For quite a few years now the WightStrollers’ pantomime has been one of the highlights of my spring, so I was delighted to be able to attend the latest one at Medina Theatre on Saturday evening. Before reviewing the show itself I would like to pay tribute to the outgoing doyenne of the Strollers panto for so many years, Sarah Scotcher. As director and on stage she has been a continual presence, but has now decided to take a well-deserved back seat in the productions. Direction has been taken over by Emily Scotcher who, as in previous pantos, has co-written Aladdin with Sarah. And she has not let Sarah down!
The first character to burst upon the stage was Abanazer, played with delightfully panto over the top villainy by Michael Mullin. He had the audience booing from his first entrance – whether he wanted them to or not! His musical number with the captured princess showed his considerable singing and dancing talent too. Izzi Rudd was charmingly funny as the Spirit of the Ring, and proved her dancing credentials as well as, with Cheryl Rudd, choreographing some demanding and mesmerising routines.
We then moved to Old Peking, where the Strollers ensemble singing wowed as always, and we met Wishee-Washee, played with amazing energy and comic timing by Daisy-Mae Croain. John Woodford was typically hilarious as Widow Twankey, excelling as always in his audience participation routines, and introducing us to the new laundry recruits, Slo-Spin and Drip-Dri (Elisa Jones and Nicola Chastney) who made the most of their cameo roles.
The traditional panto double act of PCs Pong and Wong – Rebecca Finch and Patrick Barry – kept us laughing from the moment we heard their police whistles until the end. Although there were some truly sweet moments too as they brought onstage their new police recruits – the Keystage 1 Cops! Noah, William, Noah, Ashton, Ruby and Jameson are very young and very talented actors who will no doubt be in leading roles in years to come.
Moving to the royal palace we met the Emperor of China, masterfully portrayed by David Kast, his beautiful daughter Princess Lotus and her maid So-Shy. Keira Barry, in the latter role, showed she is not only a great dancer but a talented actor too.
The traditional story moves along its expected path, as Abanazer traps Aladdin in the cave and he finds and rubs the old lamp, revealing the Genie: Ches Checkley is just perfect in this role, from his spangled beard to his strangled chat up lines. He also demonstrated his wonderful singing voice and ability to dance.
The star pair, Aladdin (Kelly Hole) and Princess Lotus (Beth Mansell) were a well cast couple, and I particularly enjoyed Beth’s beautiful rendition of ‘Your Song’. In fact, the well chosen songs, often accompanied by dance routines and involving the ensemble cast, were some of the best parts of the panto, and as always in a Strollers show, the whole cast work together seamlessly, including the band. The musical director, Kim Ball, is to be congratulated as well as the show director herself. I must also mention the set design and construction team and the costume team whose hard work resulted in the show being as pleasing to look at as to listen to.
In short, with the matinees sold out, I can only recommend that you act quickly to get yourself one of the few tickets remaining for next Saturday (18th) evening and enjoy Aladdin.