By Betsy Everett
Just when you think it can’t get any better, the Wensleydale Music and Theatre Group reach new heights of excellence with its pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Hawes Market House.
It has everything it takes – and more – to produce a fantastic night’s entertainment, from the surprise of the opening chorus, Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma (you have to be there to hear the twist), to the exuberant finale with Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.
It is a magical production: but magic in this context does not happen by accident. Behind the 30-strong cast is a production team of prodigious talent, from costume makers to lighting technicians to musicians, punching well above their weight to achieve the highest theatrical standards.
Director Amy Cockett – working vet, mother of two, driving force behind the revived Hawes gala this year – was seven months pregnant when she directed her first Hawes panto last year: it did nothing to curb her energy levels.
This year, with baby Jack at home and Jack the beanstalk climber on stage, she could again have been forgiven for taking a less physical role. Instead, she not only directs but has choreographed the complex and exciting dance routines as well as coaching the young chorus, aged from just seven to 11 years old, singing, and scene-shifting with alacrity.
The success of the theatre group, formerly Hawes Choral Society, formed nearly 60 years ago by Amy’s father in law John Cockett, is partly due to its being embedded in the close knit dales community. Tiny tots who enchanted the audience a decade ago, blossom over the years into confident teenagers who command the stage. One such is Alana Teasdale, playing Jill, whose lovely ‘One day I will Fly Away’ was especially poignant, knowing that one day, given her confidence and stage presence, she undoubtedly will.
Nicole Sunter takes the lead role of Jack with equal confidence: hard to remember her as a small girl in the chorus just five years ago as she struts her stuff with poise and determination, quietly lending support to the new younger members of the team.
Meanwhile, back on stage after a 10 year absence – you have to wonder what kept her – is Allison Wade, a popular and long-standing member of the society who took the role of the fairy to glorious heights with just the right mix of menace and jollity.
Her multi-coloured bejewelled and bedecked costume did her proud, a real tribute to the skills of wardrobe supremos Liz Connelly and Charlotte Reilly and the team.
Revelling in his unassailable role of dame, Graham Di Duca as Mother Bitsnbobs is as commandingly camp as ever, and a perfect foil to the evil Squire Root, played by another leading light of the company, Colin Tindill.
Among the many highlights was Graham’s miming to Amy’s rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s fabulous ‘I Will Survive,’ with the chorus, and Gillian Alderson’s solos which she belts out from a standing start as the Golden Harp. And that costume has to be seen to be believed.
There was not a bad apple in the barrel, the only blip in a near-flawless production being a longer than expected interval because of a problem with the lighting – or was it the sound: it hardly mattered – and a crackly mic at the start of the second half.
Colin Bailey, on keyboard, co-produced with Tina Tindill – and Fran Flanagan and Nigel Wilson accomplished the near impossible task of constructing the beanstalk. Sound and lighting were by Colin Bailey, Blue Boxt Productions, Mike Harper and Ben Jobling.
The show continues tomorrow(Friday) and Saturday at 7.30pm, and there’s a Sunday matinee at 2pm. Tickets £9 for adults, £6.50 for under-12s, from Hawes community office and library (01969 667400) open Monday to Friday 9am-5.30pm, Saturday 9am-12.30pm.