U3A Tod’s Radiophonic Razzle-Dazzle Xmas Panto Spectacular – ‘Cinderella’

with the U3A Concert Party Choir and Friends

U3A Todmorden’s far-sighted and forward-planning committee decided several months ago that something fresh was needed for our December Members’ Meeting, so they came up with a traditional panto!

But this would not be just an ordinary Christmas panto, oh no. This would be a U3A Sponsored and Commissioned, subtly scripted, wickedly witty, perfectly punned, colourfully costumed, musically magical, audibly amplified and magnificently marketed Christmas panto.

And who better to approach for a script than the U3A Creative Writing Group, who boldly accepted the challenge and plumped for a Tod version of ‘Cinderella’.

Although the first joke of the one and only matinée performance was ‘No expense has been spared; in fact there was no expense at all’, there had in fact been some professional input. The Creative Writers enjoyed a workshop in writing-for-panto from local actor Ryan Greaves.

Money well spent!  because we had a frabjous afternoon in the company of the Creative Writing Actors’ Company, for these were writers prepared to stop sucking their pencils and stand by what they’d written.

Sylvia Hartley casts her U3A Todmorden panto magic with her borrowed wand. Photo by Roger Howard.

Sylvia Hartley, decked in glittery top and with pink frills on her ‘pen’-feathers, played the Yorkshire Fairy Godmother-cum-narrator and, as this was a ‘no expense at all’ production, addressed us with her borrowed wand.

The Ugly Hardup Sisters, Madge (Madonna) and Ga-Ga (Gargantua) were played in shocking pink and neon green wigs respectively by David Rawson and Colin Sansom. Proper dim-witted super-bitches they were too: conceited and deluded and obsessed with Bogofs from Lidl whither they would dispatch Cinderella (Helen Walmsley) to buy their special Beauty Cream and cut-price Pinot Grigio on a daily basis.

But therein lay a great irony, for in the aisles of Lidl (home of ‘Romanian roses’ and ‘Belgian bog brushes’) who should Cinderella be approached by but the gauche Prince Charming (Linda Sandler), disguised as a commoner.

Dandini (Barbara Griffiths) schools Prince Charming in how to charm ladies in Lidl. Photo by Roger Howard.

This was a royal ‘talent’-spotting outing organised by Dandini (Barbara Griffiths), a Tod lad made good in royal service, and embarrassingly recognised by his former muckers Dudley Pike (Denise Tyas) and Manky Knowles (Maddie Cullinane). 

The Prince soon discovered that remarks about an extensive wine cellar did not impress a bird who was charged with ‘buying quantity rather than quality’, but that wooing an attractive young woman with ‘Romeo and Juliet’ had more of a wow factor.

And so, in spite of the vilest of invitation-

Gargantua (Colin Sansom) and Madonna (David Rawson) – two luminescently Ugly Sisters in U3A Todmorden’s Christmas Panto. Photo by Roger Howard.

burning machinations by Madge and Ga-Ga, and with the help of the natty Carnaby Streetwise servant Velcro (formerly Buttons) (Maddie Cullinane) and the services of a taxi driver unable to provide the traditional coach and horses ordered by the Fairy Godmother owing to animal rights legislation forbidding the use of horses in Todmorden after 18.00, Cinderella did go to the ball, and she did lose her miserably uncomfortable 4 inch heel glass slipper, and she was locked in a cellar, but she did get out, and the slipper fitted, and all ended happily with a rousing rendition of ‘Winter Wonderland’ by the Concert Party Choir and Friends.

There was so much that was enjoyable in this well-delivered, read performance.

The local and contemporary references were delightful.  ‘The Kingdom of Tod’ was declared to be ‘small in area, but large in importance’, Lidl was, for the Prince, where ‘ordinary people buy food’, and the Town Hall ‘next to the betting shop’ was clearly the only place suitable for a royal celebratory ball.

The writers had deployed some choice phrases. I giggled particularly at the striking alliterative turn taken by an inspired Ga-Ga that she was the ‘Tantalising Temptress in Turquoise Taffeta) whereas her sister was merely ‘luscious in lemon’.  Other opinions assessed them as ‘dressed up like a pair of ice-cream sundaes’ but in fact looking ‘more like Eton Messes’. And perhaps my favourite – ‘And talking of old boilers, how are you two ladies?’

Prince Charming learned that you do not chat up a woman with two bunches of flowers  with ‘What nice bouquets you’ve got’, for which he earned a couple of sound-effect slaps.

Peter Gibson and Sue Hayter provided the sound effects, the microphones, and the projector system that announced scene changes with appropriate photos. There were two specially impressive pictures of Ugly Feet – one pair warty and hairy, and the other pair green and horny-nailed.

The Concert Party Choir and Friends strut their stuff. Photo by Roger Howard.

And we must not forget the choir. They had three neatly integrated slots with ‘Sisters’ (offering an ironic commentary on Madge and Ga-Ga), ‘I’d Do Anything’ (following the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ balcony scene), and ‘Winter Wonderland’ to see the happy couple off on their honeymoon.

Some words were of course suitably adjusted, and the songs were accompanied by Gill Baldwin on ukulele and concertina. And the choir led us in singing ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ before we all settled down to a fiendish quiz organised by Marion Kershaw.

So, see if you can answer the following three questions.

What precious jewel was found by Sherlock Holmes in the crop of a mislaid goose?

What is the odd one out?  Wings, Mud, Slade, Scaffold, Wizzard.

What do Eartha Kitt, Madonna, and Kylie Minogue all want ‘Santa Baby’ to do?

This meeting was pure pleasure for people who were delighted to be presented with what we’ve been familiar with for so long written and performed by those we know and love.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Our next meeting     U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, January 16th, 2020 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45 when our guest speaker, Sue Flood, will be talking about the ‘Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer’.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).