Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Sweetest Fairy Of All

We are delighted to introduce Shannon Crouch in her debut speaking role with The Wight Strollers. 

She will be appearing in our February production of Jack and the Beanstalk as Fairy Sugardust, the sweet and magical fairy who watches over the village of Old Windy Bottom and saves the day when things turn sour!

So, Shannon, how did you feel when you were asked to play Fairy Sugardust?
Nervous but also very excited!

What's been the biggest challenge so far?
All the words rhyming - if you get something wrong, it's much scarier!

And what are you most looking forward to about the show?
Everything...and the sparkly dress!

Experience tells us that everyone has their own little ways to get into their roles - how have you been getting into character?
Channeling my inner girlies and finding random kitchen utensils to be me wand - a wooden spoon wrapped in Xmas paper with a tin foil star...and now a flowery spatula! It's Cath Kidston!

Well, that's the most important thing, obviously! Let's rewind for a second, Shannon - what was your first pantomime with us?
It was Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood in February 2012 - that feels like a long time ago now!

And what about before joining The Wight Strollers? Did you come to us bursting with stage experience or were you a relative newbie?
In Year 2, I was a Little Red Hen in a primary school production - but that's it! I was a newbie!

Wow! Well, you're not a newbie anymore - this is your seventh pantomime with us! Out of all the pantos you've done so far, which has been your favourite?
Ooh, that's hard! Probably Robinson Crusoe (2014)...apart from the mermaid wigs!

I have a picture of those (see right!)
Oh, good!

Blue hair suits you! So if it's not the wigs, then what is your favourite thing about being part of The Wight Strollers?
Being able to do something that I love with basically a massive group of friends.

And the big question: Why should people book tickets to Jack and the Beanstalk?
Because it's a family friendly fun show and supporting amazing Island charities

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You heard it here, from our very own Fairy Sugardust - tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk are worth every penny! And they're selling fast, so make sure you book in advance to ensure you have seats!

Tickets are available in person from the Medina Theatre Box Office (open weekdays 7am-9pm and weekends 9am-5pm) or by phone on 01983 823884 or online at www.medinatheatre.co.uk.

See you in the audience!


Saturday, 10 December 2016

A Snapshot of our Social Media

On Saturday 10th December 2011, exactly five years ago today, Nicola Chastney (nee Steedman) and myself launched The Wight Strollers' Facebook page to the public with a barrage of old pantomime pictures and our very first public Facebook post, which was about none other than our Penguin Parade around the Island.

It went something like this...

Why not pop along to Newport or Ryde tomorrow and revisit the fun of the carnival with The Wight Strollers!
We'll be getting off our penguin bus in St James' Square at 10am, and waddling our way through Newport before riding to Ryde and performing at Tesco and The Busy Bee!
10am - St. James' Square
10:30 - HMV and the High Street
11am - Cineworld
11:25am - M&S
11:45am - Morrison's
12:10pm - Iceland
12:45pm - Sainsbury's
1:45pm - Tesco
2:15pm The Busy Bee
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We will be singing, dancing and waddling our little flippers off to promote our 2012 production of Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, so come along and join the fun!
See you there! :-)

We've come a long, long way since then, and gained a lot of 'likes' along the way - 1,080, to be exact!

In February 2013, we were celebrating reaching 2,919 people with our Facebook page - in July 2016, at the height of Joseph, our page reached over 10,000 people with a single post. Wow!

This very blog launched on Monday 17th September 2012, and, to date, has been viewed 21,949 times. The most popular post ever published is 'Notes from the Narrator', with a whopping 875 views so far!

In fact, our top ten blog posts are a proper mix - take a look below and see what the fuss is about!*

10. Springtime With The Strollers - 327 views
9. Introducing...Aladdin! - 345 views
8. Aladdin 2015: The Feedback, Part 1 - 386 views
7. Pretty As A Princess - 395 views
6. Wonderful Workshops - 422 views
5. He's Just A Dreamer... - 454 views
4. Not Just For Kids: Pantomimes Are For Everyone! - 478 views
3. Honest As Coconuts: Banter With Benjamin - 567 views
2. Such A Dazzling Show Of Many Colours! - 623 views
1. Notes From The Narrator... - 875 views

*N/B: These figures are correct at the time of writing, on December 10th 2017...we're hoping they're about to shoot up even more!

Our Twitter channel (@WightStrollers) was launched on January 25th 2013, just before we revamped our website, and our current Twitter tally is 588 and counting!

A few years on, we introduced an e-mail address - wightstrollers@gmail.com - and then finally joined Instagram earlier this year, on January 13th, which currently stands at 260 followers, and in February we created a YouTube channel, thus completing our social media profile...for now!

