"HOW do they do it?"

That is the question the Gazette’s reviewer asked after watching the Wayfarers Pantomime Society's production of Aladdin, which ran at Taunton’s Brewhouse Theatre between January 10 and January 19, 2002.

The Wayfarers have been putting on popular family shows since 1962 and perform annually at the Brewhouse.

The society's Taunton Wayfarers Youth Group (TWYG) gives children the opportunity to perform - some on stage with the Wayfarers. 

The society's 2002 production was praised by the Gazette’s reviewer, Jon Madge, for its "individual performances" and "production excellence".

Aladdin – the Wayfarers’ 24th pantomime – contained a full chorus and dancers, plus junior dancers from Trull School of Dancing and The Mountway School of Dancing, who took turns to perform.

Madge said: "I admired the theatrical skills, the brilliant backdrops, the faultless performances, the lighting, the singing, the dancing et al.

"But none of these finer points really bothered my eight-year-old son.

"After being brought up on Disney's animated feature, he wasn't sure about going out with Dad on a foggy night to the theatre.

"But he did. And he laughed. And he sang. And he booed and he hissed. And he also got himself a balloon and a packet of cheesy puffs.

"Forget theatrical skills, dramatic interpretation and all that nonsense.

"For him, the show passed his own acid test."

Somerset County Gazette: STARRING ROLE: A Wayfarers pantomime performerSTARRING ROLE: A Wayfarers pantomime performer

Madge added: "He particularly liked Aladdin's brother, Wishee-Washee, brilliantly played by Stuart Lyddon.

"This guy is excellent.

"He gave the plum role every ounce of energy he had and both he, and the admirable Nigel Ford, as Widow Twankey, had the audience in stitches."

Madge and his son were impressed with the "thigh-slapping Aladdin (Elisabeth Sandy), So-Shi (Tessa Evans) and Martin Healey-Carpenter, who produced a brilliant baddie in Abanazar".

Somerset County Gazette: ALL SMILES: Our reviewer said the "sheer confidence" of the performers shone throughALL SMILES: Our reviewer said the "sheer confidence" of the performers shone through

He continued: "But what shines through the whole of this production is sheer confidence.

"The production names listed in the programme reads like a Hollywood movie credits roll - so it's thanks to veteran director Brian Buttle for pulling all the threads together and producing what must turn out to be another award-winner.

"Being sent to review the show, I tried hard to come up with something critical to say.

"So, I seized on a reference to Jackie Ballard who finished being Taunton's MP last May.

"But my thoughts were interrupted when my lad said: ‘Can we see it again next week?’

"Who needs critics?"

Twenty years later, the Wayfarers are preparing to perform Jack and the Beanstalk at the Brewhouse (January 9 to January 15, 2022). 

Somerset County Gazette: "FAULTLESS": Local children have the opportunity to perform in the Wayfarers' productions"FAULTLESS": Local children have the opportunity to perform in the Wayfarers' productions

In 2002, Jack and the Beanstalk was on show at Yeovil’s Octagon Theatre. 

That performance starred two cast members from the venue’s production of Cinderella a year earlier - Mike Newman Jnr and Gabrielle Bradshaw.

"Taking the two best things from last year’s panto and putting them into this one is no bad thing," commented writer Rod Hancox.

"And yet, there are one or two occasions this year when both are upstaged, with the giant, for instance, a superb creation – especially awesome for the youngsters.”

He added: "There are loads of scenes in this fairly lengthy panto and the mechanics must be a minefield for stage management.

"No surprise, then, that there was the odd hiccup on opening night with the door that wouldn’t open and a particularly stubborn key.

"But such trifles are a godsend to actors like Mike Newman who milk them like they are Daisy the cow, much to the audience’s enjoyment."