Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs
Theatre Royal, Newcastle
If the BTG were one of those all-singing, all-dancing websites, complete with sound, this review would be accompanied by a soundtrack of this reviewer eating his hat.
I confess it: I did not expect to like Lesley Joseph as the Wicked Queen. I was not a fan of Birds of a Feather and more than half expected a re-run of the obnoxious Dorien Green, her character from that series. I was wrong and, although the taste of raw hat is pretty awful, I am delighted to be able to say so!
Not only is she a wonderfully wicked Wicked Queen, she also has that essential talent for a panto performer of being able to react to the audience instantaneously and appropriately - although even she was corpsed by a loud comment delivered from a child in the audience. But then, so was the audience! It was one of those marvellous moments that only panto can deliver.
I was greatly impressed, too, by Peter Piper as Muddles. He established a good relationship with the audience right from the off and his impersonation of Ali G had the audience in stitches However my favourite moment was his appearance in a cage carried by the Gorilla of the Forest. It was so well done, it even had me fooled for a brief while. He also knows how to tug at the heart-strings: his song when he is turned into a frog (Don't ask! But it has to do with the vessel with the pestle and the chalice from the palace), as he sat on the edge of the stage with his legs dangling into the pit, elicited a storm of "Ahs".
The Dwarfs, of course, proved very popular with the audience because of their well timed comedy routines and their infatuation with Snow White.
I have to admit to a certain disappointment with the Dame, played by David Morton. He didn't have enough to do! The reason for this, of course, lies in the panto's origins, for it is based not on the traditional story but on the Disney cartoon, and one gets the feeling that Nurse Gertie is there because a panto needs a Dame: instead of being, as is the norm, a main character, in Snow White "she" has become rather peripheral, a support role, and the constant banter between her and the comic, which is a central feature of, for example, Aladdin, hardly happens and the show is, I think, the poorer for it.
Snow White (Kathryn Rooney), and her suitor, the Prince (Matthew James Turnbull), look good, sing well and do all that can be expected of them in the two roles (Principal Girl and Principal Boy) which I always feel are probably the most unrewarding in any panto.
As one would expect from Qdos, the production values are very high, so it is glamorous and glitzy, but this has not got in the way of the genuine panto feel - it is directed by the Steam Industry's Phil Willmott, a recommendation in itself. There is always the danger that something which is pretty as a picture can turn into just that, a picture, with no real contact with the audience. Not here!
Reviewer: Peter Lathan