2016 (Panto) - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Creative Team
Director :
Musical Director :
Choreographer :
Producer :  

Matthew Maisey
Tom Billing
Sarah Neale
Laura Vernoum          
Cast List  
Snow White        Niamh Small
Prince Artemis   Bethany Baker
Nurse Nelly        Glynn Webster
Molly Muddles   Amelia Chinnock-Schumann
Evil Queen          Jessica Stradling
Ratfink                Justin Hodge
Weasel                Matthew Maisey
Mirror                 Judi Neale 
Dwarfs Team A
Brainy   Mollie Spraggon
Cranky  Rhys Anderson
Snoozy  Dylan Diaz
Sniffy    Elizabeth England
Blusher  Lola Edwards
Smiler   Mary Boulton-Roberts Dozey   Elsie-May Govier

Juniors Team A
 Erin Moore
 Evie Withers
 Sapphira Stoodley
 Imogen Webb
 Charlotte Eastmead-Hoare
 Eleanora Webber
 Carmen Robertson
 Scarlett Hodge
 Summer Robertson
 Benjamin Gouland

Inters Team A
 Mabel Maisey
 Matilda Maisey
 Lily Milford
 Natasha Hodge
 Hetta Falzon
 Flora Turner

Dancers Team A
 Rosie Boulton-Roberts
 Elisha Webster
 Poppy Falzon

Adult Company Team A
 Henry Boulton-Roberts
 Joe Lythaby                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Dwarfs Team B
Brainy   Deanna Symes
Cranky  Ollie Shakesby
Snoozy  Dougal Bradwell
Sniffy    Florence Milner
Blusher  Fenella Milner
Smiler   Olivia Adey-Peters
Dozey   Martha Gilby

Juniors Team B
 Daisy Payne
 Lola Walby
 Francesca Guidi
 Marcey Bickham
 Olivia Pearce
 Lottie Gilby
 Molly Cook
 Harriet Norris
 Erin Hagg
 Ruben Landiana
 Fern Dobbins

Inters Team B
 Lola Punchard
 Maya Bickham
 Tia Black
 Naomi Cooper
 Lucie Sawyer
 Daisy Caldwell

Dancers Team B
 Grace Pole
 Hannah Sawyer
 Kelly Baker

Adult Company Team B
 Finn Vowles
One more TBC 
All Performances

 Harriet Durston
 Amy Higgins
 Olivia Cave

Adult Company
 Lydia Lakin
 Lydia Stobie-Owen
 Isobel Todd
 Flo Rice
 Katie Spraggon 
Performances - 27 Dec 2016 to 2 January 2017 

Rose Bowl Awards - Winning Comments:

An original script which, without slavishly copying the Walt Disney 1937 animated film version, captured the joyful spirit of that classic. The production was aided no end by beautifully designed costumes and an excellent choice of music ranging from the 1950′s to the present day, plus one oldie, ‘Spread a Little Happiness’ – which is what this show did for its audiences.”

 Fine Times Review - GP-W

 MATTHEW Maisey not only wrote and directed the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that Glastonbury and Street Musical Com­edy Society are performing at Strode Theatre until Monday 2nd January, but also plays Weasel, half of the essential knockabout duo. So it’s only fair to hand the biggest slice of praise to him, for his inspired words, slick presentation and comic timing. 

Like all amateur pantomimes, this is an ensemble effort, with principals, dancers, chorus and backstage crew all putting hours and hours of effort into creating a magical afternoon or evening for the audience, many of whom will be seeing live theatre for the first time. There was one tiny babe-in-arms near me at the opening performance who was quite transfixed by the lights and colours and sounds, until it went peacefully to sleep. Jess Stradling, who has played principal boys and girls, as well as many other leading roles, on the Strode stage, steps sensationally into the part of the Evil Queen, a Nigella-style beauty with a jealous heart and a truthful magic mirror (Judi Neale). Glynn Webster is a larger than life Nurse Nelly, hilariously supported by Amelia Chinnock-Schumann as Molly Muddles. 

Mr Maisey joins Justin Hodge as Ratfink and Weasel, two of the dumbest and most incompetent baddies you could find in any panto. And in the leading roles, Niamh Small and Bethany Baker make Snow White and her dashing prince Artemis convincingly impassioned sweethearts. Then of course there are the dwarfs – two teams of youngsters – and the excellent chorus of singers and dancers. The music is especially strong in this productions, with powerful songs from the principals and enthusiastic singing from everyone involved, back as always by Tom Billings’ excellent band. 

And there is a comedy routine in here I have never seen before, and Mr Maisey might consider copywriting, as it will be snapped up by professional pantos. Brilliantly funny, and perfectly done  Niamh, Justin and Matthew! The songs were well chosen over many decades of classic pop, providing something for grandparents, parents and kids hearing them for the first time, too. Well done to Sarah Neale for some tight and stylish choreography and Elspeth Salmon for training the singers so well. It’s a terrific show, and only a handful of tickets remain. 

My one negative observation would be that a follow spotlight might be an overlooked pantomime element, but you really do miss it when it’s absent. GP-W 

Adjudication by Ian Hurdman - Cinderella Trophy Competition

 Friday 30th December 2016

 To say I was ‘chuffed’ when asked to adjudicate G&SMCS’s panto at Strode would be a massive understatement. The group has stayed away from the Cinderella Trophy so I was excited that you have joined the family and Strode is about a mile from my house! Happy days!  

