DERBY, CONNECTICUT - Housatonic Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout Pack 3, Boy Scout Troop 3, and Venture Crew 33 Scouts are preparing for their 91st Annual Scout Gang Show, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. May 8 and 9 at Derby Methodist Church Fellowship Hall.
The church is located at the corner of Fifth and Elizabeth Streets, near the Derby Green.
Tickets are $8 and are available from any Pack 3, Troop 3, or Crew 33 Scout or by calling 203-732-0343.
The show is part old time minstrel, part variety show and part Gang Show, in the English Scouting tradition. First performed in 1922, and annually except for two years during World War II, the Derby Scout Gang Show has the distinction of being the longest running show of its kind in the world.
The late local Scouting pioneer and Derby Hall of Fame member Edmund D. Strang, had several friends involved in English Scout Gang Shows and he would attend the shows when visiting there.
He eventually merged the minstrel and Gang Show concepts into an unique version of the Scout Gang Show, and the rest as they say, is history.
Derby’s Scout Gang Show has been written up in Yankee and Scouting Magazines and in 1999, it was also featured on National Public Radio’s “Lost and Found Sounds” program. When honoring Strang and the longevity of the show in 1985, President Ronald Reagan referred to the Gang Show as “Connecticut’s finest example of controlled chaos.”
The term Gang Show goes back to 1932 when Ralph Reader was directing a scout show in London as a way to raise money for the local Scout camp swimming pool.
According to Reader, “One night during rehearsals word was brought to me that the title of the show had to be decided that evening so that posters could be got ready for the initial announcements to the public. We had just broken for coffee. Then I told one of the boys to call the cast back to continue rehearsals.
As they all crowded back into the room I said to the youngster, "Are they all back?" He looked at me and in a Cockney voice said, "Aye, aye, Skip; the gang's all here." I stood rooted to the spot. "The gang's all here!" "THE GANG'S ALL HERE!' That's it! That was the title we had been looking for. We were a Gang and the Gang was all here. Yes sir, I thought, that's IT.” Gang Shows immediately took off all over the United Kingdom, and Australia and some even in the USA.
Although shows are still performed by Scouts throughout the United Kingdom and former British colonies, the Derby Scout Gang Show is the only show of its kind still being performed in the USA. The Derby Show will feature Ralph Reader songs “We’ve Been Making Memories” and “These are the Times”.
Strang was the Gang Show director, Interlocutor and driving force for 70 years. Troop 3 Scoutmaster Randy Ritter has been directing the show for the past 21 years. Ritter said, “The annual show enables our Cub Pack, Scout Troop, and Venturer Crew to work together towards a common goal, and the Scouts gain self confidence performing while learning traditional songs and we raise funds to support our Scouting activities.”
More than 100 to perform
Marc Weissman will be accompanying the Scout soloists and chorus as the pianist and Troop 3 Scout Matthew Moran will serve as Chorus Director.
The "endmen" or fun men, who will be telling jokes for the show are Assistant Scoutmaster Michael McMahon, and Scouts Steven Tracz, Dominic Livoti, Michael Shea, Colby McLiverty, Anthony Bartholomew, Justin Patten, and Joseph Szewczyk.
More than 100 Scouts, leaders, and parents will be performing. Rodman Kneen Jr. has been directing the "stooges" who perform one-line run on gags, for more than 60 years.
Kneen, whose first performance in the show was as a Cub Scout in 1932, is celebrating a remarkable 83 years in Scouting.
Stooges in this year’s show include Crew 33 Venture Scouts Joshua Moscato, James Chopak, Adam Sroka, Jason Edwards, and Ben Grasso. It is the Stooges who will perform an ongoing gag bringing up an ever-growing tree sapling throughout the show, searching for its owner, Mrs. Jones.
The theme for the show is "Stay on the Sunny Side of Life" and will feature fun songs from the show through the years.
Highlights include Boy Scout Thomas Robertson performing “Hello Mudduh,” Cub Scout Kevin McGuire singing “Hoop Dee Do” and Venture Scout Michael Shea singing “I’ve Gotta Woman.”
In addition, the Scouts will be performing traditional Scout Gang Show classics such as “Hello Dolly,” “Aba Daba Honeymoon,” and “Rubber Ducky.” Special guests include Donald King, former Derby Mayor and current Town/City Clerk Marc Garofalo and Sarah Beth Widomski.
In addition to Garofalo, Center Stage director Gary Scarpa, former Ansonia Mayor Bill Menna and Shelton Aldermanic President John Anglace all performed in the show as youths.
The show's most famous alumnus is TV, stage, and movie actor Brian Dennehy, who performed "Be A Good Scout" on the same Derby Methodist Church stage in the 1948 show.