Robin Hood And The Babes In The Wood ~ Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

Robin Hood And The Babes In The Wood stays at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre until 7 January 2018, to book tickets follow the link: Stafford Gatehouse Theatre Pantomime

Star rating: ******

It’s been a long time since I last saw Robin Hood And The Babes In The Wood performed, and it was a very different incarnation to the Rock ‘N’ Roll version currently being staged at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre. This particular version has become one of my favourite pantomimes of the season! It’s got it all, from a multi-talented who play numerous instruments and characterise their roles perfectly whilst also each having incredible singing voices – to a simple yet stunningly effective and innovatively practical set. You won’t be disappointed if you make it your priority to buy a ticket to this glorious production.

Taking the title role of Robin Hood is Sandy Grigelis and he’s the epitome of a pantomime hero, with a trademark cheesy smile which he flashes at the audience and doesn’t go amiss! His vocal ability lends itself to the various hits that he belted out, from ‘I Fought The Law’ to ‘Born To Run’. Laura Sillett was the perfect match for him as a feisty Maid Marion, an exceptional talent, Sillett brought out the strengths of the character rather than offering her as a meek ‘Princess’ and she’s another strong vocalist too. In fact ‘A Natural Woman’ was one of many highlights for me. Anthony Hunt was terrific as Sheriff of Nottingham, he was dastardly and yet a likeable villain. Samuel Townsend also gave a stand-out performance as Numbskull and Friar Tuck, he’s clearly adept at comedy and his comic timing provided the roles with additional impetus. Dominic Gee-Burch was a fantastic side-kick for Townsend as Portullis the ‘goon’ and was also notable as Little John. Mike Slader and Robert Wade played a number of characters between them, both gave strong performances and it took time for me to realise they were playing multiple roles – they were each so believable in the characters they took on. I was delighted to see the Babes portrayed as two older female ‘babes’ and Rachel Nottingham together with Celia Cruwys-Finnigan were outstanding as Whitney and Britney (insert clicking fingers and growls here!). ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ was another highlight for me which was performed by the Babes and Marion. Finally, Steve Simmonds as Nanny Nelly Nightmare, he was everything a Dame should be – quick witted with an abundance of energy and gave a fearless portrayal.

In short, miss this show at your peril – Stafford have got one tremendous pantomime this year and the Rock ‘N’ Roll genre is innovative and fast becoming my favourite style of panto.

Aladdin The Wok ‘N’ Roll Panto ~ Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

Visit to book tickets. The show is on until 8 January 2017.

Star Rating: ***

Aladdin The Wok ‘n’ Roll Panto by Peter Rowe provided a different take on the traditional with a young cast, all of whom could play instruments and formed their own band on stage.

With music ranging from Tutti Frutti to ABC to Wild Thing to I’m Still Waiting, there were plenty of well selected musical numbers which fitted the theme of each scene and the cast were all talented musicians which was a refreshing take.

The story followed the usual pattern of the missing lamp which Abanazer craves and his ploy to send a young peasant lad (Aladdin) to do the deed for him and the ensuing troubles following the same young tearaway after he is caught looking at and talking to the Princess. Of course there’s a genie into the bargain and Aladdin’s mother in the form of washer woman, Widow Twankey, who has another hapless son in her brood by the name of Wishey Washey.

Michael Hamway was a bright-eyed and spritely Aladdin, Katie Pritchard was full of fun and cheekiness as Cuddles The Monkey, Seren Sandham-Davies was a gentile Princess Lotus Blossom, Steven Simmonds was a very masculine Widow Twankey and Samuel Townsend was quite menacing as Abanazer. The jokes did seem to be aimed at adults for the most part and although the music held the interest of my toddler, he was not particularly engaged with the story, even though he is familiar with it having already seen two other productions of Aladdin this season. Although the cast showed energy and passion, the pace of the show was occasionally too quick and punch lines were lost. It seemed to be packed with toilet humour and some of the more traditional gags would have been welcome.

All of the above having been said, I like the concept of a panto featuring a talented group of all-rounders and there is capacity for this idea to blossom. With a sprinkling of more audience participation and a few more gags for the kids, the potential could be endless. If you’d like to see a fresh new take on this genre of show, give it a try and you’ll be guaranteed a great sing-along to some classic tunes.

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