Rhodes Pantomime

Over 70 performers audition for panto

On Sunday 18th June over 70 people auditioned to be part of this years pantomime at the Rhodes. The day consisted of dance auditions, drama workshops, as well as lead role auditions in the afternoon. By the end of the day 20 talented young performers were cast to be part of our Junior Chorus. The  Junior Chorus will perform in 22 shows each from December to January, and the ensemble is made up of ages 7 to 16. Some senior chorus were also cast to be part of the ensemble and these actors will also be considered for the roles of the Seven Dwarfs.








DSC_8018The day ended with the auditions for the Principal Parts. This saw older performers sing and read for the parts of Snow White, Muddles, The Prince and The Queen’s Henchman. After this stage, Phoenix cast the young actress Abbie Middleton the title role of “Snow White”. Abbie appeared as Maria in Phoenix’s 2014 production of West Side Story and Phoenix look forward to working with her again this year. This was the only lead part cast on the day and more information will follow regarding the castings of the other principal characters.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs from the 9th December 2017 to the 6th January 2018.
It is shaping up to be the biggest pantomime the Rhodes has seen, and will be a fun-filled production for all ages!
For more information and to book online, click here.

9500 more people can now successfully ‘Lean and Dab’

Following the consistent success of the annual Phoenix Pantomimes, this year’s Cinderella completely smashed Box Office records, becoming the largest selling show in the history of the Rhodes! With the Company’s reputation, along with the introduction of ‘motion posters’ The Rhodes convinced 9500 audience members to attend during the 40-show period, watching the magic unfold through, song, dance, slapstick comedy and enchanting puppetry.

“Why on earth anyone would go elsewhere when we have this talent in Bishops Stortford”- Toni Elford

IMG_6025_DxO © Acabashi Malvern HostickThe cast featured many current and ex-Phoenix students, one of which was Georgia Collins who played the Principle girl for the third time running this year. Alongside her was; Joseph Vianna as Buttons, teaching everyone to ‘lean and dab’, as well as Buck Braithwaite playing Prince Charming in his Rhodes debut. Charming’s sidekick, Drew Gregg as Dandini entertained with his constant enthusiasm, whilst Ugly sisters, Daniel Boulton and George Jack, kept everyone laughing with their childish brawls. Not forgetting Phil Dale who took on the role of the petrifying Principle of the ‘Hard Up school of Dance’ and Wicked Stepmother.

On receiving overwhelming amounts of positive feedback, Phil explained “We were so pleased with the response from audiences spanning such a huge age range. It really seemed that our production of Cinderella, proved to be proper entertainment for the entire family. The puppets proved to be a big hit- as always, and we are already planning on how they can be incorporated into next year’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

IMG_6481_DxO © Acabashi Malvern Hostick

It’s obvious when reading through reviews that it wasn’t just one reason why this year’s pantomime directed by Phil Dale and Stevie Doherty was so well received. With a “cast…as always, brimming with enthusiasm and flair and overflowing with confidence”, “a healthy dollop of innuendo” and “special effects…well beyond what you might expect” – (Muddy Stilettos), numerous factors made Cinderella such a hit.

The spectacular set, made by Malvern Holstick looked beautiful against costumes designed by Jules dale, while lighting designer Rob Dyer, only enhanced this with his ideas and ambition. The brand-new laser equipment impressed everyone bringing a new dimension to the ballroom scene, giving it a real current energy. Aiding this- and improving year by year- was the flawless choreography by Katie Barker-Dale which was so vibrant and up to date, in order to match the diverse music that was mixed and edited seamlessly by Ross Simpson.

“The scene at the palace was epic.  I can honestly say that I think it’s probably like no ball scene you’ve ever seen — like none I’ve ever seen, certainly.” – Muddy Stilettos

IMG_6140_DxO © Acabashi Malvern HostickDespite all the special effects, including the reveal of the white sports car that would take Cinders to the ball, the younger audience members were captivated by the mice puppets that appeared to help Cinderella! The chorus brought the puppets to life to create a magical image that was such a hit with younger family members. Being such a success, we hope to bring this enchanting aspect to next year’s Pantomime in an even more spectacular fashion!


For pictures and full reviews of Cinderella, see below.

Click here for pictures

Muddy Stilettos Review

Auditions for Cinderella Sunday 10th July 2016

This December, at the Rhodes Arts Complex, Phoenix Theatre Arts will be producing the largest scale Pantomime ever performed at the Bishop’s Stortford venue.