Musical Theatre and Pantomime have a strong following in the area and G&SMCS’s reputation is high, plus the show was written and directed by the talented Matthew Maisey so, as I made the arduous journey from home to the theatre my hopes were high for a good night.  My wife and I were very warmly greeted by Theatre Manager, the lovely Liz Leyshon who issued our tickets and, very generously, a complimentary drinks ticket – thank you. We met your Society President Rodney Gifford who made us feel very welcome and we proceeded to our excellent seats in plenty of time to drink in the atmosphere of excitement and expectation from the full-house audience. I noted the reference to the Cinderella Trophy Competition in the attractive, glossy program and sat back to enjoy the show. Friendly announcements were given at seven o’clock, the spectacular, sparkly, hanging title board was flown and we were off to Pantoland. 

 To be brutally honest, having watched your pantomime very closely, it is clear to me that there is very little I could teach your Director Matthew Maisie about directing a pantomime. This was a terrific production of a traditional, family pantomime, filled with energy, pace, fun and sparkle. 

Choice of script:
I read the original script, penned by your Director and was amazed by the sheer quantity of jokes! It reads as a very funny script, well structured and loaded with all of the essential panto elements: Dame, Broker’s Men, Principal Boy and Girl, Baddy and so on. The story is told clearly and without unnecessary complication so that any age of audience member could follow it comfortably. The structure also allows for any number of Chorus members – all in all a great ‘fit’ for your group. On the night I did wonder if the dialogue was occasionally too clever and many excellent gags were missed by much of the audience? But perhaps I am being too ‘picky’? 

In terms of Creativity, direction was spot on: huge energy was immediately obvious. There was no overture, just straight into the action, which I liked very much. Playing to a young audience it is essential to ‘hook’ them from the outset and a long piece of music before anything has even happened on stage can be tedious for them. The appearance of the staggeringly energetic Molly Muddles set the bar and the rest followed suit.  

Following all of the traditional panto ‘rules’ and very quickly establishing principal characters’ strong relationships with the audience: eliciting boos for the baddy, a call-and-answer for the linkman and so on, immediately engaged and excited the audience. What followed was a cohesive and slickly delivered show. In addition was the amazing ‘falling off a log’ scene which was one of the funniest and best-worked scenes I have ever seen in pantomime. 

Pace was electrifying: entrances and exits were crisp, motivated and speedy; cue-bite was razor sharp and the flow of scenes was as smooth as is possible. The only downside for me was the amount of ‘dark time’ when the stage stood unlit as scene transitions were made. This felt a little old fashioned and I wondered if scene changing in light might have worked? The audience is aware that scenes do not change themselves and seeing either members of cast or costumed ‘black-gang’ making the changes in a well-rehearsed manner might maintain the audiences interest level and avoid having to rebuild the energy after a dark stage – just a thought.  

 You were blessed with a talented and experienced group of principals who showed no weaknesses in acting delivery: interacting amongst themselves, with the audience and even alone with great believability, clarity and no little charm. It was however the performances elicited from the very youngest performers that particularly impressed; all were clear, confident, believable and sweet without ever becoming ‘saccharine’ and also remained resolutely in-character – no easy feat for a director to achieve. Casting was very good indeed but I did struggle slightly when The Evil Queen was enjoining us to agree that she was beautiful and we were required to disagree – She is stunning! 

Stage Picture
 Striking backcloths provided colour and depth, enhanced by various items of stage furniture like the magnificent four-poster. This deceptively simple staging allowed the creation of attractive stage pictures using the beautifully costumed cast. Straight lines of actors reciting lines is the bane of amateur panto but this was never seen – from the opening number featuring song and dance by a cast of thousands, eye-catching scene after scene followed. Use of Space was impressive – every inch of the stage and much of the auditorium were utilised: from full-cast numbers dancing spectacularly across the full width and depth to Molly Muddles sprinting around everywhere to the Dame’s noisy and funny entrance through the auditorium.  

The place felt ‘full of pantomime’.  Attention to detail from the director was very good indeed too; even the slapstick routine was tightly managed. The direction showed a real love of pantomime and maintained the traditions very effectively: Baddy on stage left, traditional PB costume, changes for the Dame and family-friendly language. I was a little unsure about the suitability of the ‘bed scene’ with The Evil Queen and Prince Artemis tussling on the four-poster. Somehow it did not seem to scam with the innocence of the rest of the show (or I may be getting unreasonably prudish in my dotage?). Otherwise this was a top-flight pantomime, expertly directed. Excellent. 

 Musical Director Tom Billings fronted a very small band comprising Bass, Reeds, Percussion and Keyboard to produce a surprisingly full, orchestral sound and feel to the accompaniment. The band were tight and organised, supporting the singing superbly. Singing from principals and ensemble alike was of a very high order. Harmony was widely used and some excellent voices were on show. Arrangements were right for all songs and the length was appropriate. Vocal Tutor Elspeth Salmon had clearly worked hard with many, as the quality across the board was noticeable. Very well done. 

Stage Management
 Stage Management under Stage Manager Sarah Vowles and DSM Helen Bulman was neat, tidy, quiet and slick. The hired cloths and sets were adapted to the Strode stage perfectly and scene transitions were pleasingly quick. I mentioned under ‘Direction’ that I would have liked to see a little less ‘dark time’ but this was overall, the individual transitions were very timely. Performers made prompt entrances and even large groups made clean exits. Well managed. 

