Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Banter With Buttons...

Michael Mullin has been with The Wight Strollers for over four years now, and in that time he's been lucky enough to take on a range of roles, from Judah in Joseph to Jack in last year's Jack and the Beanstalk. 

This year, Michael is playing Buttons, the head servant at Hardup Hall - well, actually, he's the only servant at Hardup Hall! Best friend to Cinderella, confidante to the Baron and loved by all the villagers, Buttons is a long-standing favourite with pantomime audiences all over the country, and we have a feeling Michael's Buttons will be up there with the best of them!

So what is it that makes Buttons so loveable?
"What makes him so lovable? He's the real hero of the story! He's lovely, he's adorable, he's funny...and he should get the girl! It's not fair!"

O...kay...I think I've touched a nerve there! We'll move on! What are your two favourite moments of the show so far? 
"I love the little scene between me and Cinderella where we're sitting on a table and Buttons is convinced she loves him. As for my favourite scene that I'm not in, it would probably have to be the scene where she turns into a princess. That's a really key moment, too."

You've been with the company now since September 2013...
"Has it been that long?"

It has been that long! What's been your most memorable moment with The Wight Strollers so far?
"My most memorable moment would probably be the very first time I was on stage with the company as Man Friday, in my little loin cloth, facing off with Sarah Scotcher for the first time!"

That's a baptism of fire!
"It was, absolutely. I've never forgotten it - and I probably never will!"

Before Robinson Crusoe, you were a relative newcomer to pantomime but you'd performed in many other genres, and have done since, too. What makes pantomime different?
"It's totally insane! Everything about it is just geared towards having fun - the people on stage are having fun, the audience is having fun, and it's just unique in that it's totally focused on achieving that. There's no other aim except for everyone to enjoy themselves."

Cinderella is certainly going to be a lot of fun - and it's a firm favourite in the panto world, as a story. But what's your personal favourite of all the pantomimes?
"Oh, it has to be Mother Goose. I've never actually seen it, but I just think a pantomime based around a goose sounds great!"

That's got to be the most unusual answer I've ever had to that one! Turning back to Cinderella, why should people come and see the show?
"It's what I said before, about pantos just being unadulterated fun. That's just the feeling in all of The Wight Strollers' shows, they turn that idea up to eleven every single time and it's just rad. You'll have a good time whether you pay attention to what's going on in the story or not - the atmosphere is just brilliant."


Catch Michael as Buttons in Cinderella, this February Half Term at Medina Theatre. Tickets are still available and can be purchased from the Medina Theatre website, by phoning 01983 823884 or by visiting the Box Office in person.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Cinderella's Chosen Charities

As anyone who has ever seen a Wight Strollers production will know, we donate our proceeds to local charities and good causes, with every single penny staying on the Island to help our community.

Since 1981 we have raised well over £200,000 and have helped hundreds of Island charities, good causes, community organisations and individuals.

From purchasing numerous Public Access Defibrillators to replacing Scouting equipment lost in a fire, we consider every single application for funds that we receive with the utmost care, and our committee have now chosen four more thoroughly deserving causes to benefit from our Cinderella proceeds.

This year we will be donating our proceeds to Wild Bird Aid, the Newchurch Beavers & Cubs, the Fire Brigade Benevolent Fund (IOW Branch), Kissy Puppy and St George's School and Medina House School to assist with the specialist equipment required to transport their students to the Global Rock Competition.

We will also be purchasing our seventh - that's right, seventh! - Public Access Defibrillator for the Island, which it is hoped will be hosted by St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School in Carisbrooke.

We hope you'll all agree that these are four very worthy recipients of our proceeds, and we look forward to presenting them with donations at our AGM in April.

In the meantime, to help us to help these wonderful causes, all you need to do is book a ticket to come and see Cinderella on February 10th, 11th or 17th at Medina Theatre, and spend an afternoon or evening laughing, crying, shouting, booing, cheering, applauding and generally having a wonderful time at a magical show!

What could be easier?


Tickets for Cinderella are available from the Medina Theatre website, by phoning 01983 823884 or by visiting the box office in person, and are £9 per adult and £8 per under 14. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

Utterly Charming...