Cinderella 2016 will feature a brand new False Pros which will replace the one that has been used for the last 6 years. Built bespoke for the Rhodes Venue, the new False Pros has been designed and painted by Malvern Hostick who will also return to paint the set for Cinderella. Phoenix are already full speed ahead with Cinderella. Set designs, music ideas and trying to re-imagine the classic story of Cinderella are all part of the action currently happening at Phoenix. We want Cinderella 2016 to stand out not only from the previous Phoenix iteration, but from every other version of the tale.

“With tradition at its core, Phoenix Theatre Arts enhances its reputation with this seasonal gem” – The Stage (Jack and the Beanstalk 2015)

The audition details have been released on the Phoenix Website which will give all the information. On Sunday 10th July there are open auditions for the production. Phoenix are not only looking for a large chorus of both Junior and Senior age, but a collection of principal characters ranging from Ugly Sisters and Buttons, to the titular character herself. We are looking to cast a strong group of older boys and girls to be part of the senior chorus to play a variety of characters and be part of big song and dance numbers.

The production will run from the 10th December 2016 to 7th January 2017 with weekly rehearsals running approximately 10 weeks before the opening night. This means we are looking for the most committed and passionate people to be in our production, from the smallest Junior Chorus member, to the oldest principal.

We hope to see as many people as we can auditioning on Sunday 10th July to make this year’s Pantomime, Cinderella, the biggest and best one yet!

Click here for more information.

“The musical set pieces are quite brilliantly staged, alive with clever parodies and some truly splendid original songs” – The Stage (Dick Whittington 2014)

January 18, 2016

The Show Must Grow On!

by phoenixdrew

in Productions,Rhodes Pantomime

Jack and the Beanstalk is a triumph!

The annual Rhodes pantomime, produced by Phoenix Theatre Arts, returned with a record breaking bang that shattered the sales records held by previous pantomimes.  With an exuberent ensemble working together to bring the magical tale of Jack and the Beanstalk to life, the result was a fun and wonderful show praised through feedback and in the numbers that flocked to see the production.

“With tradition at its core, Phoenix Theatre Arts enhances its reputation with this seasonal gem” – The Stage

It’s a colourful, energetic and pacey affair, with costumes (especially), set designs, lighting and special effects, music and choreography gelling to form an eye- and ear-pleasing whole” – Herts and Essex Observer

Phoenix Student, Katie Miller, helmed the lead role as an energetic Jack that never lost hope in what he was trying to achieve. With former Phoenix Student Georgia Collins as Jack’s love interest, Jill, the pair created a heart-warming scenario of love and rescue. The magical story was introduced by Fairy Evangeline Rainpetal, played by Phoenix Youth Theatre Creative Director Jeanne Stacey, who captured the imagination of the audience. Phoenix Director Phil Dale returned as the somewhat hairy dame with the new name Milky Mary providing barrels of laughs for both adults and children alike. Phoenix member William Edden was the bundle of energy that was Milky Mary’s son, Silly Billy; providing a compassionate and energetic friend to the audience. Vocal tutor Duncan Rutherford returned as the panto villain, dropping the Russian accent of last year’s Ratputin, and donning the well spoken, rather flamboyant, persona of Baron Backhander. The bumbling comics, Wingnut and Spanners, were played by Daniel Boulton and panto favourite, Dan James, respectively; providing slapstick humour to make you laugh and occasionally wince. Praise must also go to first time Panto cast member George Jack, who was part of the senior ensemble, the puppeteer for Titch, the Giant’s midget son and provided the voice for our hero’s fearsome antagonist, the Giant. George also played Daisy the Cow with Phoenix Student Drew Gregg, who also provided the voice for multiple puppets including the Scottish chicken ‘Goose’. These vibrant characters were supported by a Junior and Senior ensemble made up mostly with students from the Phoenix Theatre School, so praise must also go to them.

Anna Stamper, who designed the set for the beautiful production of Peter Pan, returned as the set designer for Jack and the Beanstalk and yet again our eyes were treated. When the lights revealed the UV paint on the village set and the well that the Beanstalk grew from, the magic appeared before the audience’s eyes’.

