The first thing to be said about Spot On’s first foray into the world of Pantomime is that it’s lavish, spectacular (not least with regard to the well plotted sound and lighting, crucial elements always), and fantastic value for money… and since I paid for my ticket, I can say that with extra confidence! Author Pob Wyeth’s script has been given some wonderfully energetic direction by Alick Leech, Abbie Jennings’ choreography is a well-prepared joy, and MD Martin Bennett’s terrific 7-piece band provide sterling support throughout, with Matt Lemon’s sparkling arrangements. In some respects, the band are a driving force in the show, and are certainly worked hard throughout – there are 20 songs in all, possibly a few too many for a Pantomime, and even though the singing is of an excellent standard throughout, the evening does occasionally feel a little stretched. I personally would have welcomed a few less musical numbers, and a little more by way of audience participation and interaction, not least since this company are more than equal to that task. Having said that, act two contains an ingenious and very funny routine involving Dick, Alice, and most of all, the band! It really deserves to be seen!
This show has been given a thoroughly professional approach, and again I must mention what great value for money it is. Colourful sets, gorgeous costumes, and (no spoilers) several gasp-inducing special effects. And I haven’t even gotten on to the cast yet!
Emma Harris is a delightfully charming Dick Whittington (how good to see a traditional ‘Principal Boy’), well partnered by Holly Ind’s warm and appealing Alice. Lovely performers (and lovely singers) both. In the Baddie corner, Josh McDonald quickly has the crowd booing and hissing his gloriously bewigged and besnouted King Rat, and Daniel Rogers is a delight as his put-upon rat accomplice, Melvin.
All good pantos need a good Dame, and Adam Rush delivers superbly as Sally the Cook, part feminine and part bruiser, and contributing some hilariously crafty innuendo. I admit with no shame that I adore a bit of innuendo in a panto, and there are several priceless (and faintly eyebrow-raising!) examples along the way. Rush also has a great singing voice, and leads a crowd-pleasing rendition of ‘Go West’.
In a line-up full of delights, Nico Bray and Adam Feltham make an excellent ‘daft’ double-act, so enjoyable to watch that I’d like to think they’d be teamed up again in future pantos. Brian Scrivener brings a fine comic gravitas as Alderman Fitzwarren, and Lisa Dunbar makes a strong impression as the Queen in act two… just watch what happens when these two meet! Providing excellent support are Jackie Grist as the narrating Grandma, Amy Bennetts as Tommy the dancing cat, and Erin Bright whose appearance as the Fairy is a wonderful surprise. And let’s not forget Emily Capper as the Captain, whose splendid ‘Pencil Full Of Lead’ number makes a great opening to the second half, joined by the ensemble, whose singing and dancing provide excellent support throughout.
After the bows (in one of the best sets of Finale costumes I’ve seen in years), there’s a roof-raising ‘megamix’ performed by the entire company, illustrating again what a thorough ‘team effort’ this product is. Panto is created for our enjoyment. This, the first one I’ve seen this year, delivers enjoyment by the truckload. Oh yes it does!