17th February 2017
Needingworth Village Hall
Type of Production
Author: Robert Bristow
What a lovely treat to be invited to a pantomime in February! We were welcomed by Writer and Director Karen Bays and shown to our seats. Having never visited Needingworth Village Hall before, I felt Wellworth Players had done a wonderful job in adapting the village hall space into a charming little theatre. There was a full and enthusiastic audience of varying ages and the play mats at the front of the hall for younger members of the audience added a thoughtful touch.
These extra attentions to detail continued throughout the night. Both in Bays’ script and the overall performance it is obvious to see the hours of time and love that have gone into this production. Karen Bays delivered a warm welcome to the audience with a warning regarding the likelihood of fire alarms being set off during Cinderella’s transformation, so as to not panic the audience.…more on that later!
Opening the show with ‘Money, Money, Money’ was Neal Dench as Baron Hardup. Neal’s singing was impressive with great diction and intonation and the song set the scene nicely. The staging of the ensemble was perhaps a little static but they made a good sound to the backing tracks provided by MD, Roger Billington. We were introduced to the Baron’s daughter, Cinderella, played sweetly by Francesca Mann. Not so sweet, were evil stepmother and ugly sisters, humorously named Stepticaemia, Mucousia and Phlegmorina, played by Paul Silver, Mark Ullyett and Simon West respectively. These three play the perfect bullies, overbearing and deliciously vulgar towards the innocent Cinderella. With an invitation to the Royal Ball, Stepticaemia and the ugly sisters refuse to include Cinderella, but Fairy Godmother, Lizzy Elliott, saves the day, turning mice into horses, a pumpkin into a carriage and amidst smoke, lights and a few fire alarms, Cinderella is transformed and off to meet her Prince Charming.
In Act II, after having found Cinderella’s missing shoe, Charming and Dandini set about searching the kingdom for the beautiful maiden with whom he had danced the previous evening. As we all know, Charming spurns the advances of the ugly stepsisters, eventually finding Cinderella, fitting the shoe and living happily ever after! Emily Moore and Kirsty Inman as Charming and Dandini were a superb pairing. Confident in both their acting and singing, with good stage presence and delivery.
I especially enjoyed the ensemble numbers and the cast truly looked to be having a wonderful time in Bays’ re-worked ‘When I’m 84’. How uplifting too to have incorporated such modern music into the show, including ‘Shut up and dance’, ‘Get this party started’ and ‘Uptown Funk’. Particular praise must be made for three of the songs: ‘My Favourite Things’, I thought the re-writing of these lyrics was absolutely fantastic and congratulations to the girl’s ensemble who performed the song with great confidence and clarity. The girls were then joined by the boys, Biffit, Boppit and Bash for Little Mix’s ‘Wings’. The boys, played by Leon Mutter, James Webb and Jago Pearson-Hurrell deserve a special mention. There aren’t many companies who could get young lads anywhere near the stage, let alone delivering lines and singing with such conviction and characterisation. Definite stars for the future! I must also mention ‘Something else I’d rather be’ performed by the adult principals. This number is often a fine line between farce and chaos, and the Wellworth Players version proved no different! Very funny indeed, well-choreographed and executed!
Praise must be heaped on Chris Thompson who was surely born to play Buttons. Right from his first scene, Chris had the audience on his side. His characterisation was superb, funny in comedic moments, such as the wallpapering scene, yet tender in his scenes of unrequited love with Cinderella. There’s no reference in the programme to Chris’ previous credits, but he is surely a seasoned performer, who appeared to be enjoying the evening as much as the audience.
Karen Bays deserves enormous praise for the fantastic attention to detail within her script. The re-working of lyrics to popular songs, the pop culture references including jokes about Brexit, Honey G and the Mannequin Challenge were all cleverly interwoven in the well-known storyline and made me chuckle. She writes in the programme that Cinderella is her last pantomime with Wellworth Players, let’s hope those cries of “Oh no it isn’t!” ring true. Karen has done a wonderful job with this pantomime and this cast! The applause was ‘well-worth’ it (pun intended!)
Congratulations and thank you for a lovely evening and a splendid pantomime Wellworth Players.
Assistant Rep D1