Note E1001

Onward Nicco's Soldiers

In the never ending search for variety and cheap entertainment, I thought that we should have at least one song where the audience gets to join in. This is an old British Pantomime tradition, and usually goes on ad nauseum. Some popular song is picked on, the lyrics are amended to make them silly or bawdy or both, and the audience gets to sing it.

Traditionally someone on stage sings it through first, then the audience is divided into two: one side sings it (encouraged, usually by the 'silly' character - e.g. Buttons, Silly Billy, Billy Crusoe, Dick Whittington's younger brother) and then the other side gets to sing it (encouraged by the Dame), then they do it all over again so that someone supposedly impartial (the Good Fairy) can choose who's loudest. Said impartial person nearly always cops out of making such a decision. The audience knows the words, because they're held up on placards or painted on sheets or projected onto a screen.

So that's the origin of Onward Nicco's soldiers which, as Goro points out at the end of the session, tells us nothing whatever about the character or moral state of Niccolo de Fleury.

Much discussion was held about whether an audience which included a significant number of North Americans (Panto is done in Australia and New Zealand so we were safe there) would rise to the occasion. In the end, after sounding out our US and Canadian cast members, we decided to go ahead. We included the words in the programme, so that people wouldn't have to strain to see the placards, and we added the bit in Liz's welcoming speech about wanting the audience to "join in when you are asked to".This element of the show provided variety (practically vaudeville!) but also got the audience to stand up, stretch their legs (and lungs) and so set them up for the second half of the show if they were getting a bit bored by this time.

The song is, of course based on Onward Christian Soldiers (aka Onward Ever Onward) which Cindy advised would be known by Americans as well as Brits. The tune is by Sir Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan. The most fun bit? Hearing Jane Idiens say "Your side of the audience sucks!" with such relish.


Updated 06 Jan 2002
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