When Ralph Reader formulated what was to become a “Gang Show” in 1932 something he did not want it to be labelled was a “concert”. In those days, the typical form of entertainment produced by amateurs was a series of acts introduced by a compere who covered the scene changes. Ralph had just been to America where he was involved in producing fast moving revues and musicals. What a “Gang Show” has become first of all is a fast moving series of big musical numbers interspersed by small musical numbers and sketches, the whole thing moving swiftly without a break achieved by having mid-stage tabs brought across or cloths in or out to allow items to take place “front of tabs” allowing the show to happen seamlessly.
The second thing that makes a “Gang Show” is, of course, that it is performed by “Scouts” with the emphasis on showing off the talent of the younger members of The Movement. Many shows also involve members of the Guide Movement but “Gang Show” is essentially a Scout entertainment. As districts, Areas/Counties and Groups became inspired to follow the London Gang Show and perform their own shows they were allowed to use the term “Gang Show” because they were fulfilling these basic principles.
One other important factor which made a show a “Gang Show” in the early days was that all the material used was written by Ralph himself. As time has passed this material has gradually been dropped from shows in favour of more modern material but if well presented and brought up to date (within Ralph’s guidelines) this material can still come across well to a modern audience.
It is believed that Ralph, as a pioneer in musical theatre, would not have wanted “Gang Show” to stand still and would have himself withdrawn a lot of his own material as being out of date. However to ensure that his name is kept alive, each gang show is requested to include in their programme the words “Based on an idea by the late Ralph Reader C.B.E.”
These then are the basic elements which make a Gang Show and any show which follows these can use that title.
Please view the other pages in this section to learn all about the Letchworth and Baldock District Gang Show.