Monday, 23 December 2013

Review 3 - Liverpool Post

December 19, 2013
Review by Philip Key

There's something comforting about traditional pantomimes with their familiar stories, familiar characters and familiar jokes.
What really matters is how well they are done and this production at New Brighton is done very well.
The cast is excellent, the costumes just fine and the settings are typically storybook. And for those who like music with their stories, there is a lot, barely a moment passing without a song, a dance, or both.
Writer Andrew Ryan provided the basic script of village lad selling the family cow for a bag of beans, growing a giant beanstalk and climbing it to defeat the evil giant in Cloudland but director Scott Ritchie says both he and his cast added their own topical elements.
That includes references to the recent New Brighton flood ("Morrisons is awash with bargains - there is a sale, a rowing boat..."). Fleshcreep calling the kids "plebs" and numerous name checks for places like  Caldy, Rock Ferry and Seacombe.
The show is very much a team effort with everyone getting a chance to shine including Liverpool singer Sonia, now something of a panto veteran, playing the Vegetable Fairy, a fairy who keeps forgetting which panto she is in.
Bubbling with high spirits, she also gets to sing her number one hit You'll never Stop Me From Loving You.
Wirral-born television children's  presenter Emma Nowell is a perfect princess, a beautiful blonde with a lovely singing voice while fellow kids' TV presenter Ed Petrie is Jack, her love interest and unlikely hero.
There is plenty of comedy with a red-nosed Nick Wilton as the ample Dame Trott bustling all over the stage, a likeable King from David Alcock and Mark James full of non-stop fun as Simple Simon. He often pops up with a daft invention including a DVD recorder ( a DVD stuck on a musical recorder) and delivers some of the old gags with aplomb ("It may be rubbish, but at least it's British rubbish").
Liverpool actor Mark Moraghan bellows to great effect as the evil Fleshcreep while the giant (Jon Kindon) is, well, gigantic.
Traditional elements include a ghost scene ("It's behind you!"), cream pies in the face, a pantomime cow and lots of lively dance scenes with a host of dancers, mostly from local dance and theatre schools.
A three-piece band under Steve Allan Jones delivers great music and in a nice touch they are joined at one stage by numerous animal puppets.
Overall this is a happy experience, indeed the essence of what pantomime is all about.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Review 2 - Liverpool Echo

December 19, 2013
Catherine Jones gets festive at an animated panto

You don't see many panto animals on parade these days. So the arrival of the eyelash-batting Daisy the cow in the midst of the Jack and the Beanstalk mayhem is a retro delight.
Daisy dances, Daisy runs rings around her owners the Trotts, and Daisy emotes soulfully when  she’s packed off to market to help pay the rent.
The production team at the Floral Pavilion, have worked hard on creating the visuals which make the fantastical fairytale real for its young audience.
There’s a proper giant, who has  giant furniture, and a beanstalk that rises magically from the ground and up into the gods.
At the centre of the theatricals is the story, such as it is, of farm boy Jack  (Childrens TV favourite Ed Petrie) and his battle against the fe-fi-fo-fumming giant to rescue the beautiful princess (Emma Nowell) and win her hand in marriage.
Nick Wilton’s colourful Dame Trott, pitched somewhere  between Les Dawson and Ken Dodd delivers mildly blue innuendo with a twinkle,  and Simple Simon, played by the energetic Mark James certainly knows well how to work a young audience.
Sonia too delivers a couple of rousing songs, and a jolly performance as the forgetful fairy, while Child Catcher-esque Mark Moraghan gets the best lines of all as the evil Fleshcreep, threatening to “come down there and paint all your Smarties the same colour.”
The big numbers are belted out with conviction – one involving a surprise and entertaining cameo from a gang of puppets.
As with most pantos, there’s a surfeit of musical numbers. Still, although every show on Merseyside seems to have featured Maroon 5 this season, at least here it’s Daisy the cow who MOOS Like Jagger.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review - Wirral Globe

December 18, 2013
Our reviewer Peter Grant says the Floral's production is one of the strongest traditional pantos in the Merseyside area.

