Not so very long ago only really a place for grownups, a trip to the theatre was taken very serious indeed. Perhaps there might be the annual panto in community and church halls but theatre plays were certainly no place for small children.
But then someone somewhere realised something, in order to ensure the future of our theatres we needed to ensure this younger generation, used to the instant fix of computer games, WiFi and online streamed movies, developed a love of live shows.
What followed is a boom of children’s shows and experiences where even the littlest members of the family are catered for as their story time and movie favourites burst on to the stage live and Disney characters fill whole areas of under 10s and it is delightful to watch.
Of course St Helens Theatre Royal have been doing this for decades!
Taking traditional shows and giving them their own spin they don’t do shows quite like anyone else and it is not uncommon to see Captain America dancing down the yellow brick road but that is what makes them so brilliant!
From the moment the curtain lifts the Wizard of OZ hits you with a feast of colour, sparkle, fire and bags of energy. With the usual dash of adult humour and the slapstick comedy which small children adore they really have a winning formula which keeps adults and children alike returning year after year.
Best known for the long running character of Heather in Eastenders, Cheryl Fergison also has a history of appearances on the stage and it shows. She is outstandingly wicked as the witch but utterly brilliant without being completely terrifying so that by the end of the show almost all of even the smallest of audience members had the confidence to boo loudly each time she appeared.
There were moments of stutters as with any early run of a show and comedy gold when Si Foster accidentally called Fergison by her Eastenders name Heather suddenly realising why her character in the panto was called Eva and disolving into laughs but this is what to us makes the show most endearing.
One thing we did feel missing this year was the comedy relationship of Si Foster and Liam ‘crackin’ Mellor. These two are wonderful together and famous locally, bouncing effortlessly off each other on stage, but unlike the previous Peter Pan we didn’t feel they were given the time for this to develop on stage.
We loved Phillip McGuinness as Captain Hook in Peter Pan where he was delightfully evil and we loved him once more as the Tin Man, an endearing character on his search for a heart.
Charlotte Gallagher handles the role of Dorothy with confidence and has a stunning voice to boot and radio presenter Claire Simmo is every bit the beautiful fairy as Glinda.
As usual the arrangement is genius with a splash of pop songs old and new, nursery rhymes and water pistols added to a traditional tale to get everyone out of their seats and clapping along. The supporting cast and children did a wonderful job and who can not love the adorable Toto.
We have a real soft spot for this theatre, it opens up shows and experiences on the doorstep of the community for many who might not visit shows further afield and the staff are always fantastic. Long may it continue to offer fabulous family shows.
Go see it, it really is a fabulous way to spend a Half Term day.
You can catch The Wizard of OZ throughout Half Term
The Wizard of Oz runs from October 22 – 30 2016. Tickets are now on sale. Book early to avoid disappointment.
For more information, please visit: www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com
Times: 1pm and 5pm
Tickets: Adults £12, concessions, £11, children £10, family tickets £42