Wednesday, 6 May 2015

'Aladdin' Delves into Cave of Wonders for Island Charities

We are thrilled to announce that we have given away £6,200 to local charities, following our successful run of Aladdin during the February half term.

The production was The Wight Strollers' 35th annual pantomime and takes their grand charity total over the £130,000 mark, with every penny staying on the Island.

We handed over our charity donations at our AGM on Thursday, April 23, to representatives from both causes.

Louise Walker, Commercial and Community Training Manager for the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service, accepted a cheque for £5,000 to purchase three Public Access Defibrillators, in coded boxes to make them accessible 24/7, for the Island.

She said: "What a privilege to meet such an amazing group of people...words are not enough to express my sincere thanks on behalf of the Isle of Wight Ambulance Community Training Department.

"Without a defibrillator, your out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival chances are 5-6%. With one, that can go up to 74%. I can't thank you enough - this is an incredible donation to the Island community."


Joan Rigby a former member of The Wight Strollers, then collected a £1,200 cheque for the IW Prostate Cancer & Urology Support Group.

"Who'd have thought, when a small group of us got together all those years ago and performed as The Wight Strollers, that we'd come so far?

"A big thank you to The Wight Strollers for this generous donation," she said. "As usual, the Strollers pulled out all the stops to provide a top class production which the IW should be proud of."

After we'd presented the cheques, we arrived at the matter of our 2016 pantomime, which will be - drumroll, please! - Mother Goose, to be performed in February 2016 at Medina Theatre. It will, once again, be directed by Sarah Scotcher, who fought off tough competition from a guy called Spielberg for the privilege!

Three committee members were also due to stand down, but all three - Mike Squibb, David Kast and myself - were re-elected to serve another term.

One thing that was clear, looking out at the sea of faces in attendance, is how far The Wight Strollers have come over the years, and how incredibly lucky we are to have such a dedicated membership and loyal audience following.

"Over recent years, the standard of our productions has risen and I didn't think we could get much better," said Mike Sutcliffe, our Chairman. "But with Aladdin we did. Everything was outstanding...

"I am incredibly proud to be part of a small family company like ours, capable of staging something so spectacular, taking our reputation to an even higher level."

Well said, Mr Chairman - very well said indeed!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Aladdin 2015: The Feedback, Part 2

It's been one week since we finished our run of Aladdin, and the post-panto blues have hit us hard! But making us feel better every day is the feedback that is still flooding in...and it's nothing short of glowing. Here's a selection of the feedback we've received for our final two performances:


"Fantastic show yesterday, my daughter and I loved it - thank you!"
- Kathryn Marie Mitchell

"Thank you, Strollers, for a fantastic show, lots of laughs and fab costumes - and also for letting Kimberley Ritchie be part of this year's panto, she loved it...all of you well done!"
- Caroline B Ritchie


"That was a fabulous show, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done to all!"
- Clare Barnes

"Just got back from watching Aladdin performed by The Wight Strollers. Awesome as always."
- Julie Anne Harris

"Thank you soooo [sic] much for another epically funny and entertaining show! I had to wipe tears of laughter off my cheeks more than once. We never fail to leave with a smile and eager to buy next year's tickets. My hands are sore from applauding but [it] still doesn't seem enough to show how much we love your shows. Well done to every single Stroller - both on the stage and behind it!!"
- Lou Hewison


"Great evening, many thanks!"
- Robert Plumb

"After seeing the dress rehearsal we just had to watch again and boy you never disappointed! Absolutely enjoyable for the whole family, we never stopped laughing, You all certainly made my daughter's half term...thank you, all."
- Heidi Banks


"What a great performance, we laughed the whole way through, already looking forward to next year - well done guys, especially 'nugget.'"
- Graham Harrison

"Always love your shows, but this one was amazing - costumes were outstanding. Well done to all."
- Steph Ratje

"Loved it! Totally professional show. Look forward to next year's."
- Vicki Sampson

"It was fab this evening. Well done to everyone. Thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I was sooo [sic] happy with the way it all looked in action. Very proud to have played a part in that."
- Angela Sowden (scenery artist extraordinaire!)


