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St Joseph’s Players

Directed by Doreen Johnson & Pauline Nevell

Choreographer Callen Tennant assisted by Jennel Unsworth

Children’s Choreographers Christy Coleman and Louise Bailey

Principals Choreographer Angela Grime

Musical Director Jeremy Sleith

Over the years professional theatre, because of budgetary requirements, has had to pare presentation down to the basic story-line and characters of pantomime. Productions used to be very large and very lavish. It wasn’t just the name of the personalities in the cast that sold tickets, it was the pantomimes themselves. Also, it wasn’t just five or so pantomimes that, nowadays, get rotated each year, there were umpteen different titles. Nonetheless, today’s offerings are very entertaining, and Christmas would not be the same without them.

Society member Doreen Johnson has written a script that captures that era of pantomime splendour. There was a large cast of principals, a sub plot, skin part, and it did not forget the Sunbeams, along with all the favourite characters.

Presentation is so important, and with this production the society pulled out every stop with fabulous costumes, hair and make-up. All of this came alive against a well-designed and painted set which was given pantomime magic with creative lighting. In fact, there was an army of people who brought the production to the stage, and invited an audience to enjoy everybody’s hard work. With such a team it was a shame there wasn’t a magic carpet to take Aladdin to rescue his princess.

A smattering of sprightly delivered musical numbers , all played by a first rate band, added to the storytelling. The choreography brought a sparkle to the proceedings and an exceptional set of dancers raised the entertainment levels.

The author and co-director created a richly coloured production that just fizzed along. All the cast came across as genuinely having a good time. There were good set pieces, especially the elimination routine, with Paul Atkinson, as the Mummy. Once again, the well-schooled Sunbeams that included some very young children, entertained as they sang and danced to the audience’s delight.

Ensemble playing supported and contributed to the unfolding plot of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, with many of its members taking cameo roles.

The Royal family played a greater role in this version by introducing the whiffy, Strong Pong (Ken Ogg) the executioner. Strong Pong was a favourite with the younger members of the audience. As Empress Typhoo Tee, Donna Wood, had good stage presence and Grand Vizier, David Hodgkinson, was an enthusiastic sub villain.

All the magic is established by Abanazar, the magician, played by Paul Jameson aided by his assistant, Zara (Vikky Dixon). On the good side are the Genie of the lamp, Chris Lovelady, and the Slave of the Ring, Scarlett Moss-Turner. They scored a hit with the family filled auditorium.

Comedy duo, Pauline Dowsett and Maggie Hall, played Sing Hi and Sing Lo, the policeman. It was high energy all the way; if any of their one liners didn’t work they went straight on to the next. They played the audience into submission. Great fun! Hi and Lo are chasing Wishee Washee (Danny McCarrick) with comic results. Danny captivated the audience and was cheered along.

A new member of the Twankey household is Sum Ting Wong, Aladdin’s dog. Terry MacCabe was appealing and amusing in the skin part. Keith Hindley arrived on stage as Widow Twankey. As dame, he was a “bloke in frock” in the tradition of Terry Scott and Les Dawson. Pantomime is all about the audience, working them and above all holding their attention and in this Keith achieved the perfect result.

In the title role, Clare Nash was, unashamedly, a traditional principal boy, getting everything out of the role. For this story Aladdin has friends to help him on his adventure: Chop Suey (Melissa Kendrick), Chow Main (Paige Collier), Kung Po (Caitlin Davies) and Foo Yung (Zoe Unsworth). Zoe was in fine vocal form belting out her songs diva-style. Aladdin falls for Princess Moon-Under-Water, charmingly portrayed by Karen Jones. The chemistry between Aladdin and the Princess added to their scenes and moved the story along. After all the twists and turns of the storyline, all is resolved and they live happilyy ever after.

The audience’s response ensures the future of pantomime is safe

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