Bolsover Drama Group weighs in for Aladdin

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Festive excesses are leaving many people feeing pretty blue this month but amateur thespians are turning too much eating and drinking to their advantage.

Members of Bolsover Drama Group are weighing in for a sponsored slim, with half the money going to the person who loses the most amount of their body weight and half going to group funds.

Chris Peck (Wishee Washee)< Paul Holland (Dame Trott) and Wendy Blunt (Aladdin) in Bolsover Drama Group's production of Aladdin

Chris Peck (Wishee Washee)< Paul Holland (Dame Trott) and Wendy Blunt (Aladdin) in Bolsover Drama Group's production of Aladdin

At 17.7st and 6ft tall, Paul Holland is the heaviest member to step up for the challenge. He said: “I’ve put on nearly a stone over Christmas - it was all the rich food. I’ll get the weight down through a lifestyle change; I’m going to do a little more exercise and eat a little less food.”

Palterton Primary School teacher Leanne Collins is also shedding the pounds to raise pounds in the 13-week sponsored slim. She said: “Because I work in a school, I was given eight boxes of chocolates at Christmas!”

Leanne, who lives in Shuttlewood, currently has a much bigger challenge on her hands. She is getting the group ready for their annual panto and that means working with 50 performers, ranging from nine-year-old Abigail Hill to 72-year-old Ken Radmore. She said: “It is one of the biggest casts we have had.”

Bolsover has scooped five awards for the region’s best pantos in previous years from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association so the stakes are high.

Working in tandem with her dad Mick Whitehouse, the group’s chairman, Leanne is directing operations for the panto which opens on Tuesday next week. She is also choreographing the production which features tap-dancing numbers.

She said: “We’ve got songs from One Direction, a song called In The Laundry to the tune of In The Navy andanother, Show Me The Way To Use A Brillo.”

Chris Peck, the group’s vice-chairman, plays comical character Wishee Washee. He said: “I have played plenty of daft roles. I have got to turn my hand to Kung Fu although it might be more lamb chops than karate chops.

“It is good to be able to have a laugh and let our hair down.”

Returning to the role of panto jester is Nicky Constable. He joins forces with Tara Madeley to play the Chinese policemen Pong and Wong .

Tara said: “This is probably the perfect match...we both have the same sense of humour and we play off each other.”

Nicky, who has been with the drama group for five years and is a medical sales rep living in Sutton in Ashfield, said: “It is the funniest panto I have ever been involved in. We struggle not to laugh at some of the lines we say.”

PE teacher Tara, of Killamarsh, joined the group two years ago. She said: “It has been brilliant, the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Wendy Blunt has been cast in the title role. “I think this is my last chance to be principal boy,” she said.

At the age of 45, she is not only cast in the title role of Bolsover Drama Group’s panto but is also producing the show and sorting out the costumes.

She said: “I love singing - this is my favourite part of being in the group.”

In Aladdin, she will be performing For Good from Wicked and A Whole New World from the Aladdin film.

“The panto has really uplifting songs,” said Wendy. “There are terrible jokes and most members of the public will be able to finish off the lines for us.”

A member of the group since 1997, she performs in shows staged by the adults and helps to guide the youth section where her daughters Charlotte, 15, and Maddie, 13 are members.

One of her co-stars, Paul Holland, is also one of her neighbours.

Paul, who lives in Bolsover, said: “Wendy was my first ever leading lady, playing Sarah Brown when I was Guy Masterson in Guys and Dolls in 1999. She has been my wife and my fiancein shows.”

This time, it’s Paul who gets to wear the dress as the panto dame Widow Twankey. He said: “I’m back in a frock after wearing a grass skirt in South Pacific last October.”

Other roles in the panto are played by Keyleigh Constable (Princess Mandarin), Gary Jarvis (Emperor), Ian Simpson (Abanazar), Donna Knowles (Spirit) and Istvan Koszegi (Genie).

The panto features 26 members of Bolsover Drama Group’s youth section.

Aladdin will be running at The Bolsover School, Moorfield Lane, from January 28 to February 1 at 7.15pm with a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets £8 (advance) and £9 (on door), with £1 off for concessions. Contact 01246 850402 or www.bolsoverdramagroup.org