Originally comprised of just two people, it's a small team that runs our social media channels now, led by Em Scotcher (yours truly) and Allan Gregory, with admins Nicola Chastney and Sarah Scotcher on standby to support the madness!

The e-mail account, blog and website, meanwhile, are all run by me - which is no small task, but it's certainly one that's good fun!

Our social media team are all volunteers, just like the rest of our company, and we've been honoured on more than one occasion to have people send us messages thinking we're a professional team!

Since The Wight Strollers' first public page appeared on social media, we've moved from text-only posts and rehearsal notices to pictures, collages, videos and homemade memes to promote our shows, and it's all thanks to our fabulous team, and - of course - our members and followers for jumping on board with whatever we ask them to share!

We're immensely proud of how far our online presence has come since 2011, and we're grateful to everyone who has taken the time to like, follow, watch, comment, share, read or post on any of our pages.

Please keep the love coming, and ask your friends and family to give us a like, a follow or a share as we approach the launch of our tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk, which will be performed in February 2017 at Medina Theatre.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Pretty as a Princess

Last week, we introduced Michael Mullin as Jack - this week, we're introducing our gorgeous principal girl, Princess Primrose, who will be played in our February production of Jack and the Beanstalk by Beth Batchelor.

Beth is another relative newbie to the company; she joined in September 2014, stepping out to tread the boards with us for the first time in February 2015 as part of the chorus for our award-winning production of Aladdin.

She was a member of our chorus, too, for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2016) before being asked to play the seductive Mrs Potiphar in our summer production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 

She then proceeded to clean up (and dance!) the streets of the Island as part of this year's 'Dirty Dancing' carnival entry - it's safe to say Beth has thrown herself wholly into Strollers life since she joined, and we love having her as part of the Strollers family!

Prior to joining The Wight Strollers, Beth was no stranger to the stage.

Beth has, in fact, been performing on stage since she was 6 years old, and was an Irish Dancer for 10 years, coming second in the British Championships when she was 14 and even qualifying for European Championships. But that's not all!

"I starred as an extra in a Discovery Channel Documentary when I was 18," she says. "I played an air crash victim - which didn't really help with my existing fear of planes!"

Jack and the Beanstalk marks Beth's first principal girl role within The Wight Strollers, and she will be playing Princess Primrose. Not your typical princess, Primrose hates formality and falls for the charming and witty Jack Dimple, a village boy.

So how is Beth finding playing a princess?

"I love being a princess - I have to say that, in reality, I'm not a typically girly girl. It's been a little challenging getting into character, but I have been "revising" by watching endless Disney Princess films!"

Having seen her in rehearsals, we can tell you she's going to be absolutely fantastic, and she's been working hard with Michael (Jack) to perfect what will be another gorgeous panto duet.

"The singing rehearsal with our MD and 'Jack' went really well," Beth says. "I'm looking forward to adding a few moves to the singing now!"

For Beth, all things panto may be going smoothly, but for poor Princess Primrose the road is a little more challenging; after all, the course of true love never did run smooth, and soon after she meets Jack she's kidnapped by the sinister Giant - Buster Gut-Bucket - and taken to his castle in the clouds.

It's up to Jack to rescue her...but will he succeed?

Make sure you get your tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk - performed at Medina Theatre, Newport, on February 18th, 19th and 25th 2017 - to find out!

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Tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk go on sale Tuesday 3rd January 2017 from Medina Theatre Box Office on 01983 823884 or at www.medinatheatre.co.uk - don't miss out!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Hit the Stage, Jack!

It's official!

Jack and the Beanstalk rehearsals are well and truly underway, and we're ready to put on another fantastic show, jam-packed with comedy, live music and fun for all the family.

We've been busy putting the wheels in motion over the last month, with work beginning on scenery and costumes, publicity stunts in the pipeline and our cast, chorus and dancers working exceptionally hard on the script and songs.

Some of our team even whisked themselves off to Disneyland Paris, where our very own Jack took the opportunity to have a go at climbing a beanstalk in readiness for February!

So, without further ado, we'd like to introduce the first of this year's cast members: Michael Mullin as the titular Jack.

The hero of the tale, Jack is thrust into the spotlight when the unfriendly neighborhood giant kidnaps the princess and he, being head over heels in love with her, sets off on a daring rescue.


Michael's first pantomime was our 2014 offering, Robinson Crusoe, in which he played Man Friday. Since then, he's played PC Wong (Aladdin, 2015), Chuckles the Jester (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 2016) and Judah (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).

Outside of the Strollers, Michael is a founder member of the Isle of Wight Shakespeare Company, and has directed shows for both their adult and youth productions, as well as playing all manner of parts and even picking up an Isle of Wight Amateur Theatre Award in the process!

