Hansel and Gretel

Date 29th January 2022
Society Bolsover Drama Group
Venue The Assembly Rooms, Bolsover
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Leanne Collins, Mick Whitehouse
Musical Director Leanne Collins/Group Musical Director Nigel Turner
Choreographer Leanne Collins
Written By Alan P Frayne

Report

Author: Joyce Hanbury

This is an up-to-date pantomime written by Alan P. Frayne and is based on the well loved, but quite gruesome story, of Hansel and Gretel.

In this version the plot involves the two children, but instead of them deciding to escape from their evil stepmother, she decides to take them into the woods and leave them, against the wishes of their father, where they would be caught by the wicked witch and eaten. Interwoven with the main plot were scenarios involving a Prince, a circus and a gypsy party given by Peggy Pumpernickle.

On this very small stage there is no room for elaborate scenery but what we do have is, when needed, raised levels of staging and the ingenious use of flats that were beautifully painted by Andrew and Sabina Aucock depicting, where appropriate, woodland scenes, villages, a gypsy encampment and of course there was a lovely painted Gingerbread House.  

As Hansel and Gretel, Cohan Wildgoose and Abigail White were delightful. They portrayed the characters with such ease and sensitivity, a very believable pairing. Their father Fritz was very much overshadowed and undermined by their evil stepmother, Hildegarde, who instigated the plot to get rid of Hansel and Gretel so they could go to sunny Spain. (We later find out that she was under a spell delivered by Nightshade, the wicked witch, which is later reversed and she becomes all sweetness and light!) Paul Holland excelled as their father, Fritz. His very demeanour and comic asides were so well delivered, you really did feel sorry for him. Amanda Huntingdon also excelled as the domineering evil stepmother, Hildegarde, showing little regard for anyone except for her own desires - two excellent performances. Of course every pantomime needs a Dame and here we had Peggy Pumpernickel superbly played by Chris Nussey. He epitomised the traditional concept of a Dame from the outlandish outfits, the comedic rapport with fellow cast members and the running gag concerning the innuendoes surrounding her door knocker were hilarious. Peggy’s son Wally, aptly named, was perfectly portrayed by Gareth Elvidge. His natural rapport with the audience was wonderful and his exploits and mishaps were so endearingly executed. His ‘gimme five’ whenever he appeared, always raised a reaction. His sister Heather, was demurely and sweetly played by Maddy Sutton who falls in love with Prince Johann who was suitably dignified and majestically characterized by Nicky Constable. Their duet, ‘Start of Something New’, was so movingly and harmoniously sung. There were boos and hisses a-plenty whenever the wicked witch Nightshade made an appearance. Lyndsey Ashley was excellent in this role, her acting skills together with her facial expressions and exquisite cackle definitely encouraged the audience to vent their disapproval of her life-style! Wendy Blunt as Fairy Bluebell was first-rate as the ‘goodie’ of the piece, delivering her rhyming lyrics with great aplomb resulting in loud cheers. Both Wendy and Lyndsey have super singing voices. An extremely funny pairing came from Chris Peck as Basil, the dim-witted forester and game-keeper, and Donna Knowles as Nut-meg a somewhat silly forager. The pair were constantly thinking of absurd money-making schemes. Two crows who assist Nightshade to carry out her dastardly deeds were Russell and Sheryl and were well played by Ray Wignall and Katie Watkins (loved her quirky voice). Good support came from Peter Maddison as Wolfgang, Equerry to the Prince, Istvan Koszegi was resplendant as Klaus, the Circus Ringmaster and Dawn Blackburn as Otto, a snowy owl. Ray, Katie, Istvan and Dawn joined the other thirty nine cast members ranging upwards from 8 years of age who were Villagers, Lumberjacks, Forest Animals, Birds, Circus Performers, Clowns, Gypsies, Nightshade’s Minions, Gingerbread Men and Sweets. I must say that all of the many ensemble numbers were performed with superb energy, super singing and the innovative movement and dance routines were so well executed. There were sixteen scenes altogether and all so praiseworthy, but I must mention the ‘Join the Circus’ scene. It was outstanding with clowns, weight-lifters, jugglers, flag bearers, dancers, who danced their way down the centre aisle, and six excellent acrobats. If that wasn’t enough we were then treated to an Ultra Violet version starting with a routine of white hands followed by the involvement of all the other acts with the addition of 2 large elephants (one painted by Lily Ashley). The whole scene was delivered whilst singing ‘The Greatest Showman’ and together with the accompanying choreography it gave me goosebumps. The Wardrobe department overseen by Dawn Blackmore and Angela Mitchell deserve every accolade because the costumes were just brilliant. The Music was delivered by tape with additional input from Keyboard and Percussion. The excellent lighting effects added to the whole ambiance but, at the start of the 2nd Act disaster struck when all the power went down. We were told it was a ‘problem outside’ but then the power came back on to great cheers only to go down again to boos, to come up again to cheers, to go down again, to come up again and this time to stay!! Definitely not part of the pantomime script but treated as one by the audience! What a fabulous afternoon’s entertainment this pantomime proved to be. It had everything, a great script full of corny and topical jokes, some hilariously funny scenes, great acting, singing and dancing, spectacular costumes and audience participation by the bucket load, including the obligatory ‘sing-off’. Congratulations to the Production Team, to the Technical and Stage Crews, to the very hard working cast and to everyone else involved in this wonderful production. I loved every minute.