"Thank you from the 8th Ryde Brownies for a fantastic afternoon - it was brilliant, funny and [we] just loved the 'Razzle Dazzle'. We can't wait to see you all next year."
- Caroline Seaward

"It was fabulous!"
- Amanda Lewis

"Another amazing pantomime. The costumes were quite something this year. Can't wait for next year's."
- Heather Woodfield

"Massive well done to all of the cast and crew of Aladdin. Comical entrances, flying carpets scenes, genie rubbing innuendos, daft policemen and some wonderful costumes!"
- Fern Alexander

"I really enjoyed myself yesterday. I saw the matinee show with 1st Shanklin Rainbows. Really can't wait for the next show!"
- JackieStar Fearn

"Amazing show, loved it!"
- Bayliss and Booth

"Roll on next year! You all get better and better every year. We came twice this year...fabulous!"
- Ann Potts

-

Once again, thank-you so much to everyone who came to support our production of Aladdin - we're thrilled that our audiences seemed to love watching it as much as we loved performing it!

Watch this space for our charity donations, more Aladdin after-show gossip and the latest Wight Strollers news throughout the year.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Aladdin 2015: The Feedback, Part 1

Wow! What a first weekend! Packed audiences, magical shows and fantastic feedback flooding in - we couldn't be happier and, with this Saturday afternoon already sold out and less than 100 tickets left for Saturday evening, our final two shows are looking to be quite something!

We thought we'd share with you, our loyal supporters and readers, some of the feedback we've received so far for our first three shows...



"Had a great afternoon watching Aladdin at Medina Theatre - performed by The Wight Strollers. Thanks and well done to all the cast, especially great to see some of the family perform - Patrick Barry, Kiera Barry and even my 2-year-old niece Emilie had a part!"
- Ian White

"Fantastic show, all the brownies and leaders loved it. Thank you. Again you excelled yourselves."
- Cheryl Lamanna

"We are from an amateur theatre group from Staffordshire and came to Isle of Wight for a few days holiday. We came across an advertisement for Aladdin and thought it would be great to watch another group on stage! We were sitting second row from the front and we thought you all did a fantastic job! Good job on [the] show!
- Jake and Maria (Rugeley Musical Theatre Company)


"I have just spent a wonderful few hours in your company and must say that I have never enjoyed a Saturday night so much in years, the production was absolutely fabulous. The costumes were wonderful, the singing and dancing was faultless, the Chinese police, what can I say, were very funny and the genie just made the night FABULOUS! Well done, all of you...and the little gold nugget who made me cry, bless her."
- Wendy Wright

"Great performance tonight, loved it! Panto on Valentine's Day, great idea, who knew?"
- Martin Redhead

"Yesterday we went to the Medina Theatre to see Aladdin performed byThe Wight Strollers. It was spectacular. Such a great production. All action, high energy, lots of audience participation. A very professional show. Loved it. If you get the chance, go and see it."
- Maggie Currie



"Thank you once again a fabulous performance, very entertaining as always, Macie and her friends thoroughly enjoyed it, see you same time next year!"
- Dana Edkins

"Thank you for such a wonderful fun evening! Both the children and I enjoyed it, Hope all the performances go smoothly for all concerned, you're all fab."
- Heidi Banks

"Thank you so much for letting us come and watch your dress rehearsal of Aladdin! It was AWESOME! How do you all do it?! So entertaining and very funny. Well done on yet another fabulous production! Samuel is so chuffed he got happy birthday sung to him, too."
- Katie Bond



"Absolutely brilliant performance this afternoon. My little boy has never sat still for so long. And being able to have his photo taken with Wong and Pong made his day."
- Vikki Roberts

"Been supporting The Wight Strollers for years now and they just get better each year. The costumes were fabulous and Sarah [Scotcher] still has me in stitches."
- Lynda Waddams

"I came this afternoon with my disabled brother and he loved every minute, well done everybody!"
- Joyce Maryon



"Thank you for letting us bring the children from Beaulieu House to this evening's performance, it was enjoyed very much by all."
- Justine Crumplin

"You were amazing, Em [Scotcher]! My niece and Leah loved you, Aladdin and Wishee Washee! I had goosebumps everytime you sang! The whole team was amazing and every character actually spoke and interacted with the audience. I've been to the Mayflower and seen some of the best - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Oliver, Starlight Express, Blood Brothers - and you guys were definitely up there! And Michael's [Mullin] accent was flipping awesome!" 
- Maria Wherry



Thank-you so much, everyone, for such wonderful and kind words - we are so pleased the show is being enjoyed by so many people! If you haven't bought your tickets for Saturday 21st February at 7:30pm yet, we recommend that you get in quick - they're selling out fast!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Princess' Perspective...

