NODA REVIEW - Santa Claus and the Great Christmas Caper

NODA REVIEW - Santa Claus and the Great Christmas Caper

Sleaford Little Theatre is a National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) member. We invite NODA to attend and review our shows and then put them forward (if they are worthy) for nomination at the NODA Awards.

NODAs vision is that amateur theatre is successful and sustainable, providing a range of opportunities for people to develop their skills and enjoy taking part at all levels.

A huge congratulations to Director Kei Bailey, the cast and crew and everyone who has had any input to the show to make it such a sell-out success.

We'd like to thank Julie Jones for attending and for the following review of Santa Claus and the Great Christmas Caper.

Sleaford Little Theatre

December 2022

An original, well-scripted, brilliantly performed, wonderfully sung, magical, fun production.  It was lovely to be back in Sleaford to see a Christmassy Show, with laughs and thrills for all the family. I received a lovely warm welcome from the front of house team including the chairperson Christine Malkin. who was thrilled to say that this show was well supported by members of both the adult and academy of SLT.

Casey Christmas hates their surname, and they don’t even like Christmas – all the singing, silliness, and sparkles.  Casey likes reading science books and nature rambles and sensible stuff like that. So, when an elf appears in the school library looking for help to save their boss, Santa, Casey thinks it must be a hallucination – surely the biggest encyclopaedia has fallen off the shelf and knocked them unconscious.  But soon, it becomes clear it isn’t a dream, and Casey finds themself on an adventure of a lifetime involving a corporate American who wants to take over Christmas, a mad genetic scientist, a petulant talking penguin, unicorns, dinosaurs, and of course, Santa Claus.

There are so many wonderful performances, from adults and children alike.  They are all so lucky to have a writer as talented as Kei Bailey to write them such rich and imaginative stories to play in. The names of the characters are very imaginative I wonder where they all came from. Flora Gloriana, who is Mother Nature, performed sensitively by Paige Ruddlesdin, opens the show with a delightful song and explains the start of the tale. Her friend Conker a gobby goblin, (Callum Thursby) is funny, sweet, and asks all the questions the audience wants to ask. This device moves the action along and keeps everyone up to date on the plot. He charged around the stage and brought frenetic energy to the role. Then we meet the colourful, positive-minded elves. Holly and Ivy Plumduff played by Linda Mallett and Nancy Warnes, Topper Tinseltoes played by Katie Calo, Button Wigglejoy by Helen Hill, Cherry Jinglemoon played by Tamara Mills, and Pepper Toffeetree played by Mandy Mendez, who were a great ensemble cast, all great dancers and excellent diction throughout.

Colette Buchanan-Gray as Mrs Claus was warm and passionate and gave a confident Scottish accent and super performance. Her story arc ensured she could play a wide range of emotions especially when she sang ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, she nearly broke my heart, it was beautiful. Rob Norris played Santa Claus, who is held against his will and brought an element of tension to the story. Rob played his role well, his interactions with other characters and lovely singing voice, meant he gave a well-rounded performance of this much-loved character.

Baaaa-bara the sheep played by Jo Warrick was a witty energetic character and I really laughed at all her silly jokes which she delivered so well. A roller skating sheep was not something I expected to see, but how well played, imaginatively written and so much fun to watch. Trixie Merrymuffin was played by Laura Griffin, with great agility and charm.  (I know Laura wasn’t 100% well and had a sore throat,) but she managed her solo really well and I couldn’t tell.  I loved her characterisation and how well she worked with the young performers.

Craig Pakes played the grumpy Frosty Crackersnap, the contrast from the other happy positive elves was funny and I think the children in the audience really liked his performance, laughing and commenting, which I love to hear. They were so engaged. The conveyer belt scene was really funny and had everyone laughing along.

The junior players were split into two teams and I had the privilege of seeing Team Penguin.  This meant Hattie Tacey as Casey, Charlie Harris as Morgan, Lola Thursby as Elliot, Sox Eliades as Taylor, Sophie Woodrow-Morton as Addison, Alyssa Managan as Devan, Abi Bond as Francesca, Anna Harrison as Ashley, and Matilda Towers as Leanna. All great actors, who seemed confident and knew their lines. They had some tricky emotions to portray, challenging blocking, and props to manage, but I could not fault them.  Their singing voices were strong and I could understand every word. Excellent.  Hattie and Charlie made a good double act, they really sparkled. A special mention for Lola Thursby who played Elliot, an amazing voice and one to watch in the future.

