Puss in Boots

Date 17th January 2019
Society Leighton Buzzard Drama Group
Venue Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Liz Rhodes
Musical Director Paul Daggart
Choreographer Deryn Rhodes

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Author: Richard Fitt

Leighton Buzzard are certainly one of the top specialists in the panto business in our district and always rise to the occasion with a high octane show. Kept on their toes, surrounded as they are by several professional pantos, they always manage to pack out 15 shows over three weekends in January. This year’s offering Puss in Boots written by Ben Crocker was certainly up to their usual highly enjoyable standard with some super scenery, a live band and a strong cast delivering some excellent humour.

Leighton Buzzard traditionally give an introductory talk before each show, usually by the director but this time it was given by Bass player, Pete Bellamy who it turns out has a good comic touch and he certainly warmed the audience up. Nice job!!

The set designed and constructed by Mike Ward and Colin Delamore was a set of well-chosen cloths and furniture including a village scene (Much Rabbiting-on-the Ouze) the Orge’s chamber,  The Royal Woods, The Princess’s Bedroom and The inside of the Palace. All well managed by Stage Manager Nigel Allen. Lighting and sound by Dave Miles and Thomas Davies respectively with Christine Allen on follow spot, provided some vibrant washes and crystal-clear sound.  Very professionally done all round.

Costumes by Ann Kempster, Sheena Ward and Kim Aguilar, backed up with props by Heather Syrett, were absolutely splendid, especially for the Dame whose creations were something to behold. Well sourced and/or well made ladies!

Always great to see a panto with a real live band and MD Paul Daggart (Keyboard) and his crew, Pete Bellamy (Bass) Felix Askew-Conti (Guitar) and Mikey Ciancio (Drums) were a tight unit with a deft touch, perfect for the show.  

Choreography in our region is reaching new heights with every show I see and Deryn Rhodes had done a brilliant job on the various musical numbers with some excellent original ideas which were for me some of the best highlights of the show.

All the protagonists were in this one: Fairy Priscilla (Melissa Regan) gave us a splendid good fairy whilst Caroline Page as bad fairy Patricia, sorry, Pernicia had an absolute ball, her facial expressions alone had us all in stitches.  Dr Thao Nguyen as Bobby, our Buttons character drove the story forward, whilst our comic duo of Andy Ferguson as Jasper and Mark Croft as Jethro played the audience for all we were worth, with a great sense of comic timing and doing themselves no favours with the incompetent courting of their two beaus, Babs (Heather Brodie) and Betty (Donna Jackson). These two ladies it turned out were no novices when it came to the dance routines.

Grant Fellows as Queen Wendy our Dame, I am told is a real life vicar and the performance we saw obviously had a high proportion of his congregation in the audience, judging by the reaction to some of the ‘parish’ ad libs, which he capitalised on with great hilarity and superb delivery. Add to that I was also informed Randell Moll as King Wally is also a man of the cloth, so between the two of them they made the most of it. Wonderful stuff!

Jo Taylor as Jack is an experienced leading lady with great stage presence and of course made a splendid principal boy with all the thigh slapping elements one would expect thrown in,’ pursuing ‘his’ Princess Esmerelda, well played by Chloe King, with all the traditional zeal.  

But the star of the show has to be Maggie Moulds as Puss in Boots. Cleverly rehearsed facial expressions as a non-speaking cat, proving in the right hands (or paws) you don’t need lines to have stage presence.  Her seductive slinky entrance was a joy to watch – well done.

John Stone as the Orge complete with all the trappings of Donald Trump, including of course the ridiculous hairpiece and even the suntan was an inspirational piece of direction. The fact he didn’t attempt the accent or mannerisms made it work even better. Absolute comedic class!!

Well done also to Samantha Stevens (Millie/Chorus), Jessica Stevens (Lion/Chorus), Deryn Rhodes (Guard/Chorus) and Nicky Ripley (Killer Rabbit/Chorus) – all added greatly to the production.

Director Liz Rhodes did a great job on this with some lovely original touches down to (almost) all the cast taking their bows wearing different kinds of boots. Clever! If I’m honest there were a few clunky moments and the pace dropped a couple of times, but overall this was a excellent evening’s entertainment and as usual well worth the trip to the far flung reaches of my parish! Thank you LBDG and especially to Barbara for your excellent hospitality. Always a joy!