I love Christmas and it doesn’t take much for me to feel festive. But if I had needed any more festive spirit, then this show gave it to me in abundance. Arriving at the Regent Centre in Christchurch amidst lots of excited children, I knew I was going to be in for an afternoon of great entertainment.
The Glad Rag Production Company return for a fifth year of festive family entertainment, so it would seem that this is becoming something of a tradition. The stage is set with a simple but beautifully lit Christmas tree, and once settled in my seat enjoying the Christmas music, I didn’t have to wait long before I was transported to the North Pole to meet Santa, who was hosting an Elf Convention. The talented, enthusiastic cast dazzle the audience with their first number, ‘Christmas celebration’. After rapturous applause the characters are introduced, aptly named after everything to do with Christmas: Noel, Ivy, a baby named Tinsel, and Squash, the bounding, fun-filled character who is always looking for those naughty polar bears, Benji and Bruno. Never seeing the bears himself, Squash leaves it to the audience – or rather, he leaves it to the children to shout if they see Benji and Bruno, and in true pantomime style, children can be heard filling the auditorium with ‘We’ve seen the bears’ to which Squash comes back on stage quick as a flash but still misses those bears!
Another character named Sprout is on his travels. He talks to the audience via projection from various parts of the world from Paris to Russia to Germany to New York. Following Sprout’s broadcasts, the company perform well-known songs from the country from which Sprout has just been talking to us. One of the many highlights is the whole company performance of ‘Colour my world’ from the musical, Priscilla Queen of the Desert: vocally brilliant and visually stunning, it left me still singing the song now while writing this review.
Towards the end of the performance we were treated to a wonderful rendition of ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’, sung by Santa and his helpers. The audience can’t help but sing along, and during the finale there is yet more audience participation with ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’. The cast then make their way off the stage and leave Santa himself singing and wishing us all a happy Christmas.
Not only is there West End talent, there is also local talent: a young group of stage performers from the local stage school in Christchurch, apart from taking part in the musical numbers with the whole company, perform ‘ All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth’, which is superb.
The costumes designed and created by Sue Simmerling are absolutely stunning; there is a different set of costumes for each routine and the attention to detail iss perfect. The choreography by Carly Simmerling iss outstanding, and not a foot wrong or a step out of place shows how much work went into this production. There were a few technical issues to do with the radio microphones sometimes not picking up the singers when they should, but this is minor detail in what is a fantastic production. The audience was of all ages from young to old, but everyone left with a smile on their face and ready for Christmas.
Future performances: 18 December at 2.00, 19 December at 7.00, 20 December at 2.00, 21 December at 7.00, 22-24 December at 2.00 and 7.00.