REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk – The Wight Strollers

Jack and the Beanstalk

So Yesterday I was lucky enough to get to watch The Wight Strollers Annual Pantomime, which this year was ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. The show was, as usual, in aid of local charities and was an absolutely incredible. Alan P Frayn was once again on the top of his game with a great script which was brought to life beautifully.

Musical Director Kim Ball, along with George King and Jamie Woodford opened the show with a medley of music that would be later appearing in the show and continued with great music throughout, and even some fantastic comedy moments from Jamie’s sound effects collection, this really set the tone for the slapstick ridiculousness that was to follow. The stage then began to fill with the best of the best Island talent in the form of The Wight Strollers.

First we saw Emily Scotcher, and if I had to be honest with you, I’d say I was worried, Worried that she would not be the princess we know and love but instead, the villain, Piccalilli. I wasn’t sure what to expect but from the moment she entered the stage I knew she was going to be brilliant. In her Steampunk-esque costume she gave the audience a run for their money as she perfectly reacted to their boos and hisses from the start and throughout.

This was quickly contrasted however, when Shannon Crouch joined her onstage as Fairy Sugardust in a role that could not be more of a polar opposite. Everytime she entered the stage she was greeted by cheers with was unexpectedly really rather pleasant and I found myself enjoying her performance more every time I saw her.
Interestingly, Piccalilli was not the only villain in this performance as it seemed the strollers had decided to go all out with their bad guys this year. Andy Ball was fantastic and possibly my favourite character as Rancid the Ratman who, to me, was reminiscent of Timothy Spall does Fagin from Oliver Twist and was absolutely superb and his musical numbers somehow made me feel oddly warm inside, I also found myself feeling bad for him towards the end. You could say that Alex Riley and Elisa Jones as Snatchet and Scarper respectively were also acting as bad guys with their threats toward Jack’s family but as much as they were baddies they were equally funny with a number of comedic routines and of course that unforgettable laugh that they had the audience doing with them. I really did look forward to them returning to the stage. The last villain to mention is Buster Gut-Bucket, the Giant,  voiced by last years dame, David Kast who delivered the voice well, throughout I was wondering how they would do the giant and in the end I settled for it just being a voice, what came later was a huge puppet at a huge table with a huge chair, I was very impressed.
Dame Dotty Dimple, played by Dame Veteran John Woodford was a sight to behold, complete with the standard costume changes with the not so standard costumes, which all looked amazing and one of which having a Dora the Explorer does 80s Neon. She was your classic panto dame and was fantastic to watch, especially when she started flirting with the audience. She formed a perfect double act with Director Sarah Scotcher as Goldie Goldtop in routines that even the cold hearted would have to laugh at. Sarah Scotcher stormed the stage on a number of occasions as the queen of Innuendo and made me feel on a number of occasions like I had come to an 18+ Panto…That was until I heard the young girl in front of me ask her parents why she needed the suction cups!
The scene in the dairy had me in buckets of laughter (pardon the pun) as I tried my hardest to work out what was a scripted gaff and what was a real gaff in a scene full of mistakes(or was it?) Of course in this scene Dotty and Goldie were joined by Stuart Egan & Rob Jones as the equally amusing farmers (and owners of the suction cups) and the fantastic cows, Ruby Barnett as Rosebud, Hannah Knowles as Blossom and Abbie Knowles as Daisy May along with the Star Cow Buttermilk, played superbly by Manda Emmerson & Daisy Croain. Now also seems like the perfect time to mention Patrick ‘Patch’ Barry who played Not A Scaredy Simon, Simon but A Simple Simon, Simon in the absolute perfect, ridiculous and utterly stupid way that only Patch Barry can, he truly was perfect casting for this part.
The bumbling ageing King Hubert was played marvellously by Tim Smith and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him mixing up his sentences and showing the king to be past his time and his wife, Queen Hyacinth,  was quite clearly the power in their relationship and masterfully played by Amanda Gregory. They were headed by their herald, Humphrey played with charm and warmth by the lovely Ches Checkley-Hill.
The Chorus were brilliant as usual but this time, which I found a welcome change, were used a bit more and had more of an impact in the overall show which was great to see. The choreography team, headed by Cheryl Rudd had once again excelled with all of the routines in this production and all the dancers, whether they be Senior, Junior or baby dancers did incredibly well.
The baby dancers were absolutely adorable during their rendition of ‘How Does Your Garden Grow’ and even had me singing Old MacDonald with them, who’d have thought he had a slug and a tangarang on his farm!
The Junior Dancers were spectacular and always unexpected when they shot in from the wings without warning, especially Sophie Frost, who despite an injury and a pink cast, still performed to the high standard of everyone else.
The Senior Dancers, Ella, Lulu, Maddison and Izzi were spellbinding in all of their dances but no more so than in the beanstalk growing dance which I found captivating and somewhat psychedelic to watch which is a good thing, despite how it sounds, it was out of this world.
The ‘If I Were Not In Pantoland!’ routine was my highlight of the show, Tim, Sarah, John, Amanda, Patch and Ches as The King, Goldie, Dotty, The Queen, Simon and Humphrey delivered a comedy gold performance with perfect timing and movement and I was really in fits of laughter as I watched so it had to get a mention here.
Every panto needs a perfect princess and who did the Strollers have this time round? The astounding Beth Batchelor! She played Princess Primrose amazingly and looked stunning. Her beautiful voice resonated throughout the theatre when she spoke and sang and I even found myself falling in love with her at the end, but that honour went to Jack, who was played with pure class by the incredible Michael Mullin, A true star who fitted the role perfectly. He had me in laughter and he had me backing him all the way but surprisingly of all, he had me in tears as he sang ‘I Can Go The Distance’.
The people behind the Set construction and Scenery design should also be applauded for an incredibly delightful stage dressing. But, star of the backstage show has to be Karen Cassford and her wardrobe team for all of the amazing costumes, all of which were made from scratch and looked so much better than anything you could buy.

This show was quite possibly one of the best pantomimes I’ve ever seen and I’m so glad I have finally watched a Wight Strollers production and will definitely be back next year.

For now, I’d love to thank and congratulate every one who was part of this show either on or off stage on such a brilliant and entertaining night. Good Job

Director – Sarah Scotcher

Musical Director – Kim Ball

Choreographer – Cheryl Rudd

 

Reviewed by Mitch Hammer

Check out Mitch’s blog for the original and other postings!

Performance date: 25th February 2017

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