IT WAS not a pretty sight when the cast of First Act's Monster Mash Up came on stage at Shanklin Theatre.

It was all intentional, of course. With characters like Dracula, Wolfrid, Count Boris and Vampirella, it got off to a fangtastic start, if you see what I mean.

This was much more of a musical than many of their past productions and the audience were quickly in the mood to sing along with the Deathwatch Beatles version of All You Need Is Love, which was a hint of what was to follow.

The songs like Monster Mash, The Time Warp and Poison Ivy did much to help create the atmosphere in the night at the Monster Mash Up Club.

This was where Penny, a human, suddenly found herself. It was hardly a place to fall in love, surrounded by flea ridden werewolves and a vampire flying squad.

In Ross Forde, First Act have an inspirational cast member and he fronted the show as Count Boris with great confidence and a touch of real charisma.

James Solely, as Wolfrid, and Emily Bowkis, who played Penny, the couple who fell in love, brought tears of emotion with their show-stopping duet of Stand By Me.

The enthusiasm of Rachel Stone, as Giggles, when strongly delivering her lines, was quite noticeable and a good pointer for future First Act productions.

Other principals to make an impact included Frank Bingham, as Elvira, and Immie Sivell in her role as Dracula.

There were so many moments to enjoy, particularly from the songs that ranged from the old standard Fly Me To The Moon to George Ezra's Paradise.

Carol Laidler, who founded the group to help adults with learning difficulties, does such a remarkable job along with her many on and off-stage helpers.

The success of this group can be judged by the sheer enjoyment they obtain from performing on stage. Their lives have clearly been enhanced by the opportunities they get to work as a team.

Traci Stockman, the show's director and writer, is always coming up with fresh ideas to suit the clients.

The company numbers, in particular, help everyone to join in the fun.

First Act shows are like no other at Shanklin Theatre. It's always such a pleasure just to be there. Emotions run high — and that's good for everyone.

Such is the strength of the First Act group, they now regularly meet on Mondays and Tuesdays. I saw last Monday's opening night. On Tuesday the very popular Aaron Danvers-Jukes played the role of Wolfrid. There were several other cast changes.

John Hannam

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