Tuesday, May 28

Robin Hood and his Merry Men – Sheffield City Hall

Merry Mayhem hits the bullseye!

The City Hall, Sheffield hosted the opening night of Manor Operatic Society’s Robin Hood and His Merry Men last night to a lively and packed family audience. Reputed to be the largest amateur pantomime in the country, Manor yet again did not disappoint. With a strong cast of over fifty, they filled the City Hall stage to the brim with laughter and pantomime traditions in their ‘bucket’ load! Unlike other pantomimes I have reviewed this year, this one really is immersive and not one expected ‘pantomime must have’ is missing. From the birthday shout outs, the messing baking scene, the children invited on stage, the ‘it’s behind you’ in the scary woods mayhem to the audience participation – retorts filled the auditorium and MOS gave the audience what they wanted. The simple backdrop cloths and occasional castle walls are dressed to perfection by glorious costumes, fabulous lighting design with a live audience cam and video projection and a vast array of pyrotechnics!

I must first mention the band under the Musical direction of Andy Collis with Assistant musical direction by Michael Woodward – What a rich sound! The musician’s performance was wonderful, and the vast domed building was filled beautifully with a wall of sound. The drummer, Keith Ramskill is the unsung hero at keeping the tempo relevant. This is probably the best I have heard a band sound all year, so I also tip my hat to Dave Gregory Productions for their sound mix.

Directed and produced by MOS regular Richard Bradford – this pantomime is a new work written by the company and although the storyline was a little tentative in places and didn’t quite flow, the excellent cast and exuberance on stage more than made up for it. I mean what is a pantomime about? Tradition – Yes! and there was that in abundance. The dance ensemble filled the enormous stage and were well drilled and expressive and I particularly enjoyed the Act one finale montage of Dream Girl/Run Boy Run and Confident, with the witch which left us; as it should; on a high during the interval. Congratulations to the Choreographer/Director Linda Kelly and her Assistant Choreographer Evie May Bradford.

The ensemble were engaged at all times and looked to be having a ball. There are some stellar performances by the Principal cast. Katie Ann Dolling played a comedic Maid Marian and her energy and vocals are enthralling – watch out for the powerhouse duet – Somebody to Love with Dylan Lambert in the title role of Robin Hood.  Chris Hanlon does a fine job as the straight laced – Nurse Fanny Scarlet – for the first time in the Dame role. He delivers some hilarity for the adults with his tongue in cheek humour but is equally witty and in control when 100+ children invade the stage for the bucket game! His son ‘Little Willy’ Scarlet is exceptional in role and is born for panto, I imagine he is the kid’s favourite.

Emily Mae Hoyland plays the Sherriff of Nottingham’s Witch of a mother with great sophistication, and she really impressed me. Her delivery was spot on target and was a great contrast to Emily McGeoch’s good Fairy Tuck. Simon Hance delivered a sinister Sherriff of Nottingham with large comedy roles for his (un)trustworthy henchmen Arrow (Ben Rossiter) and Bow (Matt Brightman). My stand out performer has to go to Gary Rossiter as Alan-a-Dale, with nods to Dick emery and ‘I’m Free’ echoing in my head, his performance really hit the bullseye! Both his physical comedy and his comedic timing are well exploited – Impressive! 

Robin Hood and his Merry Men runs until the 7th January 2024 at the Sheffield City Hall and is well worth a family visit. The perfect way to introduce your family to the joys of theatre and a wonderful couple of hours of British tradition and escapism. There isn’t anyone that could call this an amateur show, the budget must be as large as the cast’s exuberance!  Thank you to the Manor Operatic Society for a wonderful evening’s entertainment and I am looking forward to your next production in May 2024 of West Side Story.

Reviewer: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 27th December 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

PHOTOS: Creative Studios

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