The intimate setting of the Broadstone Memorial Hall usually manages to evoke a village atmosphere and there is always a good community ‘feel’ to the Broadstone pantomimes. I have enjoyed many of this company’s pantomimes over the last ten years and this one has been written, as usual, by Ron Kite, who appears as Dodgy Wodgy the washing machine salesman – clad in an equally dodgy brown wig.
This show sticks to the usual story with the comic addition of Dodgy Wodgy’s ever more desperate attempts to sell launderette products to Widow Twankey (Mike Rustici). Ron has also introduced topical references to Game of Thrones, Donald Trump and Harry Potter, all of which went down well with an enthusiastic opening-night audience. Dodgy Wodgy’s attempts to sell the latest washing machine to Widow Twankey had the added twist of a small boy (Brayden Smith) sitting inside the machine handing out bundles of pre-washed and folded clothes – and waving to the audience.
The brilliant set designs and costumes of the past are sadly no more – the Imperial Palace set was distinctly dowdy, especially when I compare it to my photographs of this company’s 2010 production of Aladdin. This was a distinctly low-budget, down-market production, with plastic toy lamps and not much else in the way of props. The bold make-up which I praised in the past was also sadly lacking and both Mike Rustici as Widow Twankey and Cameron Ritchie as Abernazer struggled with lines, timing and delivery.
On the other hand, Rachel Leggett plays an excellent Aladdin and is well paired with Chelsea Robson as Princess Jasmine; their songs, both individually and together, light up this show. I enjoyed the Princess’s ‘You and me (but mostly me)’, from The Book of Mormon, junior audiences will appreciate ‘Love is an open door’ from Frozen, while Aladdin’s ‘I’m a believer’ will be familiar to modern audiences from Shrek and to older audiences from the Monkees and Neil Diamond (who wrote it). Unfamiliar – but equally good – is the Princess’s rendition of ‘Fight song’, which was an appropriate fit in her situation as a slave to Abanazer.
Debbie Fennella plays a creditable Wishy Washy, while Helen Tucker as Po Face maintains an amusing ‘Chinglish’ accent, using such expressions as ‘Now risten!’ and referring to the laundry as ‘the raundery’. Diane East, a veteran of Broadstone pantomimes, plays an excellent cameo as the Emperor Hi Pong with by far the best false facial hair of this show (Abernazer’s fell off, while Po Face’s, although comical, seemed insecure). Also in good cameo roles were the equally veteran Jennifer Davidson, who graduated from being the Slave of the Ring when the society last performed Aladdin in 2010 to being the Genie of the Lamp this time round, and first-timer Lesley James as this year’s Slave of the Ring. Good stuff!
Broadstone pantomimes have a long-standing association with the Jan Mizen Dancers and this year six members from the dance school provided no fewer than four charming dance interludes, featuring variously as soldiers, jewels in the enchanted cave, as a response to Widow Twankey’s ironic ‘I enjoy being a girl’ in ‘All about that bass’ and as ethnic dancers in Abernazer’s African hideout. Always a delight – long may it continue!
As usual there were some peripheral characters who delivered jokes and acted as villagers, yokels, courtiers and African natives. In this show they were Liam Ellis, Jordan Lindsay and Angela Inwards. The jokes were appalling – but this is pantomime!
It was good to see ‘Auntie Jean’ Roach back at the piano and the music, songs and dancing were of a high standard.
The Broadstone pantomimes always straddle two weekends and there are further performances on 14 January at 2.30, 19 January at 7.30 and two more on 20 January at 2.30 and 7.30.