With a clutch of awards for top panto in as many years, the stakes are high to make it six of the best.
And if there’s any justice, Bolsover Drama Group ought to be clearing a space in their bulging cabinet for the best regional panto trophy awarded by the National Operatic and Dramatic Association.
This year’s well-dressed production is without doubt their finest yet - sparkling like a jewel in the cave within which the hero Aladdin finds himself trapped by his wicked uncle Abanazar.
There’s plenty to commend this production not least how the company get around staging the tricky magic carpet ride. This is done via an impressive ultraviolet scene in which mummies are divested of their bandages to become dancing skeletons and performers in high-vis jackets become snake charmers.
Quality dance scenes, choreographed by co-director Leanne Collins, see the energetic chorus members strutting their stuff to a soundtrack of popular songs including Kung Fu Fighting, I’m Sexy and I Know It and Live While We’re Young.
Taking liberties with songs, the cast create plenty of amusement with Show Me The Way To Use A Brillo and a singalong of The Laughing (Chinese) Policeman, the latter performed while the cave is erected in full view of the audience.
This production is as much a revelation as what lies within that yawning cavern, flagging up the talents of a couple of performers, Keyleigh Constable and Tara Madeley, who have been hiding their lights under very large bushels.
Keyleigh is the epitome of a princess, pretty, beautifully dressed and with a sweet singing voice that sits well with her opposite number, Wendy Blunt who is playing Aladdin. An enchanting duet of A Whole New World is followed by the most difficult song in the whole panto, For Good from the musical Wicked, but its performers rise to the challenge.
Tara’s gift for comedy shines brightly in her role as the bumbling bobby You Dun Wong. She’s the perfect accomplice to seasoned jester Nicky Constable in the role of crazy cop Hu Don Pong. These Chinese crackers roar onto the stage on foot-propelled scooters, blowing whistles and creating mayhem as they hit people on the head with rubber truncheons and mispronounce words to hilarious effect.
Upping the comedy stakes are Paul Holland as the flirty Widow Twankey, a vision in orange velour tracksuit and cool shades, and Chris Peck as her karate-loving son Wishee Washee.
Royalty is well portrayed by Gary Jarvis as the imperious Emperor and Sue Hilton as the princess’s lady-in-waiting So Shy,
Ian Simpson smoulders with evil intent as the villain Abanazar while Donna Knowles reflects the triumph of good over evil as the beautifully dressed Spirit of the Ring.
A wish that Chesterfield Football Club wins the FA cup may be beyond Istvan Koszegi’s powers as Genie of the Lamp, but I predict that a trophy for Bolsover Drama Group is well within reach.
Aladdin is co-directed by Mick Whitehouse with musical direction by Nigel Turner. Catch it at The Bolsover School until Saturday, February 1. For tickets, contact 01246 850402 or www.bolsoverdramagroup.org