Monday, December 22, 1986

Civic Theatre

The Civic crammed with senior citizens, the Chelmsford Silver Band on stage - it must be the Chelmsford Borough Council's annual command performance, always one of the friendliest occasions in the theatre.
The entertainment this year was as generous as ever, with some of the finest variety artistes in the area giving up their Sunday to entertain this most appreciative of audiences.
Compering the show was Frank Western, better known in Christmases past as Johnny Pedlar, the Norfolk comedian. Arthur Hull, Chelmsford's Cheeky Chappie, wheeled out some veteran gags, mostly pale blue, and three young musicians from King Edward VI School busked through a sprightly set of Dixieland numbers.
Chelmsford Ballet Company's Company B tapped their way through Happy Feet; one of their new numbers this year had a troupe of Mrs Mopps dancing to Hooked-on Mozart.
Springers transferred their Cabaret Spectacular with considerable success from the Cramphorn to the Civic - big brassy numbers like Rhythm of Life and Follow the Band had added breadth and lost nothing of their attack.
CAODS did a very polished sequence of American numbers from the Black Hills of Dakota to Oklahoma, and Young Gen, not for the first time the hit of the show, included this year two dance routines as well as a [?final] look back at Annie, and the Happy Wanderer from their new production of Hansel and Gretel, now running in the Cramphorn.

Friday, January 24, 1986

Snow White

Little Waltham’s pantomime is always worth waiting for – this year’s is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, written and produced by David Madams.
David confesses that he’s not really a panto fan, but he tells me that he’s tried to write something he wouldn’t mind seeing himself.
It did have the awful jokes, the Oh No He Isn’t routines, and Heigh-Ho, but this Snow White was no ordinary pantomime.
Writer/director David Madams cleverly blended the traditional story with an approach equally palatable to the grown-ups in the audience.
The literary references ranged from the Goons and ITMA to Dylan Thomas. Among the less orthodox characters were Marcel the axe-man [Wally Greaves] and the Queen’s daily mirror [Glyn Jones]. Samantha Brannon made a dashing prince in a white tuxedo, Christine Moor was a deliciously evil Isolda, and Rachel Whitely managed to look just right as the heroine whilst coping very professionally as the tongue-in-cheek Seven Go Mad In Waltham dialogue.
The famed Little Waltham chorus line were most amusing as terminally bored Ladies in Waiting.
The ticklish problem of the dwarfs was ingeniously solved by having the little fellows eat Marmite sarnies – the growing-up spread – and turning into a very polished comedy team. The children were led by Matthew Newman as Bossy, who turned into Alastair Irving, an entirely incredible hulk.
“They don’t call this amateur for nothing,” muttered Ringo when the Heath Robinson lights went out. Most unfair – the cast and audience rallied in impromptu community singing, so enjoyable that Eliot and Snow White’s babe in arms were quite sorry when power was restored, thanks to the valiant efforts of Edwin Leach and Ron Hancock, the unflappable stage manager.

Friday, January 03, 1986

The Regent Panto

Pro Panto’s 
Puss in Boots 
at the Regent Theatre

I bet the Regent thought it would never see another panto – it’s the Coral Social Club now, but the original boxes and the ornate mouldings are still there behind the fruit machines and the bingo tables in the orchestra stalls.
Pro Panto brought their pocket Puss in Boots there last Sunday afternoon, woriking wonders with the mantelpiece stage and a lively audience. The whole show was lit by a single float, which brought an air of Victorian melodrama to the proceedings.
The style was Play School rather than Palladium, with no jokes for the grown-ups, and songs kept to a merciful minimum.
Chirpy performances from a small cast [six, I think – there was no programme and some deft doubling]. The Queen of Cat Fairyland, with her fishbone wand, Puss and her friend Jack-In-A-Box, Ginger the Magic Rabbit, Thunderbolt the Demon King in a horned half-mask, in cahoots with the evil Baron Hardnose, Busy Lizzie, the maid of all work, Princess Laura and Tom, the Marquis of Carabas.
I hadn’t set foot in the Regent since The Towering Inferno. It was good to have a last look inside the town’s oldest surviving theatre – thanks to Coral and the enterprising Pro Panto company.