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Puss In Boots - The Little Theatre Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson
Disclaimer: tickets were gifted in return for an honest review

The Little Theatre's annual pantomime is back this time it's full of cat-itude as the Leicester Drama Society stages a spellbinding production of Puss In Boots.

Alice Marshall (Princess Lilly), Rose Bale (Puss In Boots) and The Dancers. Photo by Dave Morris.

The story begins, as all pantos do, with the down-on-their-luck characters of Piddling-In-The-Pond under the control of the Evil Wizard Malavort. Our hero Tom returns penniless and at risk of losing the family mill that is until the magical Spirit of Cat-land swoops in and transforms the family cat into the titular Puss In Boots with a promise that together they can defeat the Evil Wizard. Let's not give too much more away but this fast-paced adventurous fairytale has it all.

John Bale writes and directs the production with every cat pun imaginable thrown in for good measure, the writing is tight and allows for great pacing throughout. No scene outstays its welcome and the bundles of laughter are caused both by the writing and at times when some ad-libbing occurs. Once the adventure is a full throttle the second act does feel a little slicker and is endlessly good fun.

Bale also takes on the dame role as Queen Camilla and his comedic timing is sublime. He has ease and confidence in every fabulous frock (Bale is also the costume designer). Not only is his interaction with his fellow cast great but he also knows how to play an audience and his audience interaction skills both in performance and in the writing further the engagement of all watching.

Bale's stooge is a brilliant Russell Webster as Fusspott. Webster's delivery is often hilarious and can get a laugh from just a look. The scenes between the duo are where the biggest laughs of the performance come from. In arguably the funniest scene of the night the pair perform a rendition of the famous Torvill and Dean dance they did to Ravel's Bolero. Abdullah Henly's energetic and lively Silly Billy adds further humour and is an instant audience favourite. Together the 3 of them perform a hysterical re-working of the Twelve Days of Christmas in the second act, keep an on the marshmallows...

John Bale (Queen Camilla), Russell Webster (Fusspott) and Abdullah Henly (Silly Billy). Photo by Dave Morris

Simon Butler plays Tom with real conviction and is great casting in the Prince role, he is matched well to Alice Marshall's Princess Lilly. Their blossoming relationship plays out with real believability. Joe Middleton has a blast a the villainous Evil Wizard Malavort relishing in every boo and hiss from the audience.

Rose Bale looks fantastic as Puss In Boots and is a lovely presence in the role. She helps drive the story to the conclusion alongside Butler as Tom. Natasha Ann Carr dazzles in the role of Spirit of Cat-land, if anything it's a shame we don't get to see more of Carr especially as she showcases some of the strongest vocals in the cast. 

A chorus of 8 dancers adds a lot to the musical numbers with Caroline Walsh's choreography performed brilliantly by all. The musical selection allows for a variety of styles and Paul Timms as musical arranger keeps things in check for the company.

Visually Jacob Martin's scenic design is amazing. The backdrops are excellently designed and realised befitting with every different scene. The design both in terms of the set and John Bale's costumes makes the whole thing look great to an audience.

There are a couple of moments that don't really land such as the final showdown with The Evil Wizard didn't really have the impact that it could have but all of the key pantomime elements are here, the conveniently placed bench scene, the audience sing-along with the four kids on stage and barrels of audience participation. Whilst officially it's an amateur production nothing about this show feels that way.

If you're local then The Little's panto is a must for your calendar and Puss In Boots once again provides pawsome entertainment for all ages, I guarantee you'll leave feline good.

Puss In Boots plays at The Little Theatre in Leicester until Sunday 7th January 2024. With limited tickets remaining so book soon if you don't want to miss out

Natasha Ann Carr as The Spirit of Cat-land. Photo by Dave Morris.

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