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A wealth of acting talent line-up for Merlin Theatre Christmas show

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

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No fewer than 42 young people are among the amazing line-up of local talent involved in this year's Merlin pre-Christmas production of Pinocchio

From tiny tap-dancing puppets to teenagers slinking their Bob Fosse jazz style, the Merlin Theatre's Pinocchio will be musical extravaganza is showcasing the moves, singing voices, acting skills and sheer commitment of a host of the town's youngsters.

Director, Philip de Glanville, said: "I was already aware we have some of the best adult actors in the county in this show, but when we held open auditions for the young people I was blown away by the range of beautiful voices and the confidence with which they all stood up and acted their socks off.

"We are so lucky to have another generation of multi-talented performers coming through the Merlin – some of them at such a very young age."

The lead roles in Pinocchio are all played by some of Somerset's most experienced and seasoned performers.

Although Paul Boyd's original show used only five professional actors taking multiple roles, Philip de Glanville made the decision to take advantage of a gifted community and included as many local actors as possible.

Pinocchio himself is played by Tina Waller.

Recently returned to work in Frome having spent several years on the professional stage, Tina has already made her mark with notable roles for Frome Drama Club (The Revengers' Comedies and The Graduate) as well taking the lead in The Collector this summer, during the Frome Festival.

The role of Geppetto, the old toy-maker, is played by Laurie Parnell, another familiar face from Frome Drama Club and The Revenger's Comedies, Laurie is also doubling up to play the part of the giant puppetmaster and tells us: "I'm not really worried about the quick-changes of costume … but let's just hope I don't forget to change accents at the right time."

Comedy duo Mr Fox and Mr Cat are played by two more FDC stalwarts – David Holt and Dan Gaisford, and The Singing Cricket is sung and danced by Ryan Hughes, who is working closely with choreographer Abi Holmes as Dance Captain for the show.

He is ably supported by his two female Cricket sidekicks, played by Merlin Theatre Company favourites Roxy Thomas and Amy Morgan-Bell.

Local PR and Event Organiser and two-time winner of the Somerset Fellowship of Drama Best Actress award, Tracey Ashford, appears in the cameo-comedy role of Flaming Nora, giving us a good old cockney knees-up musical number; and the Blue-Haired Fairy, doing her ditzy best to make dreams come true, is charmingly taken by MTC regular Claire Johnson, recently celebrated as one of the leads in the fabulous 'Calendar Girls'.

As well as two very welcome newcomers, Charlie Berridge (as the Policeman) and Barry Campbell (as Sydney the Drunk), David Hynds also joins the cast. David may be best known to many for his success in FAOS's 2011 pantomime Aladdin, for which he was awarded Best Musical Director by the Somerset Fellowship of Drama.

David also won the Challenge Award when he was musical director for The Full Monty and has just finished playing Harry in Company for Kiaros.

Now he takes the part of the Mysterious Man in Pinocchio – proving that he is as much a talent when treading the boards as he is behind the scenes.

This very experienced adult cast is completed by Pete White, another MTC regular, who played Peter in last year's The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and by Clare Ibbitson who usually works backstage for MTC but has been persuaded to face the bright lights this year.

■ The Merlin Theatre is running a Paint Pinocchio competition. Years 1-4 in Frome's First Schools are colouring in a picture of the puppet, during half-term, and the year 5s will design their own version. The competition is open to all under-16 year olds. Winners will get a family ticket to see a mid-week performance. Entries, complete with name, age and contact details on the back, must be received by the Merlin admin office no later than noon on Tuesday. For more details call 01373 465949

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