 The lighting design by Chris Sealy, using Bright* Production Services equipment worked very effectively. I see no program credit for operators but changes were smooth, not over complex and enhanced the mood of the scene on stage without ever up-staging it. Follow-spot was crisp and accurate. Good work all. 

 Sound Engineer Dave Riley, assisted by Lewis Packham, using Northern Lights Productions equipment produced a reasonable result. The acoustics at Strode can be challenging, particularly with a fairly powerful band and varies greatly depending on where one sits in the theatre. For me clarity was just good enough. I could hear pretty much every word but I would struggle to say ‘excellent’. Mic cuing and balance were very well managed and there was a pleasingly professional lack of pops, crackles and bangs. Well done. 

Properties Andy and Mo Pickford’s props were spot-on. Everything from yellow dusters in Nine to Five to The Evil Queen’s lovely fan. I should think the props table was groaning. Everything seemed to blend and suit the moment. Very well done. 

Effects I liked the ‘steam jet’ effects DSR and DSL – a good visual impact without choking the audience. I was also very impressed (not sure that this is an effect  but I wanted to mention it somewhere!) with the fabulous Mirror: Great design which really worked and looked superb. 

 Choreographer Sarah Neale must have a huge and scary whip during rehearsals: judging by the huge amount of work that had clearly gone into the many, excellent dance elements of this panto. From the full-company splendour of Can’t Stop the Feeling to the fun of 9 to 5 or the dramatic He’s a Pirate or the lovely balletic, modern dance in the Spooky Woods there was variety, quality and energy. It was even good to see Sarah herself dancing and looking younger than many of the teenagers on stage! Excellent work. 

 Accepting (in the absence of information to the contrary) that the majority of costumes will have been hired or borrowed, rather than made specifically for the show costume was very good indeed. Going firmly along the ‘traditional’ line (which I like very much) Prince Artemis looked suitably dashing, Snow White looked exactly how she should (especially to a boy like me, raised on Disney), The Evil Queen looked magnificent and glamorous, Molly Muddles was the perfect rag-doll, the two idiots look daft enough and the Dame was suitably gruesome. In a perfect world I would have liked to see a full change of costume (rig & wig) per scene for the Dame but I understand that there are limits! Ensemble costume sets looked great and the animal and insect ‘specials’ were gorgeous. The Dwarfs were nicely colourful and the Walkdown set was spectacular. Wardrobe Mistress Di Gifford and her assistants Sarah Neale and Janet Black should be proud of their work. Very good indeed. 

Hair, Wigs & Makeup
 The ‘look’ of the panto was highly professional – the attention to detail across the board was very high. From the Dame’s ‘beautiful’ tresses to Molly’s bunches hair and wigs, managed by Di Gifford all looked tidy and appropriate. Makeup too was very well presented: I liked the minimal touch for the Dame – no clown-mask here. It allowed him/her to use clear facial expression to good effect. The principal boy and girl both looked clean-cut and pretty, the ‘Baddy’ nicely nasty. I loved Molly’s freckles and the way the Dwarfs were not over-done. The ensemble all looked healthy and natural. Daisy Lailey, Marie Slater, Adele Loxton and Annie Cave know what they are doing! Very well done. 

 This was a funny script and also featured some very funny pieces of business. Comedy plays a huge part in pantomime, and generally comes from the pair of Brokers Men and the Dame. In this show the Dame, Nurse Nelly was also aided and abetted by a side-kick, Molly Muddles. Comedy was generally very well handled although, as I mention in ‘Direction’, the audience missed quite a few of the cleverer gags. Occasionally heavily ‘pointing up’ jokes can be effective but can also slow the pace, particularly with the sheer quantity in this script! So the Director’s apparent decision to ‘go with pace’ seems sensible. The Dame’s stand-up worked very well – I particularly liked the thermometer joke- and his/her handling of comedy worked well throughout. There were several quick-fire question/answer shticks between Broker’s Men and sometimes including the Dame. These were superbly performed and were often very funny. Slapstick was well worked and the aforementioned ‘falling off a log’ routine was genius. 

 Every Panto needs a Villain – you had The Evil Queen and her two dozy henchmen, Ratfink and Weasel. The imperious Queen worked very well in her role of audience-stirrer – from the word ‘Go’ she was engaging the audience, controlling them effectively and raising great boos and hisses. This audience-engagement is the lifeblood of panto and was well managed. Played stylishly and with some great timing the Queen quickly became the best sort of villain: the one we love to hate. 

 Romance in panto is traditionally seen between the Principal Boy and Principal Girl. Both of them are really girls so sometimes it can feel a bit awkward. Snow White and Prince Artemis worked well and naturally together and we were entirely comfortable yet convinced of their love. Ahhh. 

 If I have missed any character or individual from this piece please take this section as including you. Every show depends on every member of the cast maintaining the magic of theatre, transporting us the audience to the “world” of the story told, the slightest mistake can break the magic: each must always be “in character” focussed, concentrating and smiling, from the smallest part to the biggest star.  This was all very well achieved. Every player from the very youngest to the more ‘mature’ remained focussed and engaged throughout. Very well done all. 