I don't usually write these blogs from my own perspective, but this year I thought it would be nice to take a look at a character type that may not bring the biggest laughs or cheers, but is a crucial and beloved part of pantomime nonetheless: the Princess.

I first stepped onto Medina Theatre stage for the first time in Prince Crispian and the Magic Sword, dressed as a snowflake, in February 1995. Far from being frightened, I was so desperate to get on stage that I pushed the terrified snowflake ahead of me on, just so I could  get out in front of an audience that little bit faster.

Not much has changed.

In the twenty-one years I've been with The Wight Strollers, I've been lucky enough to have some wonderful experiences as a dancer, a chorus member and as a principal.

With every year, I've loved it a little more, and anyone who knows me will know how much I love the company, and the people in it.

I always struggle to put into words just how I feel about them - 'family' is about as close as I can get. No matter how long the day, there's always a smile to be found in the company of these wonderful people.

This year, I am thrilled to be able to step into the role of principal girl, and I have to confess...there is nothing quite like the feeling of shaking off reality and becoming a princess for a few hours a week!

Alright, so it's true that princesses aren't always the brightest characters on the bill...


They ignore all the best audience advice, engaging in many a fairytale faux-pas, from swapping magic lamps to eating poison apples: memorably, when playing Snow White, I had a little girl shout 'Don't eat the apple, Snow White - you'll die!' from the audience, but the script, sadly, forbade me to listen.

They usually don't think beyond first impressions: Princess Mandarin in this year's Aladdin, for example, conveniently runs into a peddler man exchanging 'new lamps for old', mere moments after Aladdin has handed her a battered, old lamp and told her to guard it with her life...

And they often find themselves in mortal danger: so far, in my panto princess experience, I've eaten two poisoned apples, pricked my finger once, almost been eaten by a wolf and been captured twice. Not a great track record.

But those are minor details. I, for one, adore every second I spend in a princess dress!

Over the years, though, I've come to realise that there is so much more to playing a princess than just a pretty dress (although that is a major perk!) - so, for a bit of fun, I've come up with five top tips for any Panto Princess in the making...

1. Know what makes your princess tick...
Princess Mandarin is in equal parts sweet and feisty, and she will settle for nothing less than what her heart wants...and that's something to be admired, I think. It makes her easy to love, and even easier to play.

2. Embrace the Princess Persona
Most of the audience will associate the word 'princess' with the Disney Princess franchise...and with those expectations come faraway looks, wishful sighs and plenty of flowery hand gestures!

Just try not to smack the other cast members with your hair, hands or billowy sleeves while you're twirling and prancing around from dawn 'til dusk!

3. Get the Look!
When you play a princess, you just know that dozens of little girls in the audience, who have all come dressed up, are waiting to see what you look like...

Your make-up has to be perfect, your dress has to be pristine and you have to be prepared for your feet to suffer in many an itchy, glittery shoe. Sometimes it hurts, but it's so worth it!

4. Find the right prince!
The perfect panto prince depends on the panto - he can be anything from charming gentleman to cheeky chappy, as long as he's believable from the first moment you meet to the final curtain call.

I've been so incredibly lucky to have played opposite some super talented actors and some of my very best friends over the years, and often they wind up being one in the same. This year is no exception, though don't tell him I said it!

5. Wishes, Dreams and Happy Endings
For me, the most important part of being a princess is what you represent. In a world where children are encouraged too soon, at least in my opinion, to abandon the fairytale role models of their childhood, it's a thrill to be able to inject a little magic into their imaginations as a real, live person.

After all, in PantoLand, the princesses aren't animated, airbrushed or photo-shopped; they are real girls, with real lives and real bodies. Real people who have probably once sat in an auditorium wishing they could wear a Snow White dress, or sing like Sleeping Beauty or dance like Cinderella.

For all those children that sit and watch you get your happy ending, whatever the trials that come before, you are a reminder that happy endings exist and dreams can come true. And that you can grow up, at least in some way, to be a princess.

And sometimes, for a little girl doubting herself, that little glimmer of hope can go a long way...



See Princess Mandarin in action at Medina Theatre this half term by booking tickets for The Wight Strollers' fun-filled family pantomime, 'Aladdin'. Visit the Medina Theatre website or phone 01983 823884 to book your tickets today!

Let's Face the Music and Dance!

