There’s no business like snow business to bring out the best in people - not least a committed, community-minded bunch of super troupers who vow that the show will go on, whatever the weather.
While several potential spectators cried off because of the snow and ice last night (Thursday, January 29), all of The Community Players turned up for the first public performance of their panto at Hasland Playhouse.
The opening show’s proceeds from ticket sales and a raffle, with prizes donated by Ashgate Hospice, went to the hospice, underlining the group’s mission to support good causes. In 27 years, the players’ theatrical efforts have racked up a whopping £64,000 for the benefit of the community.
This year’s offering is Sinbad The Sailor, written and directed by Imelda Cole, and running until Saturday, February 7.
This lively and colourful production is awash with larger than life characters, songs that the kids love, jokes that the adults enjoy and a sprinkling of magic and sparkle.
In his debut role with the company, Chesterfield College drama student Ben Featherstone heads the cast as a singing, dancing Sinbad and rises to the challenge admirably. His duets with Courtnay Wattam in the role of petulant Genie, are among the show’s musical highlights, particularly the crowd-pleasing Let It Go.
Mark Johnson injects bags of comedy into the panto as Dame Aruba, the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter. He even sneaks in a bit of cheeky twerking towards the end, much to the delight of the audience.
Adrian Barker does a great job in revving up the crowd as Aruba’s son Sabu, aided and abetted by Jacob Blood as his sidekick Jack.
But it’s the baddies in the guises of pirates and kingdom ruler who steal the show. Charlotte Bingham, a drama student at Chesterfield College, makes a belting pirate captain Barbarossa with a commanding presence and a booming, Irish voice. Tom Oxley is the well-dressed Caliph, a master of withering looks and put-downs.
Graceful choreography peformed by dancers Kaye Gilbert, Natalie Kirkby, Bethany Kirby and Megan Burdon add to the colourful kaleidoscope of movement.
A lively King of the Swingers introduces the audience to Kerchank the large gorillia, played by Tom Allmark.
Twinkling fairy lights provide a magical backdrop for Angela Burns, playing Calypso the Goddess, to perform a couple of well-sung solos, including a reworded version of Some Enchanted Evening.
Vocally, the best performances included the combined singing of Julie Sykes and Jill Hesketh as the Abba-esque sisters Lulu and Mona, Karon Mather as Lady Catherine and Charlotte Bingham as Barborossa in an unaccompanied rendition of I Had A Dream.
The audience was in great voice too last night. When they weren’t singing along to the songs, they were shouting out the catchphrases.
One little girl caused much merriment when she spotted a treasured family member on stage who was trembling as she hid from the gorilla. “Don’t be frightened Nana Linda,” she yelled.
Don’t we just love this pantomime? Ooh aargh we do!