Tag Archives: Ben Langley
(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 15 December)
What can you do with a favourite pantomime story which both keeps the traditional narrative flow and yet brings it into an unusual context? Richard Gauntlett as writer, director and Dame with costume designer Kisteen Wythe and choreographer Dee Jago seem to have re-discovered the magic formula with a Jack and the Beanstalk given a country’n’western makeover. We’re in prospecting country sometime in the late 1890s.
Another twist is that the Giant is not the main villain of the piece, rather that’s his boss Phineas P Stinkworthy. As this extremely dodgy and mercenary character is played by Wayne Sleep, he really gives the good guys a run for their money, let alone their ultimate success. What’s more, Sleep not only shows that he can still do fast turns from one side of the stage to the other – he also contributes a show-stopping tap number.
Gauntlett knows just how to play Dame; Nigella Trottalot runs the eponymous cattle and chicken ranch with minimal assistance from her sons Jack (David Burilin) and Billy (Ben Langley). Langley measures up to the comedy sequences, including the ghosties and ghoulies scene and the kitchen slop scene. Burilin conveys a nice sense of Oklahoma!-style naïveté, like that musical’s hero Curly, as he does his best to be helpful while wooing Jolene (Mira Ormale), the daughter of David Gant’s Sheriff Hiccup. Their voices blend together extremely well.
Pantomime fairies come in all shapes and guises these days. Here we have saloon proprietress Dolly, who arrives air-borne and runs an establishment which patently caters for our its frequenters’ needs. Harriet Bunton lays on the glitter as well as the required brashness to good effect. led by David Carter makes a sparkling contribution to thhe song and dance numbers. It’s all enough to send one out of the theatre prepared to go out West the very next day. Top marks to all concerned.
Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 15 January. Check the theatre website (theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk) for performance times.
(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 17 December 2015)
If you’re looking for real value for your money among this year’s crop of regional pantomimes – not to mention a show which is visually and musically satisfying – then Norwich’s Snow White is the show for you. The curtain rises on a snowy landscape, complete with skaters, which is obviously not a million miles from Salzburg. The period is that faintly Ruritanian one just before the First World War.
Award-winning Kirsteen Wythe is the costume designer, using a simple dark palette based around reds, browns and black for the adult ensemble shown off against proper story-book sets. Richard Gauntlett is the writer and director and also plays Dame Dorothy Dumpling – which is probably something which by now he could do in his sleep, though this Dame is a very lively spark, nicely contrasted by Ben Langley’s Muddles.
Our heroine is Amie Hows with Jennifer Ellison as the slinkiest, most glittering of villainesses as her aunt Queen Evilynne. The pontifical voice of her magic mirror is BBC Look East‘s presenter Stewart White, not an authority to be trifled with (even when the Queen’s magic interferes with the video picture). Her unwilling accomplice and put-upon henchman Igor is strong-voiced Bruce Graham.
The catalyst is a joint one. Snow White is nearly of an age to claim the throne and has grown into a beautiful young lady. Enter the dashing Prince Frederick (David Burilin), in search of a bride and remembering the little princess with whom he once played. Of course, that doesn’t suit Evilynne at all; she fancies him all to herself. So Snow White is sent into the forest and Igor has his murderous instructions.
Igor refuses to fulfil his gory mission but leaves Snow White at the mercy of the elements. You think you know just what happens next? Think again. The sympathetic miners who take her in are brilliant rod-operated creations by Norwich’s Puppet Theatre, all individual and un-Disneyfied and very well manipulated by members of the ensemble. Bossy The Major, burping Windy and also-ran Boris are set to be audience favourites. Later on we meet T-Bone the dinosaur.
With Dee Jago’s choreography well suited to both the child and adult dancers, musical director David Carter has plundered a whole range of scores, not forgetting Sullivan, Waldteufel and Rodgers, to put the vocal talents of Burilin, Howes and Graham to the test. They pass magnificently. The special effects are a delight for both adults and children. I defy you to be bored with this Snow White.
Snow White runs at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 17 January.