The Sunraysia Gang Show had a variety of beginnings, starting in the late 1960s when a committee comprising of John Douglas (then District Commissioner for Scouts), Ray Eames (then District Chairman), Viv Elliott (then Area Treasurer) and Andie Lundie (then Mildura District Scout Leader), convinced the Melbourne Gang Show to tour their entire Show to Mildura (a first for the Melbourne Show as until then they only toured elements of their show and called it a Gangster Trip). Local teams were organised to build scenery, perform the backstage tasks and understudy key personnel, and eventually the Melbourne Gang Show performed over the long weekend in Mildura in 1970 – as the Mildura District Scout Show.
Only two people that formed part of that initial team who worked so hard in 1970 to make Gang Show in Mildura a it, remain current members of our Show today: John Douglas (Chairman of the Gang Show Board) and Hugh Twaddle (Musical Director).
In the early years those who were members of the Gang earned a prized YELLOW Gang Show scarf.
After the success of the 1970 Show, the Melbourne Gang made two subsequent visits: 1971 and 1973, partly to recover costs from the first visit, and to assist the locals again in getting a local show started in their own right. As each Show was staged, more and more local support was enlisted and in 1973 Michael Saunders who assisted in the ‘73 Show, agreed to take on the job of Producer with Hugh Twaddle as his Deputy and Musical Director.
An earnest attempt in getting our own fully local Sunraysia Show up and running was unsuccessful in 1974. It took another two years of frustrations and disappointments before Adelaide Gang Show agreed to come over and stage their Show with a joint Sunraysia/Adelaide Cast and Crew. That Show was staged in 1976 and was an instant smash hit. From that point on, Sunraysia has never looked back.
The year 1977 gave Mildura its first ever locally produced and directed Sunraysia Show. The Show was known and performed under the title of SUNRAYSIA SHOW for the first five years, and Gang Members wore a special BLACK scarf until on Wednesday 2nd June, 1982 it was finally announced that Sunraysia had earned the title of Gang Show and would be allowed to wear the much sought after ‘Red Neckie’- a symbol of Gang Shows throughout the world.
After six years as Producer, Mike Saunders resigned his position and became Technical Director for the 1983 Gang Show and Front of House Manager for the 1984 Show. Since then, Mike went on to produce his own show – Electric Light Theatre (and he has just recently retired after 21 years of ELT). Sunraysia’s Producer from 1983 to 1994 was Hugh Twaddle and from 1995 to the present day, David Searle has produced the Sunraysia Gang Show.
Over the years, Gang Show has had many highs (and a few lows too!!). Some of the more notable ones include our Country visits to Robinvale for three years. These visits were aimed at increasing Scouting and Guiding’s profile within the district, and to assist the Robinvale Group in financing the building of their new Scout Hall. Our Country trip also to Patchewollock and tours to Swan Hill have also been memorable and great successes.
The visit of the then Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen and Lady Stephen in 1983 when he was also Chief Scout for Australia, was a special moment for our Gang – as neither Sir Ninian or Lady Stephen had ever seen a Gang Show until Sunraysia. After our opening performance they met our cast and were made honorary members of our Gang.
Gang Show is a training ground where many people experience stagecraft in action. Over the years almost 2000 cast and crew have passed through our Show ranks and many have gone on to other theatrical (amateur and professional) careers. Past Sunraysia Gang members have moved away and joined other Shows having used our Show as a springboard that has stimulated their theatrical interest. Many have gone on to join other Gang Shows in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Camberwell Showtime as well as several other amateur and professional productions in places such as Sydney and Perth as well as locally in Productions of Red Cliffs Musical Society, Red Cliffs Players, Mildura Theatre Company and ELT.
Who knows, perhaps you may be next!
(Credit – Mr Hugh Twaddle, Production Director 1983-1994)