Well, who would have thought the Customs House panto could have survived without Tommy and Dame Dotty?
The comedy duo of Ray Spencer and Bob Stott had held the season’s audiences in the palm of their hand for more years than anyone would care to remember.
And so it was that after their final performance last year, many faithful fans feared they would be disappointed when a new batch of entertainers moved in.
But fear not, Tommy and Dotty fans, their places as South Tyneside’s top comedy combo have not only been filled, but filled to more voluptuous proportions than ever before. Anyone who’s seen this year’s offering will know what I mean!
This year’s affair sees a polished performance on a par with London’s West End, perhaps because of the West End pedigree of Jamie Birkett as the Wicked Stepmother. Her rendition of Mother Knows Best is one of the most menacing I’ve ever seen.
This year there are no leading lights or dominant duos. Each of the performers stand out in their own right, captivating the audience when it is their time to shine.
And there are plenty of one-liners to keep the crowds entertained (“Beauty sleep? A coma couldn’t help you!”) and the hilarious “vessel with the pestle...” scenario. For almost two and half hours the laughs and dramatics keep the audience gripped and, for what I think is the first time ever, the Customs House panto remains true to the story.
Along the way it is aided and abetted by the hilarious stepsisters, played by Geordie Shore wannabes Craig Richardson and Stephen Sullivan, who are perfectly balanced by yet another comedy duo of Paul Dunn and Will Graham as Bashit and Wreckit.
Luke Maddison’s Buttons is outstanding, he reminded me of Norman Wisdom.
Set and costume designer Paul Shriek is also due special mention for his unique, amazing and downright magical work.
Ray Spencer not only co-wrote this masterpiece with Graeme Thompson, but directed it, too, so devout fans can enjoy the show without any pangs of guilt.
So the “little panto with the big heart” keeps going. And judging by the audience’s reaction it will keep on beating for many years to come.