When I was little, in the late 1970s, Saturday afternoons were really special because of Worzel Gummidge, the Southern Television adaptation of Barbara Euphan Todd’s ‘Scarecrow of Scatterbrook’ stories. This TV version starred Jon Pertwee, Una Stubbs and Geoffrey Bayldon and for many is considered the definitive version of the stories, though Mackenzie Crook’s 2019-2020 version is also very good indeed and arguably closer to the original stories.
I had yet to discover that the wonderful actors I was watching had given plenty of other well-remembered and classic performances, let alone that Jon Pertwee had also been the Doctor in one of my other favourite television shows – Doctor Who! For now they were Worzel, Aunt Sally and The Crowman and that was enough for me.
Over the years I would often catch repeats of Worzel Gummidge on UK Gold, in VHS releases, and more recently on DVD (see bottom of page) but one thing I never knew about the series was that it had been made into a musical… and in Birmingham too!
Here’s how Wikipedia describes the show:
“A stage musical adaptation, titled Worzel Gummidge – The Musical, was created by the TV series creators Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall with music by Denis King and featuring the original TV principal cast Jon Pertwee, Una Stubbs and Geoffrey Bayldon. The musical first premiered at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre for the 1980 Christmas season before receiving rave reviews and transferring to the Cambridge Theatre in London’s West End from 22 December 1981 and extending to 27 February 1982. The Original London 1981 Cast Album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios; It featured 15 songs and 4 bonus tracks titled The Worzel Gummidge Christmas Maxi Single.”
That mention of a cast album caught my eye. I already knew that Jon Pertwee had released a single version of the programme’s theme tune, under the title of “Worzel’s Song”, and that there had already been a TV Cast Album featuring another version of “Worzel’s Song”, but I now began searching for the Musical Album and it wasn’t long before I discovered that it had recently been remastered and re-released by Stage Door Productions.
No sooner had I found it, than I’d bought it!
It struck me that the album would make a lovely festive special for my Saturday Radio Show at the time, so I set about adapting the sleeve notes into a script in order to tell the story and link together all of the songs. I recorded my narration and produced the whole thing in two parts (or two ‘acts’ as it would have been performed on stage), topped and tailed by the original Worzel Gummidge TV Theme and broadcast on Boxing Day 2019.
So put on your singing ‘ead, sit back and have a laugh with ol’ Worzel. Ooh-arrr!