TANSLEY: Players raise the spirits with panto Babes in the Wood
Community is what makes a panto, namely dedicated actors who spend weeks rehearsing, grafters who paint scenery and run up costumes and supporters who cheer the super troupers at showtime.
The village of Tansley is a prime example of community spirit writ large. Pantos there are staged every couple of years - but they are well worth waiting for, as much to see what delights the residents can conjure up as to see the progress being made to their village hall.
In the noughties Tansley village hall was dark and dilapidated and not the most welcoming of places for such a colourful spectacular as panto.
But what a difference three years makes when you have a committed team of fundraisers on board.
Money-spinning events, council grants and donations from the public have resulted in more than £93,000 being pumped into restoring the hall to its former glory.
The venue is now a smart place for Tansley Players and other village organisations to display their ample talents and a welcoming destination for visitors.
This week it’s a hive of industry as the players present their latest panto, Babes in the Wood, penned by evergreen scriptwriter Joyce Leaney, who lives in the village.
She’s worked her magic on the traditional tale, mixing in a timely pancake scene which serves as a reminder that it’s Shrove Tuesday next week and a dancing bear as well as take-offs of Justin Bieber and Olivia Newton-John.
There’s also the funniest line I’ve heard this panto season when the Sheriff of Nottingham tells Lady Gumdrop: “Keep your fingers crossed, they’ll match your eyes.”
Chris Gale prompts gales of laughter as the “rather handsome” Sir Justin de Bieber of Belper, morphing into the rather portly Friar Tuck in the second half.
His piece de resistance comes in an hilarious double act with Lee Brandrick as Nurse Nelly in which they send up John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John with a classic song from Grease.
Back as the dame from a second time after playing an Ugly Sister in 2011, fearless Lee blazes a trail for young men prepared to make a fool of themselves in women’s clothes. He makes the dame’s role very much his own with high-pitched shrieking voice and over-the-top personality.
April Saunders makes a terrific thigh-slapping Sheriff of Nottingham, commanding the stage with a big personality and a good interpretation of the song Money Makes The World Go Round.
Stand-out song in the show is a lovely duet by Chloe Arbury, who brings a fitting air of confidence to the role of Robin Hood, and Molly Watts as pretty Maid Marian....their voices blend perfectly.
Chalise Wilding, doubling as messenger and priest, gives an exquisite solo putting it up with the best in show.
The babes Lucy and Lenny are well portrayed by Poppy Lacey and Mia Lucas and the henchman Cyril and Cecil are in the capable hands of Charlotte Gale and Jackie Pearson.
Little George Watts is utterly charming as the dancing, cartwheeling Bo-Bo the Bear as is Tabitha Wilding as the bright and confident Little John.
Adult performer Jane Best makes her entrance as Alan le Dale, playing Greensleeves on the recorder, but most of the music is provided by pianist Bill Templeman, whose sensitive accompaniment allows the quietest of voices to be heard.
The audience last night (Thursday, February 7) loved every minute of it, especially the large contingent from Matlock’s MENCAP who were delighted to join one of their friends, Chris Watson playing Suit of Armour, on stage to sing Robin Hood.
Babes in the Wood is produced by Bev Oates and runs at Tansley Village Hall until Saturday, February 9.
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