REVIEW: Dronfield Light Opera Group’s production of Red Riding Hood

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Any group which has been staging pantos for more than 40 years could be forgiven for returning to a tried and tested favourite.

But Dronfield Light Opera Group isn’t afraid of trying something new, something that gives its well-drilled team plenty to sink its teeth into.

Red Riding Hood is fresh territory for the company, but the cast slap a mighty big paw print on it and make this classic story their own.

Big bad wolf is elevated to King Wolf and has a hard-up baron in his debt while Red Riding Hood’s gran isn’t a frail, pasty geriatric but a colourful shopkeeper with chandelier earrings and Farrah Fawcett Major-style hair.

There are Romanies in flamboyant costumes, led by Clair Stokes as the prophetic gypsy queen, swaying to guitar music played by Peter Piper who is elevated to the stage for his signature tune.

But most of all, the panto is about fun - and there’s plenty of that. Gavin Ward is hilarious as the larger-than-life Grannie Hood whose costumes get more outrageous as the show progresses. It’s a toss-up as to the dame’s funniest scene, with the gym workout and stripping off for bed vying for top place.

Youngsters in Dronfield Scouts and the Boys Brigade shrieked with laughter on Saturday at Rachael Cooper-Basset’s antics as Simple Simon. Her “Back Away From The Pie” catchphrase proved a winner every time.

Richard Gilson and Caroline Hurt ramp up the comedy as Humphery and Hubert, the daft sons of Baron De Broke, played by David Allen.

Ellie Ashmore is the epitome of Red Riding Hood, pretty, sweet and trusting, and Alex Glentworth plays an energetic wolf who goes his full length across the stage as he tries to capture his fleet-footed prey.

Thigh-slapping Prince Valiant is played in typically polished style by LIndsay Ashmore, her singing blending well with Julie Ballin in the role of royal bride-to-be Jill.

Highlights of this panto include a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire sketch, kids in the chorus dancing to One Direction’s One Way Or Another, cast members interpreting Ylvis’s The Fox and an ultraviolet trip into fairyland.

And in true pantomime tradition of good triumphing over evil, the bad fairy which invaded musical director Ann Singleton’s keyboard was soon given her marching orders at the start of Saturday night’s performance.

Red Riding Hood, directed by Andrea Powell, continues its run at Dronfield Civic Theatre from January 23-25 at 7.15pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.15pm.

GAY BOLTON