CBEEBIES original Chris Jarvis has been performing in professional pantomime since 1995, and for many years before that as an amateur. He was DETERMINED that the traditional Christmas entertainment would not be another thing to fall prey to the dreaded Covid-19, so he and a group of nine friends have devised and produced a panto mash-up for Poole’s Lighthouse this holiday season.
Happy Ever After is the proper ending of every one of the familiar tales, and that’s the title of the show on stage in Poole until 3rd January.
Chris is the irrepressible Buttons, and his friends play a variety of princes and princesses, fairies, heroes and heroines and one remarkable feline as their stories unfold, they overcome all the obstacles and head for that happy ending that we all hope for in 2021.
Perhaps the star of the show is Aaron Hunt (from the West End production of CATS) as an incredibly athletic puss, delighting the audience with his every move and managing to impose his feline presence onto all sorts of stories. The performance opened with the fairy godmother on a magic carpet. She is Lauren Azania, memorable in last year’s Salisbury panto Robin Hood as the conflicted Alana Dale and using her powerful singing voice to good effect in Happy Ever After’s many songs.
We saw a very early performance, when some of the jokes were bedding down. Best not to start with the one “adult” joke, I suspect. The show is full of favourite TV references, enjoyed by the younger children in the audience.
Chris’s friends include fellow CBeebies’ presenters Naomi Wilkinson and Ed Petrie with rising stars Harry Winchester and Jessica Rampling and the dancing talents of the locally-based Steppin’ Out Academy.
There are nods to Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, Humpty Dumpty, Aladdin, Dick Whittington and mainly Cinderella, whose transportational problems on her way to the ball at Hardup Hall form the backbone of the tale. This allows for lots of props and special lighting effects to be interwoven with the songs, and lots of costumes unearthed from the wardrobe.
All credit to the Lighthouse and all the theatres that have worked so hard to put on a Christmas entertainment this year.