The Wight Strollers are exceptionally lucky; we have a very talented troupe of dancers, ranging from the tender age of eight to the grand age of fifteen - and they really are superb. Many of them attend dance schools outside of the Strollers, and have busy lives with school and other hobbies, but they still find the time each week to dedicate their talents to our pantomimes.

We caught up with them to find out what it is that keeps them coming back each week, each month, each year...

“Everyone is so lovely and it's like a massive family!" says Abbie Knowles. "If you can't do something the strollers will always find a way to adapt a dance to the dancer’s limitations. For example, where I have a stroke they adapt it to make things easier, so I can use my better leg which is easiest to balance on."

Hannah Knowles echoes her sister's sentiments, "We are all at different levels of dance but it is all adapted for your dance ability.

"I am the youngest ‘senior’ dancer but it doesn't feel like it, everybody includes me in everything and I never feel left out...we all feel like we are a big part of the show because we're treated equally - that's why I love dancing in the Strollers."

The family feeling is strong with the Strollers, and everyone has a ball working with each other at rehearsals, that much is clear. When you're in a dance troupe, it's all about teamwork, and our girls have got it nailed!

"We help each other out, we have a laugh with one another and, most importantly, we work so well together," says Izzi Rudd. "We are all really good friends, and there isn't anything better than performing with your friends on stage!"

"It's a really friendly atmosphere," Ruby agrees, adding: "And the dances end up looking really great with the costumes and everything!"

We've been chatting to some of our younger dancers, too, and it seems that, although they might not have been with the company long, they're already well and truly on board in PantoLand!

"It is fun, everybody cares for you, and I have made lots of friends," says Keira Barry, aged 10.

And she's backed up, emphatically, by eleven-year-old Ella Gregory: "I like dancing because it's fun and I like being with my friends I have made through Strollers."

"I like being in the Strollers because it's fun and you make lots of friends," adds Izzy Park, aged 9. "I also like it because I get to act and sing while I dance which lets me do all of the things that I love in the same place!"

As we always say at Strollers HQ, 'once a Stroller, always a Stroller' - and some of our dancers have definitely been here long enough to vouch for that!

“I love dancing with the Strollers because I physically can't remember not doing it," says Lucinda Rigby. "The rehearsals are so funny now I'm actually old enough to understand the jokes and I am always genuinely happy to be there."

"I've been dancing for a long time now," Zoe Lawrence adds. "I couldn't image my life if I didn't! I really enjoy it because I've met so many new people and, if I've had a bad day, it's the perfect way to just let everything go."

They all have their favourite routines, too, and Zoe can't wait to tell us about hers...

"I've been with the strollers for six years now and I think one of my favourite routines was the skeleton dance in Cinderella, but my top favourites are by far-"

Ah-ah-ah, Zoe, were you about to give away some of the music for this year's production?

Actually, when I asked the dancers for their favourite routines, most of them replied with songs from this year's Aladdin - spoiler alert! We'll keep schtum for now, girls!

However, there have been other favourites over the years, and plenty of them.

“My favourite routine of all time would have to be the company song of Snow White in 2008 - 'We Go Together' - because I have the funniest memories of us sat in a circle trying to learn the words!” says Lucinda.

For Ruby, the favourite is more recent: "My favourite dance in the whole time I have been at Strollers is 'Voulez Vous' from Robinson Crusoe."

In fact, Robinson Crusoe produced some very firm favourite routines for a few of our dancers.

"The underwater ballet last year was my favourite, I love ballet I also liked the song and my costume," says Ella.

For Keira and Izzy, 'One Way or Another', also from last year's show, was a definite hit...but mostly because they got to chase Keira's dad, Patrick Barry, around the stage and poke him with spears! Nothing like a bit of Girl Power!

"This is my eleventh panto so I have alot of dances to choose from," says Sophie Croain. "My favourite dances are the ones that we are doing this year; Some are high intensity, others are slower.

"Cheryl, who directs the dances for us, is truly amazing and without her we wouldn't be able to perform the way in which we do."

She adds: "Without giving to much away this year is going to be incredible, and I am looking forward to the shows!"

Meanwhile, for Izzi, this question poses a dilemma!

"My favourite dance...there have been so many!" she says. "Probably 'It's Oh So Quiet' from Sleeping Beauty or this year's-"

Izzi! What did I say about spoilers?

To steer away from spoilers, we caught up with our youngest dancer, Emma, aged 8, to ask her what she reckons to dancing with the Wight Strollers.

