This year’s seasonal offering form the Playhouse, sees the talented creative team of Ben Occhipiniti, Mark Powell and Mark Clements come together for another successful show. Clements has written the previous three pantos for the Playhouse and together with Occhipiniti (director and composer) and Powell as lyricist, have created a lively interpretation of panto with original music. The end result feels more like a polished musical than what you would normally expect from panto. The musicians, Jack Merivale (piano) and James Gilbert (percussion) bring a simple but effective interpretation of the music, with the percussion really emphasising the story.
It is quite obvious that the cast are having fun as their performances are so well in harmony with each other. Mark Anderson plays Jack Trott as typical local lad, with just the right amount of panto camp. Alan McMahon’s Dame is perfect with quick fire gags appealing to the adults and bright costumes, a different one for every scene. Christopher Robert as the Mayor Bertram brings the correct level of pomposity and absurdness. Tim Treslove as baddy Ivor Bogey is great and certainly grips the audience at each appearance with just the right amount of nasal references.
Sammy Andrews, Rose Bertram, is the perfect side kick to Jack Trott and Emily Butterfield as the Fairy Sweet Pea keeps the show moving with lively singing and fairy campness. But for me the stand-out performance is by Denise Hoey, as the bumbling incompetent Silly Jilly, who is superb. She really does bring all the best panto values to the show. The cast is supported by Team Harp from Stage ’65 Youth Theatre with lively dancing and singing choreographed by Aidan Treays. The representation of the beanstalk is simple and effective and the portrayal of the giant on stage is suitably convincing and he gets to sing his own ‘lullaby’, a nice touch. And of course Daisy the cow steals your hearts.
All in all a great evening’s entertainment with a great cast. There is quite a strong moral theme in the music and lyrics which feel very “Stephen Sondheim” and sometimes does not quite fit with the general lightness of the panto. I fear that the deeper meaning and the strong performances may be lost to the more raucous panto audience.
So if you want to see and be entertained by a well produced and superbly delivered panto with original music, then head for The Playhouse Salisbury.