The Evil Queen - Jessy Stradling
 Jessy, The Baddy- what a great role! You fully inhabited it, looked brilliant and maintained a great, good-humoured, wicked persona. The audience loved to hate you. Your presence, audience control and interaction with other cast members were spot-on. I liked Evil Woman very much and you even revealed a talent for dance! Excellent.  

Molly Muddles – Amelia Chinnock-Schumann
 Amelia, I bet you sleep well after each performance! I have rarely seen more energy from any performer short of the Olympics. You absolutely lived Molly: energetic, hugely likeable and very engaging. I particularly liked your physicality of expression: emphases being made with arms, legs, everything. Your pieces straight-to-audience were absolutely confident and assured and you can even sing! Excellent 

Nurse Nelly – Glynn Webster
 Glynn, I’m guessing this is not your first time on the stage or as Dame and it is a real pleasure to watch a Dame so fully in control of everything: energy, lines, gags, movement, singing, timing and audience interaction. Excellent. 

Snow White – Niamh Small
 Niamh, you looked amazingly like every little boy or girl’s image of Snow White. Not simply in appearance but also in your gently confident deportment and movement; lovely, effortless singing; natural acting and charm. This was a very strong performance indeed. Excellent.  

Prince Artemis – Bethany Baker
 Bethany, you achieved that difficult balance for any Principal Boy: playing a strong, thigh-slapping boy but still remaining distinctly feminine under it all. I liked your stance and you slap a mean thigh. I wonder, though if slightly slowing your spoken deliver might enhance your performance even further. I enjoyed your singing and you certainly looked every inch the Prince. Very well done. 

The Mirror – Judi Neale
 Judi, I thought your ‘take’ on The Mirror was great. She was dry and very funny- the tone was just right. Managing the mirror operation on top of delivering your character must have added plenty of extra pressure too. Very well done. 

Ratfink & Weasel – Justin Hodge & Matthew Maisey
 Gents, I have lumped you together because you were a real double act. I very much liked your interactions together – the quick-fire stuff in particular. I have mentioned the ‘log’ scene several times – fantastic. Your timing, energy and precision of performance whilst managing to look confident and entirely relaxed  was impressive (especially as Matthew was also directing!). Excellent. 

The Dwarfs
 Dwarfs, I am sorry that I haven’t been able to give you all individual critiques but there were so many of you that it is impossible for an old bloke like me to manage. However I thought you were all very good indeed. You were all very clearly spoken and word-perfect. All of your movement and singing were impressive and you all stayed fully in-character at all times. I hope that I will see many of you in many shows in the future. Very well done. 

 I am very aware, from experience, that a huge amount of hard work goes into delivering a show and special credit should be given to all those unseen workers, seamstresses, chaperones, front of house, set builders et al, without whom the show could not go on. Yours was a very strong pantomime in all areas and I would like to thank you all for giving my wife and me a very enjoyable evening.
 Thank you for inviting me.
 Ian Hurdman 

Review by Leigh Conley NODA SW Regional Representative, District 8.

 First of all I must take my hat off to Matthew Maisey and can only guess that he must hate having time off over Christmas!   Why else would anyone choose to write; direct and star in a Panto that starts with a dress rehearsal on Boxing Day!   However hard the task may have been Super Matthew was obviously up for the challenge and the whole production seemed to come together very well. 

  I noticed from the programme that you hired costumes and scenery and this proved to be a good decision.   The scenes were laid out using back cloths and props and looked good and helped set the scenes well, which highlight the fact that simple done well can be very effective.   Although bearing in mind the simplicity of the sets, there were a few scene changes that seemed to take a little too long,  most notably was the change from ‘Nelly’s First Aid Room’ to ‘Elsewhere in the Palace’, which looked like it would have benefitted from bringing the curtain down and then clearing the stage,  instead of the other way round.   

Costumes were also hired in (well some at least) and, again, these looked very effective, especially the walk down outfits;  the prince’s outfits and the queens outfits, although it would have been nice to see Nurse Nelly in a few more glamorous costumes. 

The lighting by Bright Production Services was good and worked well throughout the production.   

The sound quality by Dave Riley and Northern Lights Productions was also good and there were no obvious mic problems or feedback, something that I have witnessed in other productions this year.   

The band, under the musical direction of Tom Billing, was also very good and it was a sure sign of their quality that it was hard to tell if it was the live band or a backing track playing.   The comedic musical touches added by Tom and the band were great and added to the production well.   Unfortunately some of the songs were slowed down and this meant they lost a bit of their impact, most notably ‘Bills’ which did not suit being played slowly. 

Super Matthew’s writing was good and showed a clear leaning towards old school style comedy.   Unfortunately, the first act was a little slow paced but did finish in spectacular form with the incredibly funny Wood Scene/”Yours” song, which had me crying with laughter.   The first act closed with the introduction of the seven dwarfs who showed what an amazing talented crop of youngsters GSMCS has and what a bright future the club surely has.   All of the dwarfs/children were a real credit to your society and it seems unfair to single any out for special praise  but Rhys Anderson definitely embodied his character of Cranky incredibly well (I hope he was acting!) and how cute was Elsie May-Govier as Dozey,  of course the night I came to see the production, you were using Team A but based on their talent I am sure Team B were just as good.   However, apparently, GSMCS are a little bit selfish and not only do you have enough talented youngsters to produce fourteen dwarfs, you also have enough talent to produce two sets of youth dancers;  two sets of intermediate chorus and two sets of junior chorus!!!!  All of whom did you proud, as did your three dancers and your adult chorus (how many people were in this production????).   