"I like dancing with the Wight strollers because it's fun and I love dancing. As this is my first season dancing, my favourite routine has to be-"

Not another one!

Well, alright, since almost all of you named at least one of  this year's routines as your favourite, here's a sneak peek for everyone of just one of our fabulous dances in Aladdin!




There you have it, everyone! A sneak peek into what makes our dance troupe so fantastic - teamwork, friendship and laughter - and isn't that exactly what pantomime is all about?

Book your tickets to see Aladdin by phoning Medina Theatre Box Office on 01983 823884 or by visiting the Medina Theatre website.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Behind every great hero...

...There is a rather nasty villain!

And this year it's the wicked Abanazer, an Egyptian sorcerer with plans to take over the world. If he can get his hands on a certain magic lamp, that is!

Playing the malicious magician is none other than Tim Smith, who won an Isle of Wight Amateur Theatre Award last November for his portrayal of Precious the pirate in last year's pantomime, Robinson Crusoe.



Funnily enough, Tim's first appearance on stage with The Wight Strollers was in Aladdin, back in February 2009...but last time he was very much on the side of good, playing the Genie of the Lamp.

Since then, he has played Captain Jack in Dick Whittington, an Ugly Sister in Cinderella, Will Scarlett in Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, Filch the Henchman in Sleeping Beauty and, of course, Precious in Robinson Crusoe.

Tim, that's quite the array of parts - which has been your favourite?

"I think my favourite would have to be last year, when we were the pirates and I was Precious - mostly because of the Titanic synchronised swimming bit, that was fantastic."

You won an Isle of Wight Amateur Theatre Award for that performance - how did you feel when you won?

"Overwhelmed, actually - I never expected to win it! It was a wonderful surprise just to be nominated, so to win it was amazing."


It was a well-deserved win, Tim! It's quite a change for you this year, being a baddie - what's the biggest challenge about playing Abanazer?

"The biggest challenge for me has been getting out of the performance I did last year and getting into being a real villain and being nasty...and keeping that nasty up all the time! But it's coming now and I'm pleased with it - I'm really enjoying it."

Final question, Tim - what's your favourite thing about being in The Wight Strollers?

"The family atmosphere, definitely - everybody is so lovely."

That's what we like to hear! Thanks for answering our questions, Tim, and we're sure you'll be an absolutely terrifying villain!

You can witness Tim's villainous turn as Abanazer in this year's pantomime, Aladdin, at Medina Theatre on February 14th, 15th and 21st. Book your tickets by visiting the Medina Theatre website or by phoning 01983 823884, or simply by popping into the box office in person - see you there!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Introducing...Aladdin!

Here at The Wight Strollers, we pride ourselves on introducing new faces to the company and giving them a chance to shine - it's part of what keeps the company growing and thriving, as it has now done under the banner of The Wight Strollers for thirty-five years!

So, this year, we'd like to introduce to you a brand new face in the Strollers family: Nick Weightman, who will be starring in our forthcoming pantomime as the one and only Aladdin.


Welcome to The Wight Strollers, Nick! How are you finding your experience of being in the company?

"It's absolutely incredible, everyone's so friendly and so welcoming of new people - it's really nice!"

Have you always been a panto fan, Nick?

"Oh yeah, all my life! I remember going to watch it when I was in Beavers and Cubs and then I did one when I was sixteen, then seventeen, then eighteen...I had a break while I was at uni, so to be able to get back into them now is so much fun."

Well, playing Aladdin in Aladdin sounds like a great way to get back into pantomime to me! What is it about panto that you love so much?

"I just love the happy, friendly environment, of the rehearsals and the shows, and the fact that the audience is always on your side - it's such a vibrant and energetic atmosphere to perform in, I love it."

Without giving too much away, what's your favourite part of the show?

"My favourite part of the show? It's actually a scene I'm not in! But it's just going to amaze and wow and leave the audience in fits of laughter..."

I think I might know which bit you're talking about! And finally, what advice would you give to kids who, like Aladdin, have a tendency to dream big?

"Just follow your dreams. Don't let anybody get in your way. If anybody says you can't do it, take that negativity and turn it into positivity and have it fuel your passion. You'll get there."

Good advice - thanks, Nick! And break a leg for the show!

See Nick Weightman as Aladdin in our forthcoming production by phoning Medina Box Office on 01983 823884 or visiting the website to buy your tickets. February 14th, 15th and 21st - you don't want to miss it!