Felixstowe Musical Theatre stage Dick Whittington and His Cat at Seckford Theatre

Felixstowe Musical Theatre stage Dick Whittington and his Cat. Photo: Chris Carne

Felixstowe Musical Theatre stage Dick Whittington and his Cat. Photo: Chris Carne - Credit: Archant

Pantomime season has arrived (oh yes it has). Entertainment writer Wayne Savage talks to two of the actors in Felixstowe Musical Theatre’s production Dick Whittington and His Cat

Alice Fitzwarren is down in the dumps. The daughter of a rich merchant she wants for nothing but her mother’s just died and she’s lonely. Everything changes when Dick comes on the scene.

Forced to leave London and his sweetheart behind after being accused of stealing money from her father’s shop, he’s driven to return to see off the plague of rats infesting the city, ably assisted by his cat Tommy, but is beset by diversions on the way.

That’s the basic plot - part truth, part myth - of Felixstowe Musical Theatre’s production of Dick Whittington and His Cat, at Woodbridge’s Seckford Theatre November 26-28.

“As with all good pantos he falls in love and ends up getting married. It’s a nice part to play, very sweet and kind so of course nothing like me,” laughs Sally Branch, who plays Alice. “Rehearsals have been a real laugh, as panto always is, and we’re looking forward to the show now. Michael Crane (directing) has done a great job and we’re all having loads of fun.”

“They’re a bit manic as they always are when you get this close,” adds Becky Taylor, playing Dick; adding they’re still having fun despite rehearsals having started in July.

“The nearer you get, jokes that haven’t necessarily seemed funny before (do) because there are little things that people hadn’t really done before that are now coming out in their performance. You do act differently once you’re in front of an audience, everybody does. An audience always lifts you from where you were in rehearsals.”

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Her first panto with FMT, she’s a veteran of the genre; having appeared in five with Deben Players.

“I did Dick Whittington in high school and I think we’re using the same Eric Fowler script. I was the chorus member who did everything, who was given all the random extra lines out of nowhere. To actually be able to play Dick Whittington is really nice, it almost feels like full circle. (And) when you get the right audience at a panto you can’t beat it, it’s amazing.”

Sally, from Ipswich, agrees.

“It’s lovely when they (the audience) get going and you’ve got them coming back at you. The great thing about panto (is) you’ve got the music, the dancing, the jokes. That’s always the best part for me; you’ve got the jokes the kids laugh at but the jokes the adults laugh at too. There’s the odd innuendo there to make mums and dads have a little giggle,” she laughs.

“Unfortunately I’m not involved in the slapstick, which is always good fun; so it’s a shame not to be involved in that. The thing I’m looking forward to most are the whole chorus numbers. We’ve got some really beautiful arrangements by our musical director Natasha Free.”

Becky, from Woodbridge, loves the second half of act one.

“The whole atmoshpere changes so quickly within the space of a scene because of what happens with the plot. That part in particular works well. There’s a nice dream sequence in there with me and Tommy the Cat (Emily White), it all ties together nicely.

“The show has some amazing acting talent, our choreographers (Fi McMartin and Katie Ford), director Michael and musical director Natasha have all pulled together to make the dancing, acting and singing the best it could be. The arrangements and compositions we’ve got still give me goosebumps in rehearsals.”

Sally, returning to FMT after working abroad, says it’s perfect for people wanting to enjoy good music and a good laugh. It’s also the perfect chance for people to get involved with the theatre group.

“It’s been really nice going back and seeing lots of old faces and some new faces as well. There’s been a lot of change with our group, with the Spa Pavilion shutting down... It was a challenge in more ways than one, as well as losing our home theatre we lost some of our members.

“I really hope some of the people who might come along to see the panto might fancy treading the boards themselves. We’re always keen to get new members involved, particularly children and young adults. We’re a really accepting, friendly group with a role for everybody - whether it be on stage or behind the scenes.”