Particularly impressive were the youngsters in “Somewhere Out There” and the dance routines in “Poison Ivy” and “He’s a Pirate” and hats off to Sarah Neale whose choreography was exceptional throughout the whole show. If it isn’t enough that you guys have so many talented youngsters you also have adult talent too!   All of the main players played their parts well and the comedy pairing of Super Matthew Maisey as Weasel and Justin Hodge as Ratfink was definitely a highlight  as was the singing of Niamh Small and Jessy Stradling as Snow White and The Queen.   

Amelia Chinnock-Schumann showed she has an exceptional stage presence in the role of Molly Muddles,  but her constant over hamming and larger than life reactions became irritating after a while, which was a shame because as mentioned she clearly has an amazing gift for performing  which could be seen in the lovely way she dealt with the children from the audience.  It was also lovely to see Katie Spraggon in her role as Nurse Nelly’s Assistant; she was definitely a crowd pleaser.   One thing that did come across strongly was a sense of teamwork and all of the main players; chorus members and youngsters all worked together incredibly well and it was obvious that everyone was having fun.   This was evident on many occasions but most notably when you could see the cast were having adlibbed hi-jinks, the best of which was when Jessy pulled out Matthew’s nose tissues.   I am a big fan of silly moments like this as it shows you guys having a good time, and if you are having a good time then so will the audience. 

I was particularly impressed that you were selling your own merchandise (£1 badges) a really effective idea that I am not ashamed to admit I will be stealing for future productions.   I also loved the fact that the whole cast came out to greet the audience as they left, I felt this was a really nice touch and a very lovely idea and am sorry that I didn’t have time to stop and chat.   

Overall I had an enjoyable evening and, again, would like to congratulate Super Matthew; Laura; Sarah; Tom and Vocal Tutor Elspeth Salmon for bringing the whole thing together, so well, over the Christmas period.   I am sure that this was not an easy thing to do, so well done and I look forward to visiting you again soon.  

Cinderella Trophy Review by Nigel Ford

 It was a delight venturing to the Strode Theater in Street again. It has been several years since I was last here.  Glastonbury & Street Musical Comedy Society were presenting Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and what a fun packed and frolicking afternoon this turned out to be.  The script, written by Matthew Maisey, contained all the ingredients of a traditional pantomime with plenty of booing and lots of slapstick, we were certainly in for some winter cheer. 

We had delightful pairing with Snow White (Niamh Small) and Prince Artemis (Bethany Baker) making this fairy tale romance believable.  You have an outstanding voice Niamh although your diction was rather hurried in places.  The Seven Dwarfs (Team A) were lovable from the moment they appeared on stage and what a delight to watch Dylan treading the boards again (an actor in the making I am sure!).  The Junior Chorus (Team A) were also exceptional in their roles. 

The Evil Queen (Jessy Stradling) was booed on her first entrance right to the end, having great rapport and perfect voice control.  

I enjoyed the antics of Nurse Nelly. With more experience I am certain you will have all the ingredients of that robust Dame we all love to see.  I would have enjoyed seeing more outrageous costumes and those trainers and slip-on shoes certainly needed to be replaced by Doc Martens!  

The comedy duo Ratfink and Weasel (Justin Hodge and Matthew Maisey) added great humour to this production.  Nelly's First Aid Room was well rehearsed and the comical timings, when you were sitting on the wall with Snow White, were hilarious.  You need to remove your wedding ring though Ratfink!  Congratulations must also go to Molly Muddles (Amelia Chinnock-Schumann) who held this show together with comical flair and tremendous energy.  You had great eye contact and worked your audience well.  

The creation of the mirror was extremely effective and cleverly thought through adding a somewhat comical deviation from the norm. Well done David.  

All sets were most impressive especially the dungeon. A great choice using Scenery Hire Ltd. All scene changes were quietly and swiftly executed  whilst lighting was most effective and used creatively throughout this production.  

The programme mentioned you had been worrying for months over the spelling of Dwarfs/Dwarves.  As I see it, Dwarfs is always associated with Snow White whilst Dwarves were created in 'Lord of the Rings'. Hope this helps! 

Thank you all for your hospitality and most enjoyable afternoon. I enjoyed every moment. 

Adjudicator: Gerry Parker

 Over the Christmas period I saw two of the over three hundred versions of the story of Cinderella and was fascinated by the enormous variations in the two versions of the same story.  The Charles Perrault 1692 version provided a good basis for the presentation at Bath’s Theatre Royal and at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol the Travelling Light Company moved on just over one hundred years to tell the story as seen through the rather more serious eyes of the Brothers Grimm.

 Although there do not appear to have been so many previous versions of the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, the Brothers Grimm’s 1812, with a final revised edition in 1854, was by far the most accepted source of the story until Walt Disney’s ground breaking 1937 animated version appeared with the Dwarfs acquiring individual names (which I believe are still the copyright of the Disney Corporation) and a memorable group of songs.  

 Whilst waiting for the script of this show to appear I cogitated long and hard  on what version, or for that matter the several real life events that some historian claim are the basis for Grimm’s tale,  your Writer/Director had looked to when creating this Pantomime version of so beloved a story.  

