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Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Date

8th December 2017

Society

Wilburton Theatre Group

Venue

St Peter's Hall, Wilburton

Type of Production

Pantomime

Director

Alan Marston

Musical Director

Tim Brown

Choreographer

Emily Starr

Report

Author: Julie Petrucci

On a bitterly cold night, WTG served up a colourful slice of panto that was just the trick to cheer me up - and I wasn’t the only one. This night, Ali Baba had a great audience who were up for being involved from the get go and they never stopped.  A great panto atmosphere reigned all evening.

The performance had a lot going in its favour. A large cast which had a good mixture of experience and youth, a good script, nice pace and great settings courtesy of Richard Stewart’s design. Extra props on stage were also well done (Peter Warren & Barry Starr). The backdrops designed by Rob Barton and painted by Ann Sherwood were extremely good. A good set can be ruined by a poor wardrobe, but that wasn’t a problem here as the whole cast were well dressed in colourful costumes (Margot Barber) which only added to the strong overall look. 

The lighting design by David Reynolds, operated by trainee technician 10-year old Miles Reynolds was excellent, all cues were spot on as were the those of the sound desk operator Paul Mitchell. The synchronisation of lighting and sound every time the Pharaoh’s Curse was mentioned was impressive.  

There was a varied selection of music which was nicely sung.  Musical Director Tim Brown had obviously schooled the youthful chorus well.  Emily Starr’s Choreography is always interesting and set well within the capabilities of the performers.  There was a super directorial touch which was carried out to perfection by the cast when Ali opened and closed the curtain across his shop doorway.  This needed total concentration by those on stage to make it work as faultlessly as it did.   This was a production team for Director Alan Marston to be proud of.

So to the cast. Chief in any panto is the dame. Chris Goodchild as Fatima Kebab threw himself into the role.  I would have liked an even more over-the-top character and maybe more OTT wigs -but his eyeshadow more than made up for it.  The long-promised dance of the seven veils turned out to be worth waiting for.  

Jordan Marston (Ali Baba) interacted with the audience well.  There is quite a knack to this and once or twice maybe things came over slightly stilted but he did a grand job, I thought he particularly worked well with Fatima and Rhum Baba.  

There was some highly amusing moments with Professor Jones (Tim Bebbington) the short-sighted archeologist and his sweet daughter Polly (Ruby Chambers) and some excellent work from Bryannie Quarrie and Holly Lennnie as the two inept thieves Bubble and Squeak.  I look forward to seeing this pair many more times in future productions.  I thought Claire-Rose Charlton did a good job in her on/off role; something which is always difficult and well done for not anticipating the custard pie!  

Others worthy of mention are Sarah Wearing and Sophie Billington the glamorous dancing girls, George Keeble showing promise as Mustapha Nana also doubling as one half of the “Professor” Camel (with Harry Keeble as the other half) and Aiden Meikle believably spooky as The Mummy.  

Two performances topped the list for me though. India Barton as Ali’s “son” Rhum Baba gave a first-class performance in all areas. India is always a pleasure to watch.  Then we had Tim Meikle as that master of disguise Kasim Baba.  There is nothing like a panto baddie and Mr Meikle milked this for all he was worth.  A great performance and one which we booed with gusto.

This review would not be complete without mentioning the superb confidence of the young members of the Chorus.  They were impressive.  All knew the words to the songs, all knew the choreography and all carried out what was required of them with apparent enjoyment.  

All in all, this was a really fun show with some great elements - bravo.