The programme states this is a traditional family pantomime by Bob Heather and for lovers of this genre, this cat will certainly be right up your alley. All the mainstream requirements are here, including a selection of Ghostbusting Ghosts, forest dancing animals, a boo-able baddie, a frolicking Dame and a loveable pussycat…in boots. Co-directed by the writer and George Ellison, all these elements were delightfully threaded together for an escape from the winter blues and hardly a mention of Brexit!
Beautifully lit by Nigel Roach and team, the set and sound are of enviable quality throughout giving a warm and professional backdrop to this rarely performed subject for fairy tale panto exploration. As the named title cat, Diana Thomas exudes confidence and charm in her role, her make up and costume perrrrfectly blending with her character: the duet with Puss’s Master Mark Miller in the 2nd Act, a thigh slapping heroic Lily Holmes, was one of the highlights of the show, their voices in true harmony and receiving much enthusiastic applause.
Choreography was also of a high standard, the moves for ‘Vogue’ being very well rehearsed and sharp, all the cast being well disciplined in cracking good moves, if a little lacking in energy for the second night. The children’s animal/bird scenes were sensitively done and provided some calm amongst the myriad of character storylines. Chris Ball as musical director kept the whole show in tune with his fine keyboard skills alongside drummer Steve Barker and reeds/guitar playing George Storry.
Central to such is the aforementioned boo-able baddie played with distinct relish by Matthew Ellison. His bandy legged stance and distinct facial expressions were marvellous to watch, clearly thoroughly enjoying taking the joyful absurdities of the plot to his best acting advantage. His evil 2nd Act song complete with microphone swagger was also a clear winner with the audience. His poor enveloped henchmen, in the guise of Laura Messenger and Ellie Luffman, were suitably comedically diabolical assistant plotters with an ear for a quick one liner.
The Dame this time was an Aunty and Alan Rimmer’s Maisie was a be-jewelled hoot, the well chosen ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’ song being belted out with due caution to the wind, whilst royalty invaded the town in the form of Diane Phippenden’s wonderfully shouty imperialistic but warm hearted Queen and Colin Russell’s loveable but put upon King Hugo First, with a flirtatious Mia Burton as daughter Rose, the love interest for Mark Miller. Completing the principal line up were Jack West and Peter Cleaver adding their fine stage presence to the fun.
Chorus work was well disciplined and diction throughout by all was excellent: pace will increase with confidence as the run progresses and will certainly benefit from more children being in the audience. Costumed well, this is the cat’s whiskers for a family night out.