In 2014, he also appeared in Black Iris Events' production of Little Shop of Horrors as the hilarious florist shop owner, Mr Mushnik.

Usually found playing a comedic character in our productions, this is Michael's first outing as a principal boy for The Wight Strollers, and it's safe to say he's smashing it!

But will he be up to the task of rescuing the beautiful Princess Primrose?

Beth Batchelor certainly hopes so!

Starring as our principal girl this year, you can find out more about Princess Primrose and the lovely Beth in our next blog post - coming soon!

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Jack and the Beanstalk will be coming to Medina Theatre on February 18th, 19th and 25th 2017 - tickets go on sale on Tuesday 3rd January at just £8 for adults and £7 for under-14s, with all proceeds going to Island charities. Save the dates and don't miss out!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Summer with the Strollers

What a whirlwind of a summer we've had!

We've been super busy, so busy that we simply haven't had time to blog about it, so we'll take you on a whistle-stop tour of what we've been up to...

With Joseph over, we did a top-speed turn-around and launched ourselves into carnival season with this year's entry: Dirty Dancing!

Dressed as cleaning ladies, complete with bright pink hair rollers and carpet sweepers, we danced through the streets to 'I Want to Break Free' and 'Greased Lightning', performing kicks, flicks and hip-wiggles and picking up trophies as we went.

Feedback, as always, has been excellent, and we're already musing on ideas for next year.

We also held our presentation for the proceeds of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and were overwhelmed once more by how much we were able to give away.

We presented a cheque for £3,500 to St Peter's Church, Shorwell, who were our partners for the production, and we presented a cheque for £2,000 to The Joe Ellis Trust.

To top it off, we also purchased our fifth Public Access Defibrillator for the Isle of Wight, which will be placed in the parish of Shorwell.

We've said it a hundred times before, and we'll say it again: thank-you, to every single person who supported Joseph, and to our spectacular cast and crew, without whom the show simply wouldn't have happened.

So, with the carnivals over and Joseph nicely wrapped up, we now turn our attention to our 2017 pantomime: Jack and the Beanstalk.

Set to be performed at Medina Theatre on February 18th, 19th and 25th, trust us when we say you'll want to save the dates!

It'll be our 'biggest' panto yet!

Over the summer, we also reached some pretty incredible milestones on our social media pages, topping 200 followers on Instagram and reaching a brilliant 500 followers on Twitter, while our Facebook page continued to grow and is now approaching 1,100 'likes'.

In honour of these awesome achievements, our next blog post will be all about our social media channels, so watch this space!

That's all for now, but stay tuned as we embark on our next pantomime adventure and keep an eye on the blog for more news and updates from The Wight Strollers. As we step into Autumn, we hope to bring you an insight into some of the behind-the-scenes happenings of the company, including our social media, our committee, our costume and scenery teams, and how we go about choosing our charities each year - it's all good stuff, you won't want to miss a word!

For now, though, it's one more big thank-you from us to all our supporters and we'll be checking in again soon.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Such A Dazzling Show Of Many Colours!

Wow.

That really is the only word for it: wow. Three performances, four standing ovations - we couldn't be happier!

What a blast we had with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - to our cast, crew, band and audiences, we would like to say a huge thank-you on behalf of St. Peter's Church and The Wight Strollers.

The feedback has been overwhelming. It's flooded in and it's been absolutely spectacular, so we thought we'd share just a few of the comments with you, our wonderful blog readers.

The show was reviewed in the July 15th edition of the Isle of Wight County Press, and it was a glowing review of the show! Sadly it's not available online, but there were three other reviews written that are online for you to check out: one from Sardines Magazine, one from Mitch Hamer and another from Fern Alexander.

Meanwhile, our audiences took to social media to express how much they loved the show. Here are just a fraction of their many wonderful comments:

"What a way to spend a Saturday night, absolutely amazing from start to finish. Incredible costumes and scenery and so much talent. Well done everyone. Can't wait to see the next production."
- Lynda Waddams

"You were all brilliant...I much preferred your show to the West End one I saw some years ago. So proud of you all!"
- Scott Goddard

"Congratulations on an incredible show! Still singing the songs - proud of your amazing vision, Sarah , and the fantastic cast and crew for bringing it to life. I am a convert!"
- Jo Shannon

"The best musical I have seen outside of the West End."
- Peter Knowles

"Amazing performance...the effect you had on my autistic son was amazing, we were front row and he was spellbound - I came home emotional and humbled that he thoroughly enjoyed every second, so thank you."
- Michaela White

"What a brilliant show this evening. Amazing performers, every single one of you. Well deserved standing ovation."
- Vikki Roberts

