Review by Tatum Stafford
Filled with familiar tunes, hilariously over-the-top characters and plenty of laughs for adults and kids alike, this vibrant pantomime provided an incredibly enjoyable and entertaining night at the theatre.
Produced by local theatre company Zealous Productions, this adaptation of a Tom Whalley Pantomime featured an absolutely outstanding cast of local talent. Amber Scates was delightful as the show’s namesake, delivering every line and lyric with grace and an infectious optimism. Ethan Jones played her Prince Charming with plenty of apt charm, and Lachlan Obst had a memorable turn as the Prince’s servant, Dandini.
One of the show’s early standouts was Tate Bennet, who played Cinderella’s friend Buttons. Tate had an immediate rapport with the audience, who he talked to in an engaging, yet not at all patronising, way – which appears to be a common trap amongst panto actors. Tate found plenty of moments of levity throughout the script, and was an absolute joy to watch whenever he came on stage.
Penny Shaw’s sassy Baroness was suitably menacing, and gave Penny the chance to show off her gorgeous vocals on “Evil” from The Descendants. Her husband, Baron Hardup, was played with bumbling charm by Robert Hofmann, who also displayed his tremendous vocals in his solo spoof of “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
It’s natural that in a show so lavish and campy as this that there will be a fair share of scene-stealers. The first of which is the divine Elethea Sartorelli, a local theatre legend, who gives one of the most electrifying performances in the entire show with her Act 1 closer, “One Night Only”, as the Fairy Godmother. Without giving too much away, she has a very memorable entrance at the top of the show, and once she walks on stage it’s impossible to tear your eyes away from her. Big props (literally) to Zealous’ prop team and set design by John Johnstone, who give Elethea plenty to play with, including her illuminated fairy wand that cleverly doubles as a sparkly handheld mic.
The other scene-stealers (in the best way possible) are the hilarious Brendan Hanson and John O’Hara, who play stepsisters Danni and Fanny, respectively. There was plenty of build-up before these two burst onto the stage, and it was well worth it. Their campy characters delivered a lot of the show’s more adult jokes, and they had such palpable chemistry that was such a treat to watch. Their introductory number, which featured a mash up of songs like “Gimme Gimme Gimme!” by ABBA and “Single Ladies” by Beyonce was one of the most entertaining numbers of the night. Manuao TeAotonga’s makeup and Pip’s wigs on the stepsisters were phenomenal.
The show’s ensemble were brilliant and executed Allen Blachford’s choreography with plenty of pizzazz and precision. Great teamwork from Bri Caracciolo, Tory Kendrick, Phoebe Tempra and Georgina Charteris. Peter Cumin and Joshua Webb’s direction and musical direction were fantastic, as the show felt cohesive, well-paced and incredibly slick.
Though there have been plenty of pantos within the Perth community theatre scene this year, this fun show is the only large-scale Christmas pantomime of its kind to hit the stage. As I’ve never seen a pantomime and only know of the tropes (namely “He’s behind you!”), I was at first a little uncertain about how the audience, which was majority young children, would respond to the iconic call-and-response format. Any uncertainness dissipated within minutes, as the audience got louder and more enthusiastic with every opportunity they had to participate as the show progressed.
A big congratulations to all involved in this fantastic production – I for one hope it will herald the Christmas pantomime tradition in Perth for many years to come, so many theatregoers (young and slightly older) can continue to enjoy it.