Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Guy Pascal and Jezz Weatherall
Tyne Theatre and Opera House
From 08 December 2017 to 31 December 2017
Review by Peter Lathan
“I’ll have you know I have the body of a 16-year-old girl.”
“Well, give her it back. You’re getting it all wrinkled.”
One of the good old panto jokes. We’ve heard them so often before but we love them, and we still laugh. Every time. Without fail.
Bad jokes and old jokes (and bad, old jokes—especially bad, old jokes!) are part of the tradition of panto, and Snow White at the Tyne Theatre is very definitely a traditional pantomime, even to the little ‘dance’ routine when they restart the song after someone has vanished in the take-off scene: “Well, we’ll have to sing it again then, won’t we?” with a little kick to the right. Oo!
And the song? Ghostbusters, what else? Well, the original film first screened in 1984 so 30+ years is enough to establish a tradition, surely?
All the songs, of course, are chosen for their appropriateness to the moment in the plot. Some are quite recent ("Footloose", for example), some from previous decades back to the '60s ("I’m a Believer" and "Our House", which, inevitably becomes "Wor Hoose" in Newcastle!) and, of course, the obvious ones from the original 1937 film ("Heigh Ho" and "Whistle While You Work").
There’s no messing about with the plot; the story is told straight. The kids like a good story to follow, even though they may already know it, and get quite annoyed if you mess about with it. And there are not too many romantic interludes, which is when the kids’ attention starts to wander. The costumes and set are colourful, bright and cheery and there are loads of jokes and opportunities to shout and scream and yell. And to clap along—two bars into the overture and they were clapping already. A sure sign of an audience out to enjoy themselves!
There’s a comic song which adults and kids can enjoy. It’s "If I Were Not..." Hurray! "The Twelve Days of Christmas" has been far too overexposed in recent years.
There’s no slosh scene though, but that’s OK because there’s not really the opportunity for one without stretching credulity a bit too far, even for panto.
But ultimately, of course, the success of any panto depends on the performers and their ability to relate to the audience and the Tyne Theatre has assembled a cast that can do just that.
In his ninth appearance as Comic at the venue, Charlie Richmond, playing Muddles, really does own the stage, establishing a great relationship with the audience, getting them on his side—very vocally—from the off and keeping them involved throughout. He is partnered by Danny Posthill as Dame Dotty Donut who is both very funny and an impressionist. I doubt whether the kids understood his Trump impression but the adults certainly did and laughed their approval. And whether or not his wig falling off—twice—was intentional or not, kids and grown-ups alike found it hilarious. (I'd say, keep it in, Danny!)
Michelle Heaton’s Wicked Queen is just right, not only the fairest in the land (at least at the beginning) but also most definitely the nastiest—and a joy to boo! Her henchman, Herman (Lewis Denny), is rather more nuanced; he’s a baddy to begin with but that’s not really his nature—no way can he kill Snow White—and soon he changes, very convincingly, from nasty to nice.
Our Principal Girl, Snow White (Robyn McEnaney), is sweet, beautiful and a lovely singer and dancer, and her love interest, Prince Collabro of Cumbria (Matt Pagan, from—surprise, surprise—Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro) is all that any Principal Boy should be and, as one would expect, an excellent singer.
They are well supported by ITV Tyne Tees presenter Rachel Sweeney as the Magic Mirror, making her appearance, appropriately, on a large TV screen high above the stage and actually having an engaging personality rather than just being a device, by seven very individual dwarfs, by four professional dancers (two boys and two girls) and by twelve Juveniles and Babes (of which there are five teams) and a live band of three musicians.
The very effective creative team consists of Guy Pascall (producer and director), Jezz Weatherall (producer and music supervisor), Kerry Blaskett (choreographer) and Richard Pike (lighting designer).
This is Enchanted Entertainment’s first panto at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House, having taken over when the venue and the Newcastle Panto Company parted company after last year’s show. They took no risks, going for a very traditional style of show with mainly local performers which left the audience buzzing with excitement and very happy indeed!