I want to mention the youngsters who were in Team Elf who were Scarlet Long, Charlie Briggs, Finn Hirst, Alex Duncan, Elizabeth Fearn, Eliza Huges, Ruby Hughes Amy Lanning, and Kayleigh Handford who I’m sure were just as good and rehearsed just as hard as everyone else.

The gang of baddies is led by Vespertilia Jinx (Joanne Moules) magnificently played as a sexy vixen, dedicated to making money from Christmas.  Joanne’s sparkling acting performance and singing really brought the stage to life. She engaged with the audience, (who booed and hissed) which she reacted to brilliantly.   Her scientist, Professor Crunkhorn, complete with a crazy wig, (Jonny Hoare) mixing DNA and creating hybrid humans/animals was zany and fun. The slightly sad but gentle Penelope Sniff played by Emma Hoare, really wants to be good and stop Vespertilia’s plans. Emma’s performance was just perfect, her comic timing and the way she brought the character to life with body language and actions had the sympathy of the audience right from the start. The stupid and greedy henchmen, Captain Bullymore (David O’Brien) and Squirmworm (Callum Thomas), try to stop Santa from making Christmas joyful for all the world. Their comic timing was good, and they complimented each other so well. As all good double acts, they seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage, which enhanced the audience’s enthusiasm for them. The bizarre penguin man Chester Chillymittens is played perfectly deadpan by Nathaniel McAlpine. Unicorn and dinosaur trainers Dr Oswold and Jackie Sundown, Laura Davies and Caroline Johnson had really funny roles, and another great comic double act. Their singing was very good and they played their characters enthusiastically and with huge energy.  No animals, magical or otherwise, were hurt in the making of the show!

Music director Collete Buchanan-Gray and choreographer Kelsey Pakes brought the show to life with the songs and dance numbers.   I felt they were very skillfully put together, well sung and everyone was smiling and acting throughout.

The staging was masterful, for such a relatively small stage, Kei really packed in the scene changes. School library, magical woods, skyscraper office, Santa’s workshop, and factory, with drop-in signs and cloths, curtains, and scenery behind. Very well designed, painted, and managed. Mary Newman is the designer and she had help painting the set from Garry Goodge, Helen Hill, and Joan Lawton. Stage manager Tom Creasey, worked with a great team to make the show run smoothly and at a good pace.   Lights and sound enhanced the action; lighting design was by Callum Thursby and operated by Alec Hill, and sound design was by Collette B-G and Callum T and operated by Daniel Johnson. ASM’s were Nathaniel McAlpine and Helen Hill.  The set was built by Garry Goodge, Simon Bradford, Brian Grant, Terry Hayes, David Malkin, Clive Musson, and Stewart Shield. Props, including all the knitted items, were produced by Helen Hill and Freddie Davies. Hair and make-up (especially sparkly for this show!) – Katie Calo.  Costumes, which were fun, stylish, and colourful were put together by Stuart Wyle. I particularly loved Flora’s green costume, just right as I felt for her character, and Baaa-bara’s sheep dress and Conkers goblin outfit. Very imaginative. A hard-working, talented, and skillful team. I wonder how many man/women/elf hours went into getting this show on stage?

The Chaperones Brian Grant, Maria Bates, and Joanne Moules without whom the young people could not perform, I thank you for your dedication to this show. I don’t think the show would have been half as good without them. The programme is lovely, colourful, with lots of lovely pictures and plenty of information about the show. I will be entering this into the NODA programme competition, well done Tom Creasey for programme, and Maria Bates who produced the poster graphics.

Thank you for meeting me after the show and chatting with me about your experience of doing Santa Claus and the great Christmas Caper.

So overall, another fantastic, funny, and entertaining Christmas play written by Kei Bailey. I left the theatre uplifted – it honestly feels like the Christmas season has started.