Chesney Checkley-Hill has been with The Wight Strollers since September 2014, his first production being Aladdin in February 2015, in which he was part of the chorus...and one of the Genie's cross-dressing backing dancers!
He's gone from strength to strength within the company, and in 2016 took his first role as Benjamin in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat before playing Humphrey, the hapless Royal aide, in Jack and the Beanstalk last year.

From Royal servant to fully-fledged Royal, this year he's taking on the role of arguably the best-known fairytale princes: Prince Charming...

So let's get stuck in with asking you how you felt when you were offered the role?
"Well, I was overwhelmed at first and then it sunk in and I was like 'Wow, I get to play the prince!' - it was a bit of a goal for me! And it's Prince Charming!"

He is rather considered the 'ultimate' Prince, I'll give you that! You've got a real mix of romance, song, dance and comedy to enjoy, but what's your favourite moment to perform in the show?
"Without spoiling too much, my favourite moment that I'm in is definitely the 'breakdown' scene that happens between the characters of Dandini and Prince Charming - it's a really fabulous scene, it's funny but it's also quite sweet."

And what about a favourite moment that Prince Charming doesn't appear in?
"I don't know, there are just so many to choose from! Can I just say all of it? I love all of it."

Normally I wouldn't allow that as an answer...but, just this once, I'll take it! What about your most memorable moment with the company as a whole?
"Being Benjamin in Joseph [and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat] - it was my first named part with the Strollers, and it was incredible."

How would you describe Prince Charming? What do you think are his best qualities - and what's his worst quality?
"His best quality, I guess, is that he's determined to find the one he loves, someone who loves him for who he is and not just because he's a prince. His worst quality is that he's a bit stupid - he forgets to ask Cinderella for her name...twice! It's like the lights are on, but nobody's home! [laughs] That's why he keeps Dandini around - Dandini does a lot of the thinking for him!"

I can't disagree with that...and not just because I'm Dandini! But Prince Charming is, thankfully, charming enough to make up for it - except for his chat-up lines! 
"What are you saying? I think his chat-up lines are amazing!"

They're really not! But what about you? Do you have any favourite chat-up lines in your arsenal?
"Yes, I do!"

I'm listening...
"Do you believe in love at first sight? ...Or do you want me to walk by again?"

...Moving swiftly on! How would you describe rehearsals with the Strollers?
"Fantastically superbly amazing!"

Well, that's pretty good then! As for the show itself, why should people come and see Cinderella?
"If they didn't, they'd be doing themselves a great disservice, it is such an amazing show already. We just have this amazing cast, amazing chorus, it's just a phenomenal show - everyone has to see it, without a doubt."

Without a doubt, Cinderella is a really popular pantomime story - what's your favourite pantomime story and why?
"Without sounding too biased, I would have to say that it's actually Cinderella. It's the amazing characters, the great story, and it's the one I grew up with - it was the first pantomime I saw, and it was the Strollers I saw doing it, so it's got a special place in my heart."


Catch Ches at his most Charming by booking your tickets to see Cinderella at Medina Theatre on February 10th, 11th and 17th - tickets are available by phoning 01983 823884, in person at the box office or by visiting the Medina Theatre website.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

From Rags to Riches: Being Cinderella

Izzi Rudd has been a member of The Wight Strollers for as long as she can remember - she joined the company in September 2005 and her first show was the February 2006 production of Cinderella. How perfect, then, that she will be playing Cinderella in our February 2018 show!

Congratulations, Izzi! Cinderella is a fantastic role and one of the most beloved princesses - how did you feel when you were asked to play her?
“I couldn’t quite believe it. I remember sitting down at the beach and Sarah said she wanted to 'cast Izzi Rudd as Cinderella'. I almost had to ask her to repeat the name, because I didn’t think it was me - it was crazy!”

It's a major role, that's for sure! 

Cinderella is undoubtedly one of the most popular pantomimes, and she's a favourite princess for a lot of people, including you - what do you think makes her, and her story, so popular?
“It’s that classic fairytale, it's the ultimate rags to riches story. It’s that dream...of being whisked away by a prince and having this wonderful fairytale life. And it’s so much more than that, too - it's a really good story for children to hear, for everyone really, because it shows that, however bad times are, there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

That's very true - after all, things aren't exactly rosy for Cinderella, at least not to begin with, are they?
"Exactly. Cinderella hasn’t really got a great life, and she’s not happy all the time...but she’s not always sad either. But, no matter what, she never stops believing she'll get a happy ending – that’s such a nice story to teach young people.”