"Had a fantastic time at the show this afternoon- thank you for making it so enjoyable. I know only too well how much hard work, energy and commitment goes into something to make it look that effortless! It was joyous, and that came from the sheer passion and enjoyment every single person on stage clearly felt. Well done. The best 'amateur ' (hate that word) I have ever seen on the Island. Sat there wishing I could have been a part of it! Special mention to my fabulous former students - Nick Weightman, Michael Mullin and Brad Barnley - but massive congrats to all!"
- Liz Segal

"A truly wonderful performance. Costumes, singing, everything was top notch...every single person taking part looked as if they were having the time of their lives.Well done and roll on the next pantomime."
- Sandra Davies

"It was a brilliant show. So professional. Anyone that didn't enjoy it, there must be something wrong with them. Well done everyone! What's next?"
- Jean Tayler

"Wow, oh wow! Think you should rename your latest production 'Sarah and her Technicolor Cast of many Talents!' Absolutely stunning show! What a spectacular production! Huge congratulations to everyone!"
- Stella Rogers

"A triumph for the whole company - Emily [was] by far the best the Narrator I have ever seen...A truly memorable and fabulous afternoon, thank you all so much."
- Howard Wilkie

There are dozens more comments like this and we wish we could share them all, we're so proud of everyone who was involved - what an absolute triumph!

Thank-you so much to everyone who came and supported the show, and watch this space to find out how much we'll be donating to our chosen charities!

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If you enjoyed Joseph, don't miss out on The Wight Strollers' annual pantomime. Our next production will be Jack and the Beanstalk at Medina Theatre, Isle of Wight, on February 18th, 19th and 25th. Tickets will be on sale from the Medina Theatre Box Office in January 2017.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Notes from the Narrator...

Yesterday we had our band call, and last night I was listening to the recordings, over and over again. And then I had to stop and take a moment to breathe. This is really happening.

It's been a long time since I wrote a blog post from my own, personal point of view as a cast member - it hasn't happened since 2015, in fact, when we did Aladdin. 

But today, for this particular show, I'm making an exception.

Joseph has been one of my favourite musicals since I was eight years old and performed it at Brighstone Primary School. Back then, I was a sheaf of corn, a member of Potiphar's household and one of the Narrator's backing singers. I remember it so vividly, right down to the dance moves - in fact, I could probably still perform those routines now!

And I remember watching the Narrator and memorising every single one of their lines, desperately hoping that one day I'd have the chance to play the role.

Who'd have thought that a dream that started when I was eight years old would come to fruition eighteen years later?

I certainly didn't!

But then again, isn't Joseph all about dreams coming true?

So who is the Narrator? What is she? Why does she exist?

The Narrator is a strange part, and a challenging one, largely because she doesn't leave the stage for the duration of the show and there are few numbers in which she doesn't sing - four, to be exact.

She's removed from the story, but at the same time is very much a part of it, interacting with every single character and weaving her way through the plot, acting as a story-teller, instigator, adviser, friend and conscience all in one.

She introduces, she engineers, she antagonises, she influences - in short, she doesn't stop!

It's story-telling with a difference, and I love it. There's something to be said for telling a story through song, and what a privilege it is to be able to tell such a wonderful story as Joseph.

The Narrator's songs aren't the big hits, they're not the iconic numbers of Joseph or the globe-trotting songs of the Brothers...

In fact, with the exception of  'Prologue' and 'Pharaoh Story', she doesn't really have songs at all!

Hers are the little riffs you hum as you leave the theatre; the single lines you can't get out of your head for days on end, the split-second moments you remember even if you can't recall what came before or after!

She's there from the start of Joseph's journey to the end of it...which is really rather apt.

The Joseph journey, for me, began in January 2015, when I began looking into the possibility of performing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - now, nineteen months on and less than a week from curtain up, I can hardly believe it's really happening.

Some days, I legitimately have to pinch myself. And if you glance at me during the very first rendition of 'Any Dream Will Do', you will see me welling up every time, without fail.

Because this, to me, is perfect.

How can it not be?

Standing on stage, surrounded by some of the best and funniest and most talented people I know, when those opening chords sound I feel a sense of pride so overwhelming that it catches me off guard at every single rehearsal.

Joseph is, by far and away, the best and most wonderful show I have ever done. It's been a nineteen month rollercoaster from Canaan to Egypt and back, and I - along with the rest of the cast, I'm sure - can't quite get my head around the fact that it's almost over.

All that's left to do now is share the experience with an audience...

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Make sure you're a member of our audience this weekend by booking your tickets! Either phone 01983 823884 between 10am and 2pm or visit the Medina Theatre website to book online at any time!