> Only A Footstep Away: The 2007 Panto by David
The Date: Saturday 15th December 2007
The Time: 6.00pm
The Venue: The Shrewsbury Music Hall, Shrewsbury
In mid December 2007, another Perfect Blend panto trip got underway with a trip to Shrewsbury to see Natalie Blair starring in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. On a chilly Saturday, David, Edd, Karl, Lucy and Ryan all descended on the medieval market town arriving sporadically by cars and trains around the middle of the day.
David managed to arrive nearly an hour early (“due to the excitement of the day”), so parked up by the Stiperstones B & B where we were staying and had a walk down to the train station and then around the town, which was bustling with Christmas shoppers. He then received texts from Karl and Ryan both saying they were running a bit late. Meeting up at the station, David and Edd made their way to the B & B to meet Lucy who had just checked in. Having done a room inspection and dropped our bags, we all trudged back down into town to find a coffee shop while waiting for the late comers. The busy, and appropriately named, Rendezvous provided us with hot chocolates all round and Karl and Ryan soon joined us.
We then thought it prudent to find the theatre location before it got dark. That done we made another trip back to our guest house to drop another bag and pick up the tickets, and then began a search for food. Finding a decent town centre pub we all ate heartily and had a couple of drinks - which no doubt helped us get into the panto spirit. Conversation, unsurprisingly, centred around Neighbours, and it was soon time to go to the music hall. Unfortunately (or not), we didn’t ask for a “call out” from the stage as it was already quite busy when we arrived. Settling into our seats, we were a little surprised at how small the venue was and how close we were to the stage itself, which was remarkably low off the ground level.
The show began and of course we were all excited to see Natalie appear in the titular role. We already knew of her acting ability, and she didn’t disappoint, but I think we were all pleasantly surprised to discover her singing voice, which was put to good use through the show. The final all cast dance routine possibly utilised some of her best Cammeniti 12-step moves and we were all in agreement that she looked taller onscreen than off.
The panto itself followed the traditional story fairly faithfully although the name changes of the dwarves was a little controversial. Joey the Jester, played by Andy Fleming, gave a particularly energetic and entertaining performance and the music of Take That and The Automatic gave proceedings a contemporary feel. Audience interaction was mixed well with a few sweets and fake snowballs being thrown (Edd and Karl managed to catch one of each), and Aaron Prior’s Prince Antonio randomly kissing people. It was also an impressively long show running at about three hours with the interval. The size limitations of the stage gave things a homely feel but perhaps held back the set designs a little. There were just a few Neighbours references; Natalie saying she’s “your friendly Neighbour from down under” and a crack from Joey the Jester singing the Home And Away theme, to which Nat said she preferred Neighbours.
Afterwards, we were a little unsure how best to get to meet Natalie so scuttled round the back of the hall to look for a stage door. As we couldn’t see one, we decided to wait at the front entrance for what seemed like quite a long time, but was probably about fifteen minutes. Eventually Natalie came round the corner and Karl made the approach to say hello and ask for autographs. Despite having done three performances that day, starting at 10:00am, she was absolutely charming and seemed more than happy to scribble on our programmes and chat. It was quite a highlight for us when we explained we were from the Perfect Blend and she instantly said “oh you’re the nice website”. A quick photo was taken in which Natalie invited us to make “a Natalie sandwich” around her. She then instigated a handshake with all of us and we went our separate ways. Ryan had to catch his train home, so we said goodnight and then the rest of us went in search of alcohol and spent the rest of the evening talking about the show and Neighbours.
The next day we had our cooked breakfasts and said our goodbyes; all looking forward to our next Neighbours-based pantomime. For David, that was just a few hours away as he was heading to Crewe to see Lara Sacher in Beauty And The Beast. But that’s another story…
For more information, visit The Shrewsbury Music Hall website, here, and The Stiperstones Bed & Breakfast website, here.