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31st January 2019

CURTAIN CALL    “THE WIZARD OF OZ”      25th January 2019

Director:   Aaron Gaunlett

MD: Kaytie Allen and Laura Parslow

Eaton Bray Church Hall       Reviewed by:  Richard Lovelock

A few weeks ago I went to see 'Snow White' at the London Palladium, all glitz, glamour and star names and to use a football analogy that was probably deemed to be Premier League of pantomime. Last week I went to see 'The Wizard Of Oz' at Eaton Bray Village Hall  - probably deemed to be non league in comparison, but those football fanatics among us know some of the best games happen in the lower leagues, and so it was, on a cold wintry evening that Curtain Call's latest pantomime gave us a real treat; great family fun and the show had a massive heart and feel good factor.

I am not one who normally takes to pantomimes that go beyond the usual standard offerings, but there was no artificial shoehorning of pantomime characters into this presentation. It did follow that basic story of the Wizard of Oz - there were the usual characters, red slippers and poppies but there was also clever twists which did make this into a real fun pantomime.  I knew we were in for something different as soon as the bad witch's body parts were being passed out to 'So Long, Farewell'.       

The script written by Gavyn Lugsden was funny and clever. It basically followed the well known story but innovatedly used images and video to portray parts of the tale that usually bog down the flow. Quite obscurely at one point we visited a pie factory - which as well as providing a slapstick scene was also there to provide the key for that classic 'Somewhere over the rainbow - weigh a pie' - inspired stuff and totally worth all the lead up to it. But possibily the highlight was the concept of the way in which Toto saved the day - it certainly paved the way for the best PPI joke I've heard. 

Gavyn as well as writing, producing, co-directing and acting as box office also somehow found time to play the Wicked Witch. He didn’t play the role as a true dame or overplay it for laughs which suited the show. He was horribile, got the crowd booing, had wonderful revolting teeth and he gave us a good rendition of 'You'll Be Back'.

The Wizard Of Oz always centres around Dorothy and in Hannah Garnham Curtain Call have a real diamond - she showed a maturity beyond her years and was never over shadowed by the adults on stage around her. She sang well and was comfortable being left on stage alone - I thought she did particularly well interacting with the audience in the spider scene.

Dorothy's three amigos of the Scarecrow - Laura Parslow, Tin Man - Jamie Staton and Lion - Kaytie Allen all supported her well. I liked the Tin Man's inability to chat up girls and Lion's inability to control her bladder, all three  played with gusto and great fun.

The other main characters were played by Kara March as Glynda the Good Witch who kept the story moving along, and Shannan Mitchener who played both the Mayor and Wizard well.  

Director Aaron Gaunlett moved his characters around the stage, used the different entrances well, kept the pace going throughout and got the best from his cast.

Music accompaniment used backing tracks; whilst a live band always adds something to a pantomime the cast did work well with the tracks and MDs Kaytie Allen and Laura Parslow got some very good sounds from them - particularly the ensemble number 'You Will be Found' at the end of Act One.

The lighting complemented the show and sound worked well, the only exception being the Crow's voice where sadly the humour was lost partly due to mic problems.

I liked the additional thought that had gone into the show such as the Yellow Brick Road to show people to their seats and the background  music at the end of 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' - a simple touch but well thought out. 

In conclusion an enjoyable and entertaining evening. Next year if you are thinking of going the Palladium try Eaton Bray first - it is much more fun !