Players have a ball

DOUBLE ACT: Chris Gale and Lee Brandrick as the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella at Tansley Village Hall
DOUBLE ACT: Chris Gale and Lee Brandrick as the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella at Tansley Village Hall

SCRAPPING sisters, musical mice and a donkey with dainty legs put a new spin on the world’s best-loved panto.

Tansley’s evergreen writer Joyce Leaney has worked her magic on the tale of Cinderella and fashioned it into a sparkling script which has been brought to life by producer Bev Oates and the village players this week.

The dilapidated village hall - which is at the centre of a major fundraising campaign to renovate it - mirrors the hard times which Baron Stoney-Broke’s dysfunctional family had fallen on. But the smart new seats taken up by spectators are fit to grace Prince Charming’s palace.

Pantos aren’t an annual event in Tansley - so when they are staged every couple of years, they pull in quite a crowd.

The 2011 spectacular is no exception, drawing 70 spectators to the second night of the show.

In the house was a party from MENCAP, which had come to cheer on one of their own, Chris Watson, who was cast as a messenger, and take up an invitation to lead an audience singalong.

Also among the spectators were workmates of April Saunders, who gave a brilliant portrayal of Baron Stoney-Broke in which she interacted well with the audience and made a joke out of forgetting her lines.

But it was Chris Gale and Lee Brandrick who stole the show - and really did deserve an Oscar for their characterisation of the Ugly Sisters, Dotty and Potty. Screeching falsetto voices plunging to bass notes in their Abba-solutely awful cover of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, squeals as Potty was dragged off stage after trying to seduce the prince and Dotty clasping a tiny courtier to her heaving bosom had the audience howling with laughter.

Top marks to wardrobe mistresses Joyce Leaney and Jackie Pearson for the succession of loud wigs and even louder dresses paraded by the sisterly gruesome twosome.

Hannah Bradley made the part of Cinderella her own, giving attitude to the traditionally demure character. Caught in the middle of the squabbling Ugly Sisters, she stopped them in their tracks by shouting at the top of her voice. For the rest of the show, Hannah played it as the sweet-singing, pure princess-in-waiting that we have come to know and love.

With a limited budget, this production required a fair helping of magic to transform Cinderella from dowdy domestic to gowned goddess in a split second. But Lynne Byrne’s Fairy Godmother managed it by plunging the stage into darkness, blaming a power cut, and sending Cinders off to fire up the generator.

In her role as Prince Charming, Emma Eaton cut a dash and shone as a soloist when she coped well with a difficult song from The Lion King.

A firm favourite with the crowd was Sam Wilmot who was wolf-whistled as he made his entrance. Playing Cinderella’s pal, he gave a performance as bright as the Buttons on his tunic and his solo song, You’ve Got A Friend In Me, was among the vocal highlights of the show.

Young dancers, choreographed by Hayley Eaton, brought a gentle change of pace to the panto and also doubled up as Sooty the Cat, Nellie the donkey and singing mice.

And hard-working pianist Bill Templeman was dragged into the on-stage action when Chris Gale urged him to lock lips with the donkey!

Everyone is having a ball in this panto which runs until Saturday, February 12.