Presented by Tea Tree Players
Reviewed 20 November 2015
For the past 38 years Tea Tree Players has produced an end-of-year pantomime filled with audience participation, cross-dressing and frivolity. This year’s production of Joshua Dixon’s Pinocchio, their 39th annual pantomime production, is no exception. Director, Damon Hill, has brought together a cast of varying ages and experience to bring the heart-warming tale of magic, wishes and the little wooden boy to life.
This cast is talented, energetic and imbued with a strong understanding of the workings of pantomime – essential in a genre where ad-libbing can easily go astray. Hayley Mitchell and Tina Cini are wonderfully charming as the two narrator fairies and carry the show with their hilarious rhyme and powerful voices. Opposite them, Theresa Dolman relishes the villainous Wicked Wander, encouraging the appropriate boos as she manipulates the story to go against poor Pinocchio.
Young Zack Brittan shines as the wooden puppet, with excellent line delivery and a lovely singing voice. Samuel Creighton brings much humour as the dumb comic male Jiminy, carrying the eager audience through all of his hijinks. Michaela Phillips is very sincere as Polly and sings beautifully, but can sometimes seem a little too reserved alongside the extremity of the other actors. Penny Phillips plays the cross-dressed Gepetto well but sometimes struggles with volume and accent consistency.
As the evil Stromboli, Brendan Cooney is fun and energetic but often completely loses the flow of scenes when interacting with the audience. Thankfully he manages to charm his way through them and is helped along by Timothy Hodgen and Danni Fulcher as his sidekicks who move along the scene even when Cooney forgets his lines.
Frank Cwiertniak is the clear standout as Pinocchio’s mother, Barbie Botox. Cwiertniak’s comic timing is spectacular and his improvised interactions with the audience were hilarious. Although his falsetto singing was not always strong, his characterisation made his performance exceptionally charming.
The young ensemble, featured in a number of the larger chorus numbers, were filled with energy and smiles. In pantomime, the energy of the ensemble greatly increases the audience’s enjoyment of the show and this group carries this task exceptionally well. In smaller roles, Michelle Hutchinson, Rhi Shapcott, Shayla Mitchell and Holly Sherwood do very well but all the child soloists should be commended for their confidence in solo singing.
All of the production elements within this show were of a very high quality. Hill’s set design and scenic artwork was visually spectacular and incredibly functional. Each set change was exciting with his wonderful work on display. Tea Tree Player’s Monday Club has done an excellent job with all of the costumes filling the stage with colour and variety. Lighting design from Robert Andrews is simple, but fun and functional.
In this production, although not all the performances may be of exceptional quality, the energy and exuberance with which they are delivered is the heart of pantomime and is more than enough to bring a smile to the audiences’ collective faces. You can’t help but get caught up in the panto magic.
Reviewed by Nathan Quadrio
Venue: Tea Tree Players Theatre
Season: 20 November – 5 December
Duration: 2 hours 30 mins
Tickets: $13 – $15