 Despite not having access to the music and script, including those iconic Dwarfs’ names, I think it is fair to say that this show owes more to Walt and his animators than to the Brothers Grimm.  Without slavishly following the animated images found in the Disney film, the Wardrobe Team kept very much to the spirit of that presentation, the Queen had a great deal of black in her costumes, the Dwarfs replicated their drawn images fairly closely, and the other principal characters, with the allowed exception of Nurse Nellie and Molly Muddles, fitted readily into the picture of the story that most of the audience found easily recognisable.

 The adaptations that had been made to the hired sets ensured that the visual pictures created fitted comfortably into the acting area offered by the Strode Theatre.  A well designed, expertly delivered lighting plot enhanced these pictures, as did the nicely chosen properties.  

 Just as the production was robbed of those iconic Dwarfs’ names so also there was no access to the much-loved group of songs associated with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.  Choosing suitable replacements for these numbers is an extremely difficult task.   The temptation is to go for a modern group of ‘pop’ songs that would be appealing, and quickly recognisable to a young audience.  The problem with going down that road is that very few of the ‘latest hits’ sit easily within a ‘Pantomime’ version of this story.  I presume we have to thank the Director and MD for the clever mixture of songs that made up the score for this show.  There was quite a range of sounds and periods amongst the choice, Buddy Holly’s 1959 hit ‘Raining in My Heart’, from the 60’s, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘59TH Bridge Song’ and Lulu’s Eurovision Song Contest entry, ‘Boom, Bang, A Bang’, ‘That Thing You Do’ from 1996 and the 2013 number, ‘He’s A Pirate’.  These were all arranged in fine style {By the MD?) to fit the array of instruments.

 Missing from that list is the oldest number on view, and in many ways an inspired choice to close Act 1, ‘Spread A Little Happiness’.  Although it had a late revival following Sting’s recording taken from the sound track of ‘Brimstone and Treacle’, the song originates from the 1929 show, ‘Mr Cinders’, a reversal of the Cinderella story.  I saw a revival of it a few years back and as a small-scale musical it still has a great deal to offer.  In the hands of this Director, MD, Choreographer, Stage, Lighting and Sound teams it formed the basis for an excellent first half finale.  

 I mentioned the MD in that last paragraph and with him, of course, goes the well-disciplined Orchestra, who provided splendid support to soloists and full chorus throughout proceedings.  Alongside the MD and Orchestra must go the Sound Team responsible,  as they are in virtually all modern musical productions for creating an acceptable balance between singers and musicians.  Even sitting as close to the Orchestra as I was in Row B, I was never aware that either they or the vocalists were too dominant in any number and so the Sound team’s efforts must receive a plus mark.  

 Although I believe that the show would have benefited from losing at least fifteen minutes from the first half, I cannot in all fairness claim that Act 1 dragged in any way because of being played at too slow a pace.  Scene changes were, with only a couple of exceptions, quickly and efficiently carried out, cues into music and dialogue were invariably tight and as a result the overall pace of the production was good.  

Individual Performances
 Prince Artemis

This Prince was a bit of a hybrid, visually a mixture of the animated Disney character and a traditional pantomime Principal Boy, with a couple of ‘thigh slaps’ thrown in for good measure.  Vocally the songs, ‘Boom Bang A Bang’, ‘We Could Be Together’ and ‘Raining in My Heart’ originating in 1967, 1989, and 1967 respectively provided quite a variation in styles for you to tackle.  The rousing ‘Boom Bang A Bang’ which Lulu sang 1n the 1969 Eurovision Contest found you doing vocal battle with The Queen and holding your own very well.   Like many a romantic duet, the Debbie Gibson number, ‘We Could Be Together’ is not one of those that grabs the audience by the throat and will not let go, but with your two voices blending well together it served a good purpose on this occasion.  

 Left all alone to deal with the old Buddy Holly hit, ‘Raining in My Heart’ you delivered the package confidently. Having already presented a nice pictorial image, shown that the vocal challenges were well within your range and handled the dialogue that had come your way more than just competently, I felt that a little too much diffidence remained in the overall character as you met up with each new character you came into contact with.  As more confidence appeared so did your portrait of the Prince grow in stature.   You played the pieces of comedy that came your way as nicely as the romantic interludes with Snow White showing that here was a player with a good range of talents to offer.

Snow White

I have seen Snow White played in such a prissy, sickly sweet manner that I, and I suspect more than half of the audience, began to side with the Wicked Queen.  How nice then to find a characterisation which, whilst living up to its name, was not one bogged down in a morass of sentimentality.  When you first appeared before that attractively designed Castle garden backcloth you had a built-in rapport with the other members of the company who shared ‘Sh-Boom’ with you.  It was no surprise when the Prince was attracted to this beautiful, positive young lady rather than the predatory older Queen.  A romantic duet was obviously on the cards, and although the one chosen was not memorable in itself it fitted the situation ideally, and was given full value by you and the Prince.   It is always nice to see a change of costume and your move from the traditional appearance into more autumnal colours gave us a good change of visual picture.  However, as you quickly returned to the traditional Snow White costume and remained with it throughout the rest of the show, it did all seem a bit like a change for change’s sake.  

