15th December 2017
The Priory Centre
Type of Production
Author: Julie Armstrong
St Neots Players’ latest offering took the form of the pantomime Rapunzel. Directed this year by Tom Monkhouse, with Charlotte Evans as co-director, it was a jolly good old fashioned panto, with everything thrown in - and I mean everything! They gave us all the usual panto fun alongside inter-audience snowball fights, singalongs led by Frankie Valet, classic slapstick routines with Curly and Bob, sweets for the audience, cheesy jokes, a traditional pantomime dame, great big spiders in the woods, heroes to love, villains to boo, pyrotechnics, snow, a great dance troupe and plenty of fun and laughter. Phew!
That said, all of this did make the performance a little lengthy for a pantomime, with some of the younger members of the audience struggling to stay awake for the two and a half hours necessary. However, with such a great performance, it would be a very difficult task to choose items to cut. By far my favourite character was Frankie Valet (see what they did there!) played by Rowan Marshall, who was, of course, valet to the Prince (Jules Riley). Lately, Rowan has more often been seen in his role as musical director, but in this welcome return to the stage he excels as the lovable sidekick. Having a great repartee with the audience, Rowan delighted both young and old alike as everyone waved and shouted, “Hello Frankie” each time that he took to the stage. Jules Riley was a suitably thigh-slapping Prince in a short tunic and long boots, in great contrast to Shelley Browne as the evil Gothel. I did feel that this character could have been even more dastardly, even more nasty - although the audience booed and hissed whenever she appeared, so a job well done.
Dame Trixie Boufant, the town hairdresser, was everything a pantomime dame should be, bold, brash and brilliantly funny! Tony Knox knew just how to play the dame, with great comedy timing, and some cracking ad libs and quick-thinking when other character’s lines went slightly astray. This only added to the humour, and we all enjoy a panto where someone appears to mess up, so well done for stepping in and saving the day. Sarah Kirkham’s Fairy Flora was a delight, with her rhyming couplets and dash of fairy dust, she played the classic panto fairy with flair and panache.
The double act of Curly and Bob (Lol Smith and Don McKay) provided the perfect antidote to all the fairy loveliness, with their comedy routines. Perfectly cast, Lol and Don had the audience laughing at their silly antics, knowing exactly how to pitch these characters to elicit the audience’s reactions. With gunge and gloop, the classic ‘throw a bucket of glitter at the audience’ and shaving foam galore, these two certainly know how to entertain. Comedy clearly suits you both gentlemen, and I thought you were fabulous in these roles.
George Kelly and Linda Riddy as the King and Queen did admirable jobs, alongside Tom Kirkbride as the Captain of the Guard. Lacie, Macie and Gracie (Laura Collins, Amy and Danielle Williams) played their roles well with great confidence and performance from Danielle in particular. Mark Jones, Molly Gregorious and Lynda Collins helped to make up the cast, alongside the dancers from Langdale Dance Arts, choreographed by Tom Langdale. A particular mention must go to the two boys in the dance troupe, both of whom shone on the stage and were superb dancers - well done boys!
This pantomime was brilliantly written and included a great mix of songs. With Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, Run DMC, High School Musical and even some Book Of Mormon (You and Me) there was something for everyone and the mix worked well. How Far I’ll Go from Moana, was beautifully sung by Rapunzel, played by Fay Bartlett, who did a great job. This is a difficult song and Fay has a lovely voice - well done. Fay played the role well and was the perfect princess in this super production.
The set looked great and there were plenty of scene changes, which all worked well, with an annoyingly catchy little ditty between scenes that had the audience singing along. It was still in my head all the way home! The scenery was lovely, as was the sound and lighting, from Dave and Kate Maltby. The whole production had a great feel about it and as I drove away from the theatre I could see lots of happy, smiling little faces, skipping along with Mummies and Daddies, Grannies and Grandads, waving their flashing wands and swords - and that’s what this is all about: offering great family entertainment for everyone. Everyone loves a great panto and that’s exactly what St Neots Players gave us. Oh, yes they did!