The show was lit by Rob Dyer, who also provided a video sequence for the Beanstalk growing, one that brought Stamper’s work to life and extended it to magical heights. The script was written by Phil Dale and Conor O’Sullivan, and Phoenix Primary Drama Tutor Connor Linden wrote both the original and parody songs in the production. The choreographer, Katie Barker-Dale, provided superb choreography that both showcased the performers on stage and their incredible variety of costumes designed by Jules Dale. Directed by both Phil Dale and Jeanne Stacey Jack and the Beanstalk was both a critical and box office smash!

To read all the reviews for the production, see the links below:

The Stage, Herts and Essex Observer, Muddy Stilettos, Anne at the Theatre.

To see pictures from  the show, click here.

That’s The Stage Review of Dick Whittington!

After the resounding success of previous years, with Cinderella and then Aladdin smashing box office records at the Rhodes, the aim for this year was to raise the bar even higher with Dick Whittington. The entire script was written from scratch by Phoenix Principal Phil Dale and Phoenix Prduction Assistant Conor O’Sullivan in an attempt to make the show feel both modern and fresh, telling the story of a young country lad called Dick Whittington who stands up to the Russian billionaire and business kingpin Ratputin, aided by his magical cat and the friends he meets along the way. With London in peril, it’s up to him to save the day! Judging from the reviews and feedback recieved it seems safe to say that this new take on the story certainly acheived its aim!

Once again the Phoenix team showed their regard for high production values, with another beautifully crafted set designed, built and painted by Malvern Hostick and Trevor Paveley. All the costumes were designed and created by Jules Dale and Alison Dronsfield, a mammoth undertaking as each chorus member had up to 7 or 8 different costumes throughout the show! Following on from the previous two years of experience, large screen AV footage filmed and edited by Video and Lighting designer Rob Dyer was used in the show, with the centrepiece being at the beginning of Act 2 when the bow of the Saucy Sue ship was projected onto the stage as the sailors filled the auditorium. As well as the usual high tempo pop song parody’s, the show also featured two original songs, the opening song and the love song, which were both written by ex-Phoenix student and tutor Connor Linden.

Phoenix were well represented in the show, with 15 out of the 20 Junior Chorus members currently training at the theatre school, and 7 of the 8 Senior Chorus members also currently students or ex-students of Phoenix. Phil Dale cast off his usual baddie garbs in order to don the many colourful and outrageous outfits of the dame, Sarah the Cook. Connor Linden played Idle Jack, Sarah’s lazy son whilst Alderman Fitzwarren was played by ex-Phoenix student Jack Downey. Amy Moulder, another ex-Phoenix student and tutor, played the title role of Dick Whittington, and International hip-hop artist Sunanda Biswas played his magical cat, Tom. Current Phoenix student Georgia Collins had her first panto principal role as she portrayed Alderman Fitzwarren’s daughter and Dick’s love interest, Alice. Phoenix Musical Tutor Duncan Rutherford played the role of the evil Ratputin, and Assistant Musical Theatre Tutor Grace Wheeler counterbalanced him in the role of the peaceful Fairy Bowbelle. Conor O’Sullivan and Dan James returned to play the comics Itchy and Scratchy, along with their silent brother Bro, played by Phoenix student William Lynch.

This year marked a change in the rehearsal process, with the principal cast members having an intensive week of rehearsals before the run as opposed to every Sunday for months leading up to the run. This gave choreographer Katie Barker-Dale all those Sundays to work with just the chorus members, meaning they could drill the musical numbers again and again, resulting in the very high standard of dancing that was seen during the shows. The intesive week also meant more time for the principal characters to work on their own scenes with Director Jeanne Stacey, ensuring the performances were as fresh and vibrant as the script.

The aim was to create a fun, fresh and original pantomime, and with the hard work of everyone involved that’s exactly what was achieved. Well done everyone and we’ll see you all next year for Jack and the Beanstalk!

To read The Stage review, click here.

To see pictures from the show, click here.

To buy the DVD of the show, click here.

July 20, 2014

The Cast of Dick Whittington is announced.

Big turnout for this year’s pantomime auditions! Following on from the success of the previous Rhodes Pantomimes, the Phoenix production team has set their sights on raising the bar even higher this year with Dick Whittington. The part of Dick will be played by former Phoenix student and tutor Amy Moulder, who last appeared on the […]

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July 16, 2014

Phoenix Students at Local Events

Festivals, Carnivals and Cazfest! Phoenix students have been busy this summer outside of classes as well, with local events giving them lots of chances to perform and to represent the school, as well as getting to dress up and have a laugh at the same time! First was the Waltham Abbey Festival, organised by Phoenix […]

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