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 cat – Tommy Jones [cue "It's Not Unusual"] – played by Waylon Jacobs.
There's a nonsense song too – vintage Gang Show – involving 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 cloth – features 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 less – involves 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 ...