their individual flavours to the overall offering put before appreciative audiences.

Technically, too, advances were made in the much expanded use of digital lighting, and in the extended use of sound in terms of individual microphone use for sound enhancement, and both these aspects added very considerably to the look and sound of the finished product.

So we continue to thrive, and we continue to make progress!

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Every season brings its own individual challenges, and for us 2015 was certainly no exception. This year after a bit of a shaky start, we ended up with a very junior cast, one which was gender-imbalanced, and certainly the smallest numerically for about 15 years. That said, the cast we did have fell-to and worked extremely hard to produce a Show of which we were very proud in the end!

We chose and adapted a rock song ”Jump Start” from a Canadian rock band called These Kids Wear Crowns as our theme and Show opener and it proved a very appropriate decision. We were pleased, too, with our WW1 commemoration piece, our very enthusiastic Junior item and many other parts of our Revue-style Show. We successfully reprised and updated a number of items from former Shows, and created a show-stopper with the junior cast “clapping” item, (labelled “Off Pat” in the video list below). As a lead-in to the Finalé, we presented Ralph Reader’s evergreen “These Are the Times”, and reintroduced the verse to this song which is practically never sung in the southern hemisphere, although several British Shows use it. Check it out below, if you’ve never heard it!

Technically we continued to make more and more use of LED and dichroic lighting and employed a greater number of moving head lights in the rig. We also added a greater number of chorus-enhancing microphones to the sound palette.

From the Box Office standpoint, it is getting steadily more difficult. In the climate in NZ, since the advent of the Privacy Act, it is almost impossible for the Show’s publicity team to get hold of the contacts they need – first and foremost the section leaders of the movement(s). Our team valiantly uses every other contact they can including social media, but the job is made so much harder by Political Correctness – it seems extraordinary that a Scouting activity cannot gain access to the Scouting leaders’ list for the purpose of communication!

We enjoyed a great season in the end, despite the quibbles above, and are, as usual, re-energised by that experience.

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You will notice that I mentioned above that “each Show brings its own individual challenges” – and ACGS 2017 brought far more than most!

To begin with, it was the Show that Nearly Didn’t Happen.  A number of factors brought this about, not least were some of the communication issues hinted at in 2015’s History comment.  The first inkling we had that this was to be a “problem”, was the very small number of expressions of interest secured by our recruitment campaign.  [NOTE: As a general rule of thumb, we’ve wanted a cast of about 85 or so: 20 Junior Girls, 20 Senior Girls and Women, 20 Junior Boys, and 20 Senior Boys and Men – plus a few extra to absorb spaces left by people who for various reasons don’t stay the course.  We know that to achieve this end, we need about 200 or so names of people who indicate an initial interest.  This will dwindle to about 110 who actually audition, and then after some judicious choosing, we arrive at the cast we need.]

We did not achieve more than about 60 names of people who expressed an interest, and so a net was cast as widely as possible to secure as many extra as we could – otherwise the Show could not have taken the stage, with insufficient numbers in the cast.  In the end by much hard work, we were able to go with a cast of 59 – the smallest cast since 1969 (45), the next smallest being in the mid 1980s, when we had fielded a cast of 63.

With so small a cast, there is very little option for “time off” during the Show! Larger casts mean you have time for a breather between items; a small cast means you have to scrabble for your next costume and be back on stage in a matter of seconds.  Our Gang, however, was not daunted, and rose like troupers to the occasion. In particular, the rock numbers of Jailhouse Rock and Greased Lightning (with a real car on stage) brought the house down. With enhanced sound techniques and careful choreography, to say nothing of the visual splendor afforded by the wide screen taking up the whole of the cyclorama, the audience would have been hard put to tell that we were fewer in number than usual until they saw us all together in the finalé.

As I suggested above, the main development for us was in the technical areas of the Show: new, mostly digital lighting, the cyc screen, enhanced and more accurately focused sound control – all of these came together to present a Show that was a worthy successor to all those who have gone before.  And to the incredibly hard-working young cast who gave it their “all” – congratulations on a job well done.

As a consequence of the issues of communication we had in 2017, we took a substantial hit in the Box Office for the first time, and that would have consequences for our next Show in 2019.

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This was our 50th Anniversary Show, and so although we were having to be fiscally careful, we wanted to make it something special, and the fact that we ended up hosting ANZPAC (the Aussie and Kiwi Gang Shows’ triennial conference) at the same time as the Show helped to make it unique for us. AND we scheduled a Reunion for former cast members and team as well during the season!

All the Production and Backstage teams were asked to trim their budgets so that we would emerge from the Show having recovered some of the losses incurred at the previous season.  This was done with great aplomb and much brow-furrowing, but again, the audience would not have been aware of areas in which we cut corners as the Show once again scored well in most of its endeavours.

We chose a programme which included some of our older material, and which also traced the development of popular music over the same period of our Show’s existence: from the 1960s to the 2019s.  We began with just the boys and men onstage in whites in a constricted area singing Ralph Reader’s Gee, It’s a Wonderful Life, just as we had done in 1969, with the same choreography too – virtually none! Then the curtains opened on our widescreen background, a stage full of colour and light, setting the tone for the rest of the Show with Something About This Night. The audience certainly appreciated how far we’d come! And so did we.

Gang Show is the work of a very large team of people, all co-ordinating their efforts to provide at one and the same time a peak experience for the members of the cast (for whom it is a training event offered by the Scout Association) and a peak experience for the audience (which can only be achieved when what takes place on stage is the very best theatre that can be managed).  Over the last 50 years and 28 Shows more than 2250 Scouts and Guides have been onstage and experienced what participation in Gang Show has to offer, and not far short of 50,000 people have been in our audiences.  And so we’re proud of that record!

At the time of writing, as usual, preparations are beginning for the next season of our Show, scheduled to take place in 2021.  We’re hoping that the shadow of Covid19 will not still be around to affect us in any way!  There are new teams, new faces, and a new Gang to recruit.  In the meantime, we can be heartened by the words of the Reader song:

We’ve been making memories for a long long long long time . . .
This is the best of legacies!
It’s ours, for making memories.

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While we are talking about Gang Shows in New Zealand, we are one of about twelve regularly performing shows around the country and one of two shows in Auckland, the other being the North Shore Scout Gang Show.

Over the period of time that Gang Shows have been in existence, there has been an enormous volume of material written and composed by the various shows, which has supplemented the great legacy of the material written by Ralph Reader. We are using some of this, but as always a proportion of the content of our show this year has been specially written or adapted by our production designers.

Finally remember this, there are no “stars” in Gang Show, Every member of the Gang, wherever they work, on stage, back stage, front of house in the lighting control room or in the orchestra pit is expected to give their best performance every night. To put a together a show like this it takes a lot of dedication, time and experience . . . so it’s up to each and every one in the show to give 110% effort to live up to the high standard and tradition that is Gang Show around the world, and here in Auckland Central in particular.

Our history is an ongoing tale, woven from the lives of people and the magic of theatre. We look forward to writing new pages of that story and we invite you who are reading these words to become a part of that flowing stream – either by active participation yourself on- or backstage, or if you are visiting us from elsewhere in the country or the world, to keep up with us either through this website or through our Facebook page.

A warm greeting to you all from the Auckland Central Gang.