"...surpassing every expectation..."
If there was a special youth theatre edition of Britain’s Got Talent then I have no doubt the Spotlight kids would win it, for once again, they have triumphed with a spectacular show, surpassing every expectation, cramming in just about as much talent and love that is humanly possible onto one stage.
Within the first minute I was captivated with a big old grin on my face, knowing this was going to be a good one. This was a re-work of a previous 2011 performance by the same group, written by the creative team and based on a concept by Spotlight Chairman, Steve Groves. The story, with a clever Halloween haunted-house theme, featured a healthy sprinkling of panto magic and, to be honest, was rather a refreshing alternative to the same old fairy tales we are offered from year to year.
The show featured dressed up Halloween characters (the monsters), an unsuspecting family and a bunch of rather good-looking resident ghosts. The costumes and make-up, especially the ghosts, were seriously good, with wonderful wiggery and excellently designed faces that complimented each character’s individuality and personality.
The sixteen, triple-threat principals professionally maintained an energy and commitment throughout. Even with around 20 songs and dance routines to perform they were as fresh at the end as they were at the start (or appeared so!).
Mum and dad, Joy (CHARLOTTE HAM) and Fred (MATT WINDSOR), played brilliantly together. Joy, the stressed-out mother who doesn't want to join any ghost-busting mission and the intuitively inquisitive Fred who does, arrive at their late Uncle’s house to hear the reading of the last will and testament. Seymour, the rather frail butler (KIERAN BANNER) tries to contain the chaos that ensues as Joy and Fred’s sweet and unassuming daughter Jill (CHARLOTTE FARMER) falls for the butler’s cheeky son, Jack (BEN WALKER).
Joy’s rather naughty sister, Cruella (CHARLOTTE GOUGH), wants the house for herself. She unleashes a spooky plan to scare the other family members away by recruiting local actors to play the parts of Frankenstein (CALLUM STEED), Immy (JESS CAVILL), Drake (KIMBERLEY BECKETT) and Luna (NATASHA PEARCE). But the real resident ghosts – Uncle Ted (WILLIAM HEATH), Nicky (BECKY CARTWRIGHT), Long Joan Silver (BETH CROSBY), Vicar (LEAH GALLAGHER), Sir Cumference (SAM RUSHWORTH) and Wailing Bride (KANDE EDEN) - hae a plan of their own and good eventually triumphs over evil and peace and harmony is restored to the house… and all with a surprising twist at the end!
The show featured some truly electrifying dance routines and musical numbers and everyone who sang, performed to perfection, harmonies et al. Great tech, lighting and set with cleverly filmed talking paintings and lots of little surprises. Loved every single musical number, especially Charlotte Gough’s Rotten to the Core, Thriller (Heads Will Roll) and the exciting, choreographed fight-scene to Knights of Cydonia.
The whole cast must be very proud – from little ones to big ones – every single company member performed brilliantly, and I know how much time and effort goes into producing a show of this size. Too large a cast to mention individually but I thank you all for bringing such happiness to everyone in the audience.
Special mention goes to Kieran Banner who played the part of Seymour and executed so well and to William who has such great stage presence and played a marvellous Uncle Ted.
Congratulations of course to the Production Team, the Directors, Musical Directors and Choreographers. I take my hat off to the dance designers and applaud the live band for a faultless performance.
Oh, and a raspberry to the little ghosties who soaked me with a water gun without a care in the world!!
If I could see this again tomorrow I would.
The group will be performing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat from 9th-12th July 2020 firstname.lastname@example.org Norton Canes High School Theatre.
A SPARKLING AND ORIGINAL PRODUCTION OF THIS TIMELESS CLASSIC
There is always a danger when staging a production of a well known tale that the performance will not quite live up to expectations, be a little flat, lack originality, or just have that general tired old feel about it.
Nothing could be further from the truth with SSA Drama's annual trip down Pantomime Lane with their slick and entertaining take on the on the familiar tale of Dick Whittington and his attempts to make a fortune in London and become Mayor.
What made this performance particularly fresh and original was the fact that it was written by Chairman and Director Chris Cooper and fellow cast member Matt Barnard. By not merely adapting an already existing script, the show was able to stretch the boundaries of entertainment, and the audience found themselves delighted with renditions of 'In The Navy' and 'A Millions Dreams' and being dazzled with some lovely dancing by Rochelle Dance Academy between scenes, as well as meeting a very large fluffy spider and a huge inflatable octopus along the way!
SSA Drama have a reputation for polished and enjoyable productions, and their 2020 panto certainly did not disappoint. From the excellent costumes to the set, everything about this show was of the highest quality. This well loved story was delivered with the precision and smoothness which we have come to expect from Chris Cooper's expert directing, and it was clear that the cast was well drilled and disciplined, but most of all, having the time of their life on stage!
In a strong line up of Principals, it is hard to pick out any individual performances for special mention, but as usual the co-writers Chris Cooper and Matt Barnard were as professional as ever in their roles as Sarah The Cook and Alderman Fitzwarren respectively. Laura Parker shone in the title role of Dick, delivering a particularly pleasing rendition of 'A Million Dreams' with Georgia Fair as Alice Fitzwarren. Georgia in turn wowed the audience with her vocals when telling us how she wanted to really be a rock star, not a cafe waitress, and Jennifer Alton had the audience laughing throughout at her disdainful and exasperated one liners as Tommy The Cat, Dick's companion; it was a very assured performance from her. Helen Gibbs had the audience booing and hissing at her extremely convincing and nasty portrayal of Queen Rat. All of the principals acquitted themselves with confidence and aplomb, there was not a single weak link, and were beautifully complemented by the considerable number of youngsters in the cast, who sang and danced with gusto and enthusiasm. The between scenes dancing from the beautiful and talented dancers of Rochelle Dance Academy just added the icing to a cake which was worthy of Alderman Fitzwarren's cafe itself.