Beautifully put. Turning to our version of the fairytale, it's a script that's been written in-house and obviously that means nobody else will have performed or seen it before - can you give us a taster? What's your favourite bit in the show to perform?
“My favourite moments – can I say all of it? I think my favourite part to do is actually when Buttons calls me ‘brainy’ and then laughs about it, and I just give him this really dirty look! The song ‘When You Believe’ is another favourite moment, it’s really beautiful."

And what about a favourite moment that you're not in? The bits you most like watching?
"I don’t know – that’s hard, because it’s just such a good show! I think the songs are all going to be amazing – the singing is just beautiful, and we've set a bit of ‘Dancing Through Life’ with the cast now and it's so gorgeous. I was sat there thinking ‘Wow, this is going to look so pretty,’ because everyone is so good at getting into all their different characters and everyone works so hard - I love watching things like that take shape and come together.”

I'm sure the audience will be blown away! Okay, let's widen the field and make this more difficult...what's been your most memorable moment with The Wight Strollers since you joined the company all those years ago?
“Oh gosh…that's hard! Can I have more than one?"

Of course!
"Well, obviously Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in general was just this absolute phenomenon. I loved being the dancer in the French song in Joseph ['Those Canaan Days'] - that was so beautiful and it’s probably my favourite dance that I’ve done.

That was a beautiful routine, and I agree - an incredible show! So what about going even further back?
"Well, then I sort of go back to things like when I was a skeleton in the last Cinderella we did! But you know what, it’s not even necessarily the shows themselves that I love the most or the things I do in them, it’s all those little memories that come with them, like when I was stuck at the side of the stage with Sarah [Scotcher] and we couldn’t move because we’d both gone off the wrong way – it’s things like that, the little moments, those are what make the best memories.”

Good answer! You clearly enjoy being part of the company - what's the best thing about being a Stroller?
“These guys are my family. They’re my life. This is my thirteenth show, so they've watched me grow up...they’re all my extended family and it’s surreal to have that feeling about so many people. We’re so close, and it’s so special. But I think the best thing is that everyone has bad days, completely, but when we come together we just have an amazing time - we pick each other up and all those worries get left behind because you’re a Stroller. I don’t think many other companies can say that…definitely no other company I’ve been with. But it’s just how we are – it's just ‘us’.”

That's such a lovely way to describe it, Izzi...Like you said, you've grown up with the company and you've been performing since you were old enough to point your toe - why, in your opinion, is theatre so valuable as a pursuit for young people?
“I think it’s a way of expressing who you are through something other than social media, especially in this day and age where there's just so much pressure to be a certain way – you don’t feel like you have to fit into a certain stereotype or group when you're doing theatre. And I think it’s also an escape, because you can play someone else, you can express yourself through a character and you can have fun with it. It’s such a lovely hobby, and especially with a group like the Strollers where you become part of something, a big thing...it's a lovely feeling, and it’s so important to feel like you can just be who you are within that setting and have fun. It gives you such a good support network, too.”

That leads me nicely on to my next question - taking on a principle role for the first time can be as daunting as it is exciting. How have the rest of company been? Have they been supportive?
“Do you know what? It’s really lovely, because it was during our carnival season when everyone was told the cast list, and I can’t think of one person who didn’t come up to me and say ‘Congratulations’ and ‘You so deserve this’ and things like that - I felt so loved, it was such a nice feeling to know everyone was genuinely so happy for me."

That's so sweet! I bet that gave you a big dose of confidence right from the start!
It did - I sung solo for the first time a couple of weeks ago, too, and I had so many people saying well done and telling me I had a lovely voice. Every part of the journey so far has been amazing, and the cast is amazing - and my prince, Ches, is great. He's always telling me how good I am, and that's a real boost, too!"