 Well supported by the Junior chorus, working in front of another fine backdrop, you sang ‘Somewhere Out There’ with warmth and feeling, underlining the lovely character you were creating.   It is always a tricky moment when the Dwarfs appear; getting the relationship between them and Snow White just right is no easy matter.  Thanks to some admirable settings and good mime from the Dwarfs when they first discover the sleeping Snow White any problems in this area were quickly resolved.  The progression from this first meeting into the scene moved seamlessly into the, ‘Spread a little Happiness’ number and the end of Act 1.  I did wonder about the wisdom of the Juniors joining Snow White and the Dwarfs for this ‘big’ ending, only to immediately change my mind as the whole group neatly choreographed and in good voice, built the scene into a suitable first half closer.

 A word here about the length of that first Act.  It is fair to say that the performance I attended did not suffer from many of the younger members of the audience fidgeting, at least none sitting in my vicinity, but you are gambling on that happening when an opening Act runs for an hour and a half and a little judicious pruning might pay dividends in the long run.  

 Neither would an opportunity for Snow White to have been more fully involved in a song in Act 2.  She really did get pushed very far back in the production after the interval.  Nevertheless, her strong personality made sure that she did not fade out of the picture completely, giving the Queen someone to continually plot against, and the Prince and Dwarfs someone worthy of their love.

Nurse Nelly

Underused and underdeveloped are words that come to mind when looking at the input to the show from this gorgeously grotesque character.  There was never any doubt from your opening entrance and immediate attempt to engage with the audience that here was a player who was completely comfortable waring the Dame’s costumes, wigs, and make up.  The well-trod road of distributing sweets to the audience was played with a fine sense of fun.

 The introduction of a ‘Dame’ character into this story has presumably two functions, one to bolster the comedy aspects of the story, and secondly to place the production more in the genre of traditional pantomime.  Whilst both of these functions were enhanced by the inclusion of Nurse Nellie in the storyline, it was done in a manner that placed the character more on the periphery of the story than would be the case in a traditional pantomime.   It is not usual to find a ‘Silly Billy’ type character on hand to work in tandem with the ‘Dame’, and Molly Muddles fitted neatly into that role.  It is also quite common to find two additional comedy characters, like ‘Ping’ and ‘Pong’ in Aladdin’.  What is less usual is that these three characters combined to dominate much of the comedy input, leaving the ‘Dame’ at times play what the Americans would describe as ‘Second Banana’.    In the much appreciated ‘Slapstick’ routine, you showed that you were as happy playing physical comedy as you were making the most of some outrageously corny dialogue.

 Equally nicely presented were the vocal inputs, duetting admirably with Molly, and combining in the same vein with the energetic Juniors in the ‘9 to 5’ number.  The business with children from the audience joining you and Molly on stage was hampered by no hand ‘mic’ for you to wield.  Was there supposed to be one on hand, and somehow it became lost in the shuffle?  Around this time in an effort to bring the comedy, (which was flagging for a moment or two), back on track, you indulged in a few ‘In’ jokes, always a dangerous thing to do.  You, and others on, and off stage, find these jokes funny, but the audience who have no idea what the background to them is are either baffled or annoyed because they have not been let in on the gag.  Let me say immediately that I am talking of a very little deviation from the script, so no great danger of audience alienation, but still something to be avoided. That aside, this was a character who always had a good relationship with the audience played by someone who in different circumstances with a script that was more generous towards them would be capable of holding the comedy centre stage throughout any show.

The Evil Queen

This is a gift of a part, always providing that the person cast in it has a big enough personality to take full advantage of the chances on offer.  The answer to that question is a definite yes - visually, vocally, and dramatically here was an actress who fitted the role to a tee.  You wore the well-chosen costumes, high boots and all with the sort of arrogance that befitted a woman who would brook no challenge to her claim to being the most beautiful lady in the land.  When you reacted as you did to the Prince’s proposal of marriage to Snow White, having a moment or so previously preened yourself to accept his proposal, the facial and body language told us more about you than pages of dialogue would have done.  When the introduction to, ‘Boom, Bang A Bang’ began I wondered if it was going to be a good choice for such a pairing and for this part of the story.  The way in which you both set about the task soon allayed any doubts I might have held in that direction.    

 I am always a little suspicious when ‘canned music’ is introduced, and so it took me a moment or so to appreciate your work with the Dancers in ‘He’s A Pirate’.  Cleverly choreographed to add drama to the movement, you took advantage of the chance not only to show off your ability as a ‘Song and Dance’ lady, but also to highlight the true evil that lurks just below the surface of this ‘pantomime’ villain.   Just one small note of caution; there were moments when you came perilously near to pushing the character too far, and thereby diminishing rather than adding to its impact.  Fortunately, this was too skilled a practitioner to let so much good work be undermined for even a moment, so please accept those words as ones of caution, not criticism.

The Mirror

 The Writer/Director was taking a chance when he decided to make ‘The Mirror’ a member of the cast rather than a clever mixture of lights, sounds and a disembodied voice.  Nicely designed as the ‘costume’ was, I did wonder when you first appeared about the wisdom of taking this course.  With that slightly self-deprecating style of delivery, however, you quickly put such fears in their proper place.  My only query about your appearance was thrown up when during the interval, I examined the production photographs on view in the foyer.  In these you were wearing a long skirt, which for me made for a rather more flattering picture, rather than the short dress seen on stage during the performance I viewed.  The perfectly acceptable costume you wore did not prevent you from very quickly creating and maintaining a rapport with the audience.  This ‘Mirror’ provided a home for a shrewd character with few, if any, illusions about her mistress, and a definite leaning towards the causes of Snow White and Co.  Firmly portrayed from the outset, this character never wavered throughout, making her an ideal ‘straight man’ in scene after scene on whom others could rely on for an ideal target to react to and bounce ideas off.  

