Panto kids' enjoy sweet success on big return to Grangemouth

After a panto-less 2020 and one of the hardest year-and-a halves in human history the Young Portonians were finally back where they belonged – in the spotlight on the Grangemouth Town Hall stage.

Boys dressed as girls and girls dressed as boys, talking cats, possessed shrubbery, a walking, talking can of baked beans and a dungeon full of soul-stealing devils.

Yes it was good to get backto normal at the packed Bo’ness Road venue last night.

The audience loved Hansel and Gretel – especially the lad in the football top sitting across the aisle – but, perhaps more importantly, the performers themselves had a real blast.

The Young Portonians took to the stage for an all singing, all dancing, all smiling production of Hansel and Gretel

In just over two fun filled hours they manged to wipe away months of misery and negativity and replace it with joy and hope.

Just Dame Hattie’s ever-changing headgear alone could have made you forget all about the dreaded ‘C’ word and the threat of global warming.

In fact in one scene Taylor Lewandowski – who gave a star turn as the colourful comic dame – was sporting a barnet that looked like an erupting spaghetti volcano.

The real show stopper was Hattie’s baked bean dress though – you know you’ve been to a Young Portonian panto when you see some dressed as a tin of baked beans doing a Russian folk dance to Boney M classic Rasputin.

The kids on stage loved the performance of Hansel and Gretel as much as the packed audience

And talking about hairstyles, young Alix Byers – suitably evil and calculating as wicked stepmother Lerhit – looked to have found one of Joan Collins’ old Dynasty wigs and a saloon keeper’s dress from a Hammer Horror western.

Most panto’s usually have but one power couple, but to make up last year’s missing shows, Hansel and Gretel had two – the ever energetic and enthusiastic Heidi (Ellis Keay) and Hans (Hollie McGuire) and Jack (Lucy Grey) and Trudi (Olivia Wilson).

Much of the first half of the panto centred on shy guy Jack trying to woo Trudi – with Dame Hattie doing the match making.

Jack and Trudi’s beautiful rendition of Dance With You from The Prom was one of the musical highlights on the entire show.

Another sonic stunner was the cast belting out The Who’s Pinball Wizard.

However, the true belter of the night was delivered by two baddies – a green as the Hulk or Grotbags (ask yer grandparents) witch Attila (Aimee Maloy) and talking cat Alucard (Darrach Lees) raising the rafters of the town hall with their rendition of CeeLo Green’s Forget You.

And Attila must have been channelling the Wicked Witch of the West to get that laugh – a cackle you don’t want to hear if you have to walk back to your car in the dark.

The two title characters Hansel (Megan McCroary) and Gretel (Lauren Raynal) were as sweet as the goodies wicked Attila wanted to feed Hansel and the young duo shared a touching moment singing Not While I’m Around.

Although Wiz (Brooke Morrison) didn’t appear until the second half, the magical mystic – think a youth trainee Gandalf with a funky red beard – was a crowd favourite, even though his magic was on a par with Tommy Cooper’s (ask yer great grandparents), and he brought a distinct Glastonbury vibe to proceedings.

Hansel and Gretel’s dad Franz, played by a Don Quixote-esque Josh Fyvie, had to do his best to help find his missing weans, despite a cumbersome stookie on his left leg.

In fact Franz’s futuristic footwear got one of the biggest laughs of the night as he “rushed” across the stage really slowly to search for the kids.

There can’t be many tales where the hero is actually a non-barking dog who looked like a massive mobile brillo pad, but Hansel and Gretel’s true saviour was Woofless (Olivia Stewart), who cocked a leg in anger to defeat an evil Wickerman-style piece of possessed shrubbery and little Swap Things and put an end to evil Attila.

The dancers and chorus were amazing in some stand out set pieces – choreographed by Lynsey Mitchel – including the satanic red-robed devil slaves hoofing to Hard Knock Life from Annie.

The sets were great too – especially the aforementioned evil shrubbery and Attila’s lair.

Musical director Colin Scott masterminded a memorable musical medley which saw the young cast blast out Lady Ga Ga’s Bad Romance, Britney Spears’ Toxic and the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams all in under a couple of minutes.

Director Marion Marshall, the cast, the crew and everyone associated with the sheer onstage joyfulness during that two and a bit hour stretch inside Grangemouth Town Hall should be tremendously proud of themselves and all get at least one standing ovation each.

Their hard work, talent and enthusiasm made people forget about what’s going on in the big bad world outside, for a little while at least.

Young Portonians’ Hansel and Gretel 2021 cast list:

Megan McCroary (Hansel), Lauren Raynal (Gretel), Taylor Lewandowski (Dame Hattie), Lucy Grey (Jack), Olivia Wilson (Trudi), Hollie McGuire (Hans), Ellis Keay (Heidi), Brooke Morrison (Wiz), Josh Fyvie (Franz), Alix Byers (Lerhit), Aimee Maloy (Attila), Darragh Lees (Alucard) and Olivia Stewart (Woofless).

Dancers – Iona Gillies, Ingrid Hunter, Paige McGinley, Beth Rafferty, Brooke Smith and Shannon Ure.

Chorus – Sophia Donnelly, Emily Fraser, Molly Gallagher, Logan Galloway, Anna Graham, Sophie Grandison, Riley Goldie, Chloe Kemp, Jackson McConville, Ellie McGeever, Jodie Miller, Alyssa Morrison, Kiki Newton, Olivia Quinn, Emily Reid, Abby Rutherford and Iris Wilson.