So here's the big final question: Why should people come and see Cinderella?
"Because you will enjoy every single moment. You’ll sit there and you’ll think ‘I want to be in that’, even if you've always hated the idea of getting up on stage. I’ve had so many people say to me ‘this is great, it's so much fun, those guys are having an absolute blast up there’about our shows – so just come along and watch it, have some fun, and enjoy it! …And you’ll get to hear my singing debut!”


To see Izzi in action, make sure you’re in the audience for  Cinderella! Tickets go on sale on Tuesday 2nd January 2018 at £9 for Adults and £8 for Under 14s. They can be booked online at www.medinatheatre.co.uk or by phoning 01983 823884. The performances are at 2:30pm and 7:30pm on Saturday 10th February, 2:30pm on Sunday 11th February, and 2:30 and 7:30pm on Saturday 17th February. See you there!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

And we're off again!

After another hugely successful carnival season as the 'Girls Beehiving Badly', we're now full steam ahead for our February 2018 pantomime, Cinderella, and our July 2018 musical, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, so we thought what better day to get our blog back in action than on #LoveTheatreDay...

Rehearsals are now well underway for Cinderella, with cast and crew members already pulling out all the stops to make sure this is our most magical production yet!

Written by Sarah and Emily Scotcher and directed by Sarah Scotcher with Kim Ball and Cheryl Rudd as Musical Director and Choreographer, the show is packed to the gunnels with Island talent, both on and off-stage.

Costumes are underway, the set is being built and the singing, dancing and script are all going well. In addition to all that, the publicity train has left the station following a fantastic shoot at Osborne House in September, with the kind permission of English Heritage, and an appearance at Dover Park School to raffle off pumpkins by Cinderella and Dandini.

Our poster has also been finalised and is ready to go - keep your eyes peeled for that on Facebook!

Meanwhile, the costumes for Priscilla are also underway, casting is in process and we're working hard to get the word out, with members attending the IW Pride (or is that UK Pride? Congratulations, everyone! All the hard work has definitely paid off!) Gala Dinner on Saturday 18th November and yours truly has been invited to provide some entertainment as a singer for the evening.

Fundraising for both productions is steaming ahead, with a wildly successful Music Quiz, the ever-popular Beetle Drive and the annual Jude 'n' Friends Concert all taking place this side of Christmas to raise a the funds needed to help us stage our shows and be able to give even more to Island charities.

Tickets for Cinderella will be going on sale on Tuesday 2nd January from Medina Theatre, at £9 for adults and £8 for under 14s. We haven't put our price up in a while, but with the costs of staging a production rising each year we need to make a small increase - and we truly have kept this as small as possible. We pride ourselves on providing high quality productions at the lowest prices possible, and hope you'll all agree that it's still excellent value for money!

With so much going on, the team is busier than ever before and there will be plenty of sneak peeks, cast interviews and publicity stunts coming up as we approach Cinderella...and we can't wait to share it all with you, our wonderful followers!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Of Defibrillators and Donations...

What a day we had yesterday!

Some of our members visited Island Car Centre in Rookley, the site of our sixth Public Access Defibrillator, which within a week of its installation has already been used to help someone.

Louise Walker - head of the Isle of Wight NHS Ambulance Training & Community Response Services (and mum to one of our junior dancers!) - joined us for the visit and had this to say:

"Once again thank you so much to the Wight Strollers for supporting our Community Defibrillator programme, your passion and drive to raise money for local causes is highly commendable and so very much appreciated.  I look forward to seeing you all in the Island carnivals this year!"

A defibrillator is a portable device that can be used by a member of a public in the event of cardiac arrest - it analyses a casualty’s heart rhythm and will shock them if needed.

For every minute that passes without defibrillation and Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), chances of survival decrease by around ten per cent.

The idea behind PADs is that when someone calls 999 the Isle of Wight NHS Ambulance Service will make the caller aware of the nearest Public Access Defibrillator - and it could be what makes the difference between someone making it to hospital or not, between someone living and dying.

They're an invaluable piece of kit, that's for sure, and the scheme to get PADs set up Island-wide is one we hope to continue to support - we've purchased six for the Island so far, and counting!

But that wasn't all that happened on our visit to Rookley...