Molly Muddles

A hard-working lass involved in so much of the comedy business being played out and numerous musical numbers, Molly was someone who would have to be utterly reliable if she was to be an asset to the production.  Fortunately for all concerned you turned out to be a very reliable performer.  From the word go you worked hard to set up and maintain a close rapport with the audience, although you could have pushed the response from them to your ‘Feeling Groovy’ request a trifle harder, at times you let us get away with too light-weight a response to your appearance. That rather old fashioned ‘Sh-Boom’ number found you ready, willing and able to pull your weight in a group song and this style of vocal presentation was to be seen to good effect with the Juniors in, ‘9 to 5’, and in the two duets with Nurse Nellie. That ‘Dinner Service’ gag lacked a little conviction to bring out its full flavour, but with so many others involved in its development I can hardly lay the blame for this solely at your door.  The ‘coddle’ word routine was another routine that was only partially successful, on this occasion it served to underline too much reliance on the script and not enough use of mime to bring out the full comedy in the situation.  

 Where the blame should be placed for this, Writer, Director and/or the players involved we must leave to those involved to agree, or disagree on.   On the reverse side of the comedy coin there can be no question of which scene was the audiences favourite, the ‘custard pie’ slapstick one.  You did not draw back for a moment at the thought of being ‘gunged’ and as a result helped this scene to bring some traditional pantomime humour to life.   I have already commented on the absence of a ‘mic’ for the interlude with the children from the audience, a scene in which despite this problem you showed that this was performer who knew the way to play pantomime, and the importance of keeping a close rapport with the audience.

Ratfink and Weasel

May I first complain on behalf of ‘Ratfink’ for saddling a pantomime character with such a disagreeable name.   There are many examples of comedy pairings like this duo acting as support to the principal humorous figures within a pantomime, few however have as many chances as this pairing did to be the dominant factor in scenes.  A well balanced pair, this couple were fully equipped to take advantage of these comedy opportunities.  The use of Laurel and Hardy’s distinctive signature tune, ‘The Dance of the Cuckoos’ for your first entrance gave us fair notice that Ratfink and Weasel were not going to be mere supporting players in the laughter stakes.    Having already established your ability to handle verbal comedy you then happily joined in the ‘Slapstick’ scene, which although it would have benefited from a little more urgency in the delivery was still, as is almost always the case, the most popular comedy anywhere to be found in the show.  The ‘Yours’ routine between you and Snow White was another place where you showed how valuable team work is in developing comedy.  No chance for you to build on your individual musical input in Act 2, but by then the characters were so well established they made a definite impression in every scene in which they took part, adding always to the humour being generated in the scene.  

The Seven Dwarfs

By chance I found myself in the Ice Cream queue during the interval, next to two ladies who were supports of Dwarf Teams A and B, and from the conversation it became apparent that a great deal of friendly rivalry existed between the two teams.   One thing is certain, no matter how committed the team that were ‘resting’ on the occasion that I saw the production were, they could not have given more of themselves than the group which I saw occupying the stage.  It would be invidious to pick out individuals because on every occasion that someone had an opportunity to take centre stage they did so with the alacrity of a starving beggar who had come across a feast of wonderful food.  That being said, the best of these opportunities fell to the smallest of the group who promptly and perfectly naturally and without really trying, ‘upstaged’ all those sharing the scene with them.   In this story, we have to wait quite some time before these important characters appear, and therefore if they prove not to be up to scratch it is very disappointing for an audience.  This seven, as I am sure the other seven waiting in the wings also did, disappointed no one, providing just the sort of characters we were all expecting and love.  

The Dancers, Dancers Team A, Dancers Team B

 The old saying that opportunities were as scarce as ‘hen’s teeth’ could be applied to these groups.  Within the format of this show there were only two places, ‘He’s a Pirate’ and ‘Poison Ivy’ where dance is the dominant factor in a scene, and even there the limited space available to the Choreographer to set the numbers hampered the extent to which the Dancers could show off their skills.  Despite this, in both numbers we had enough of a glimpse of the sort of talent that was available within the production to make us wish that more and greater opportunities had been available to them.

Adult Chorus, Intermediate Chorus A and B, Junior Chorus A and B

 Nice to see so many young men in the Adult Chorus, something that bodes well for the future of the society.  With that in mind, I must ask where were they in the Intermediate Team? And a special cheer for the two boys to be found in the Junior teams.   This is not meant as a criticism in any way, just a hint to any would-be young male thespians that in modern musical theatre you have to be able to be able to perform the occasional dance step as well as sing and deliver dialogue.  Like anything in life, the earlier you learn the rudiments of anything the easier it is, and the stronger the platform you have to build from.   Most importantly the club was able to turn out a goodly number of energetic young performers and have an equal number waiting in the wings, who brought both energy and drive to the production, helping to bring the scenes in which they were involved alive with bubbling enthusiasm.

 Thank you for your help in arranging my visit for the last performance of the production and the contact, prior to ‘curtain up’.  The interval ice cream was also much appreciated.   I trust I did not upset anyone scribbling notes in the middle of a row.