It was a crisp and modern take on an old tale, which kept the audience enthralled until the very last note was sung, the very last line was delivered, and the very last dance was danced.
The backstage team did a sterling job in moving scenery seamlessly and effortlessly, ensuring a smooth and streamlined performance.
'Dick Whittington' is still on tomorrow Sunday 19th January at 2.30, The Dovehouse Theatre, Langley School, Kineton Green Road, Solihull B92 7ER.
As part of its 120th birthday celebrations, Birmingham Hippodrome, together with QDOS Entertainment, have mounted possibly the most lavish show outside London. Starting life at the home of variety the London Palladium last year, where it stared Julian Clary as the Spirit of the Mirror and Dawn French as the Wicked Queen, Michael Harrison’s production has been revived and revised for a Midlands audience, and the result is a sparking evening’s entertainment.
It’s true to say that the actual Snow White story probably took up about 20 minutes of the show, but when the pantomime entertainment crafted to surround it is of such high quality, it’s hard to complain too much. I really would have liked to have spent more time with the dwarves however (or The Magnificent Seven, as they are labelled here). They appear to be a supremely talented bunch of performers, but are not allowed to develop any real individual characters.
Instead the star of the show is undoubtedly Birmingham Panto favourite Matt Slack, now in his seventh year playing the comedy role at the Hippodrome. Slack is clearly in his element controlling the action and the audience, and the script gives him plenty of opportunity to display his talents. A fine series of impressions of comedians went down well, but it was the sequence with numerous lip-synched song phrases, all perfectly chosen and timed for prime comic force, that brought the house down. And some of the jokes do, I hope, go over the heads of the younger members of the audience, and straight to their parents who, in the performance tonight were rolling in the aisles, while wondering how he got away with what he’d just said. Slack treads a fine line at the smutty end of the humour scale but judges perfectly how far to push it. Just be prepared to explain to your 6 year old what a Gynaecologist does!!
Alongside Slack it takes a performer of real skill and experience to hold their own, and Lesley Joseph is an absolute hoot as Queen Dragonella. Not the nastiest of panto villains, although she can summon up a great dark incantation when she needs to, Ms Joseph is allowed to play with the audience, and the other cast members much more, using her comedic timing to create a very funny villain.
As often with panto some of the funniest moments are when things go wrong, and Slack and Ms Joseph were involved in a moment of comedy gold involving a serious wig malfunction in the middle of the panto classic reworking of 12 Days of Christmas. It stopped the show for almost a couple of minutes as everyone on stage, as well as in the audience, were trying to pull themselves together.
Supporting these two were Joe McElderry, in fine voice as The Spirit of the Mirror, Andrew Ryan, sporting a fine array of damish costumes as Nanny Annie Aspirin, and, for particular local flavour, the acerbic Doreen Tipton (Gill Jordan) as The Lady in Waiting.
Faye Brookes and Jac Yarrow are ideally cast as Snow White and Prince Harry of Harborne (you can guess where one or two jokes about Prince Harry are headed!) and the dance troupe Flawless are even shoehorned in for a couple of routines, nothing to do with any vague sense of plot, but it’s all good entertaining stuff.
The set, lighting, and particularly costumes are lavish and the live band, under the direction of MD Robert Willis, keep everything sounding fantastic. The special effects by The Twins FX are also spectacular.
If you fancy a great evening’s entertainment that will keep the whole family entertained, and manages to combine 7 Dwarves with a flying Reindeer Sleigh, dancing snowmen and hip hop dancers, then you will not be disappointed.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday 2nd February.
Albany Theatre Coventry
Until Sunday 5th January 2020
This is Phoenix Theatre Productions first pantomime, if the audience reaction and quality of this performance is anything to go by, it won’t be their last.
Aladdin is a traditional pantomime, it has everything in it, the audience participation, slap stick, good versus evil and a good mix of jokes for the children and the adults. The costumes and sets are colourful and are brought to life by an enthusiastic cast, a cast that has many years of stage experience between them, and this shows.
There are no surprises in the story, Abanazer wants everything, Aladdin and his brother and mum work in a laundry, Aladdin loves the Princess but is too poor to marry her until he visits a cave.
Harry Laidlaw takes the title role in his first pantomime. He is every inch the cheeky chappy, he has the audience in the palm of his hand. Another stand out performance is Steve Cowley as Abanazer, sinisterly evil and beautifully overacted, he is a joy to boo. Rachel McDonnell is a beautiful princess Jasmine with a beautiful voice to match. The ladies of the audience appreciated the Genie, Leon Carty, its just a shame that his character wasn’t used more.
The young dancers were a delight to watch, their performances were polished and full of energy.
The overall production values in this pantomime are high. The lighting enhances each scene and there are none of the sound issues that can occur at this venue. There was even a flying carpet. This panto could hold its own against some of the professional productions.
This is a perfect post-Christmas treat for all the family. With only one performance left on Sunday, rush to get a ticket!
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