Whilst we were at Island Car Centre, the staff there came out to chat with us about who we are and what we do, and then disappeared...when they returned, it was to present us with a cheque for £100 towards our fundraising efforts for the local community.

We were truly touched, and would like to thank Island Car Centre for both their generosity in making a donation and also for agreeing to be the guardians of our latest PAD.

Everything we do is for Island charities, all our donations stay on the Island, and every penny makes a massive difference to Island people. So, from all of us here at The Wight Strollers, we'd like to say a massive thank-you to Island Car Centre, to Louise and the Isle of Wight NHS Ambulance Training & Community Response Service and, of course, to you - our supporters - for making all this possible.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A Quick Catch-Up!

Firstly, our apologies for the radio silence - things have been rather bonkers behind the scenes of late!

However, to make up for it, we have a bumper edition of news and updates, starting with Jack and the Beanstalk...

We were blessed with an entirely sold out pantomime run, a first in Strollers history! Normally, for reasons unknown, the first Saturday night is slow to sell and never quite makes it to full - but not this year!

Our cast and crew were chuffed with the result, and as such it's meant we've been able to give another fantastic set of donations to Island charities and good causes.

At our AGM in April, we donated £2,500 to The Bus Shelter IOW, £2,300 to the 1st Newport Scouts, £1,000 to the Isle of Wight Society for the Blind, and we purchased our sixth Public Access Defibrillator for the Isle of Wight - wow!

We also had a our committee elections at the AGM, with our chairman, Mike Sutcliffe, standing down after 12 years of service and our treasurer, Brian Whitewood, standing down after 9 years.

"Every year I report that we have had a pretty successful 12 months," said Mike in his final chairman's report. "I can't do that this time round because the last year hasn't been pretty successful - it's been ruddy amazing."

He went on to praise the work of the cast, crew and committee, and the loyalty of our audience members old and new in helping us to continue to play to sell-out houses.

"I always end my report with the same words, because I can't think of better ones," he finished. "The fact that we have staged two amazing productions and that we can donate so much to our good causes...is down to all of you, who give so freely of your money, your time and your various special talents. So, on behalf of our audiences, our charities, the committee and myself, I sincerely thank you all."

Both Mike and Brian have been absolutely incredible and there aren't words enough to thank them for everything they've done for the Strollers. It's safe to say they will be missed on the committee, but their successors are worthy ones and the new committee is looking forward to continuing the wonderful work done under the guidance of its predecessors.

Taking the reins from Mike is Gerry Tulloch, one of the founding Strollers and a former member of the Nesta Meech School of Dance, from which the company originated.

From dancing to directing,  performing performing to creating the most spectacular costumes (including last year's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!), Gerry is part of the very fibre of The Wight Strollers and the company could not be in safer hands.

Joining her on committee is Leslie Kast as Treasurer, along with the confirmed director of our next two productions, Sarah Scotcher, with Judith Day reprising her role as Secretary.

Mike Squibb and Emily Scotcher (yours truly!) were both reelected, whilst Nicola Steedman, Aly Keele-Toms and David Kast also continue to serve their terms on committee, and the company also elected two new members in Elisa Jones and Andrew Wilson-Jenner.

In more Strollers news, we will once again be appearing at the Island's carnivals this summer; although our theme, as always, is top secret for now, we can promise that it's going to get the crowds buzzing!

We have also been able to announce our next two productions, our February 2018 pantomime and our July 2018 musical.

On February 10th, 11th and 17th, we will be returning to Medina Theatre to perform Cinderella, one of the best-loved pantomimes and a firm favourite with many of the cast. The script is underway, the casting process has started, and the production team are starting to put together ideas to make this our most magical pantomime yet!

Following that, on July 6th, 7th and 8th 2018, we will be performing our second musical when we tackle the fabulous Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It's colourful, it's fast-paced, it's funny and it's packed with floor-fillers like 'I Will Survive', 'Go West', 'It's Raining Men', 'Hot Stuff' and 'What's Love Got To Do With It?' - it's one you won't want to miss!

Phew! It looks like we're in for our biggest and most bonkers year yet, if all that is anything to go by!

We'll be back again soon with carnival updates, pantomime news and a few sneaky hints at how our planning for Priscilla is going...

...It's good to be back!