Wednesday, December 12, 2012


One from the Heart at the Civic Theatre Chelmsford

A pantomime is nothing without music. But where to turn for the numbers between the slapstick and the magic ? So far this season, it's been rock'n'roll classics, an original score, and now here in Chelmsford a raid on the more upbeat offerings from the charts.
Which works very well, with lively songs appropriately arranged for this young panto company, from the Pet Shop Boys' "Go West" [with semaphore flags] to One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful".

Especially impressive vocally is the all-important catTommy Jones [cue "It's Not Unusual"]played by Waylon Jacobs.
There's a nonsense song toovintage Gang Showinvolving the inevitable custard pies, a number from Children of Eden ["Good to See the Sun Again"], a sing-off for the audience, and a noisy megamix encore finale.

Amongst the many energetic routines, most original was the three-way wooing ["Love is All Around"] atop the counter in Fitzwarren's shop. [Fitzwarren himself a victim of austerity cuts, I imagine.]
The stunningly glamorous opening sequence ["In Living Color"]a flying moon bearing the Good Fairy against a star clothfeatures four talented chorus boys, from the Laine School, who provide excellent back-up throughout, in a parade of ever-so-slightly camp costumes.

The show is beautifully designed, picture-book settings, a Shakespearean storm, an old-fashioned tableau for the prediction that ends Act One, and a walk-down against a heraldic staircase with everyone resplendent in gold frocks.

A strong cast, too, with Richard Earl back in Chelmsford as Sarah the Cook and Lewis Barnshaw working the audience as Simple Simon her son. The supernaturals are in the safe hands of Jenny-Ann Topham as the Good Fairy Bowbells [get it ?], and Kivan Dene relishing his role as King Rat, accompanied by his furry minions, variously remote-controlled, or glove puppets, or danced by the children's chorus.

No principal boy here, but the "perfectly proportioned features" of Craig Rhys Barlow, the boy-band handsome Whittington, who eventually wins the hand of Abigail Rosser's Alice.

Simon Aylin's very enjoyable version of Dick Whittington [the City of Chelmsford the starting point for his journey to Old London Town] is stuffed with quick-fire gags, including some very old favourites and a confectionery sketch that is delightfully delivered. And the ghost routine"Wimoweh", no lessinvolves a kick-line of four gorillas and a chase through the stalls. Like the Crazy for You opening, you don't see that every day

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

and for the Chelmsford Weekly News ...

You'll not see a more stylish opening than this in panto: forget dancing on the village green, here we have our Good Fairy flying in on a moon, with four young men in evening dress waiting below.
This is Bowbells, a very forceful East End fairy in Jenny-Ann Topham's performance, who'll tell Dick to turn again and become Lord Mayor.
One from the Heart have come up with another custom-built panto for the Civic, with bandbox-bright sets and a succession of jokes, routines, and numbers from the charts, all delivered with fizzing energy and slick style.
Pleased to see Richard Earl back again as Dame, Sarah the Cook this year, who models herself at least in part on Fanny Cradock, gets to wear some glorious creations and ends up hitched to Kivan Dene's gleefully spiteful King Rat. The other wedding, superbly set against a heraldic backdrop and costumed in gold, sees Craig Rhys Barlow's Dick tie the knot with the glamorous Alice [Abigail Rosser].
Preening and posturing, Waylon Jacobs makes a very watchable Tommy, and Lewis Barnshaw, as Simple Simon, achieves an instant rapport with the kids in the audience.
Custard pies, dancing gorillas, water pistols, pyrotechnics and a One Direction moment. And all done with professionalism, polish and pizazz. Dick Whittington finally hangs up his spotted hankie on January 6 – catch him if you can.

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