This is one of the strongest traditional pantos in the Merseyside area.
A colourful stage welcomes the audience with some sparkling routines; song and dance numbers and all from star performers who relay the gags with relish.
Pop star Sonia is faultless as the vegetable fairy who has a cute way of forgetting what panto she is actually in. Very funny idea threaded throughout.
She has always been able to switch from drama to musicals with ease.
Mark Moraghan, stage, tv and film star is the hilariously hiss-able Fleshcreep.
His asides to the audience come from a master craftsman.
Mark James, best known for reaching the finals of Britain's Got Talent as Simple Simon is simply perfect.
Aided by multi-talented Nick Wilton of EastEnders fame as Dame Trott, this daft duo must lose a lot of weight during this run due to the multi-layered costumes and all that running around on stage.
Jack is in the capable hands of popular CBBC presenter Ed Petrie - he is the dashing hero...isn't that right, boys and girls...and he woos our lovely princess, courtesy of Hi-5s Emma Nowell, we know we will be going to the wedding ball.
It's a nicely played romance in this top notch, family festive offering.
Numerous villagers make you feel you have stepped into a giant Christmas card.
And now for the giant - there is a magical entrance from a marvellous Mr Big who leaves children open-mouthed in amazement.
I was pretty shocked myself but I still wanted him to get his comeuppance ( I am still a kid at 55).
The four-piece orchestra are superb and keep the tempo rocking along.
Solo singers and ensemble pieces are toe-tappers of the first order.
Listen to Your heart , Monster Mash and the classic Higher and Higher are feel-good winners.
The script flows throughout so all credit to the excellent production team. You know who you are...look behind you for applause.
Oh, there is one other star who milks the story for all it's worth...
Daisy the Cow.
I was feeling sad when she was sold for a bag of beans. Pull the udder one, I hear you say.
There's also a silly but enjoyable ghostie sequence.
This is a wonderful fairy tale of mayhem and fun - a real collective success story for every single person involved.
When you hear the kids boo, laugh and clap you know that its done the job to perfection.
Globe Verdict: Terrifically traditional. 9/10
The show runs until January 5 and tickets from the box office at or 0151 666 0000.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Day 3 in the Big Panto House

An afternoon call today for a bit of singing and dancing. We've now gone through the whole panto, blocking and a doing a bit of tinkering with the script. 
It's a great company this year and it's going to be a lot of fun.

We're rehearsing in the Pacific Road Arts Centre in Birkenhead (which is now sadly closed). It's a converted tram shed and huge!

The transport museum that was there is closed as well and we have to walk between the last remaining trams to get to our rehearsal space.

We're using the empty shops in the museum 
as the music and acting rehearsal rooms,
and the dancers are in the theatre space.

Last night Mark James (our Silly Billy) and I managed to get into Ken Dodd's sold-out show at The Floral Pavilion, which was great; the last time I saw him live was on a family holiday to Bournemouth in 1969.

Today's late start meant I was able to get to Caffe Cream for one of their wonderful homemade Ice Creams.
I went for Key Lime this time and it was delicious, as always.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Boots v Wellies

The Yellow Jelly Doc Martens that I ordered on ebay arrived this morning and now I can't decide which I prefer - the yellow or the green ones that arrived yesterday.

(the boots come with free yellow socks but they'd probably look better with the yellow striped knee highs that I've already got)

I think the yellow ones are more fun, but on the other hand the green ones would look silly; however on my feet they'd be much easier to put on and change out of; maybe I'll alternate them between shows. 

In case anyone's interested, here's some links to the two styles of boot on ebay:


Old boots

The problem with boots has arisen this year because the company that made my old boots no longer exists, and I didn't have any that would go with my new costume. I used to get my boots for about £45 but now I'd only be able to get them for considerably more (well over £100).
I think the wellies or Doc Martens will be alright for my opening spot, but I'll go back into my old leather ones for the rest of the show; I think they'll be more comfortable.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Hot to Trot

Dame Trot is thrilled with her new ankle welly boots, 
which arrived in the post this morning

I needed some green ones to go with my wonderful new costume (and daisy head dress), made for me by 
Michael and Jo at Costume Fairies

I've also ordered some transparent jelly Doc Martens with yellow soles and laces, which I also liked the look of.

Off to New Brighton to start rehearsals three weeks today!
Where did that year go?

Monday, 14 October 2013

This year's script.

Got the script for this year's panto this morning; it still gives me a buzz when it arrives in the post. 
This will be the fourth time I've played Dame Trot, so I'll be digging out my old scripts to see if there's any extra gags or bits of business that I thought of over the years that might be worth suggesting in rehearsals.

Dame Trot in Jack & the Beanstalk
2011    Pavilion, Bournemouth with Chris Jarvis, Debra Stephenson, Brian Capron and Kate Weston
2007    New Theatre, Hull with Cannon & Ball
2001    Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch

Saturday, 12 October 2013

New Brighton 2013

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Booked for 2013

Hooray! Booked for panto this Christmas - my 14th consecutive year playing Dame, and my 6th season for UK Productions. I cant say where I'm playing yet but I'll post full cast details once they are confirmed.