2016/17

Reviews in the section

  • The Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

  • The London Palladium

  • The Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield

  • The Hawth, Crawley

  • The Birmingham Hippodrome

  • Rotherham Civic

3/5

The Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

Cinderella

Produced by QDOS  Entertainment in association with One From the Heart
Written by Simon Aylin

Review by Darren Chivers

Starring Ryan Thomas as Prince Charming, David Ashley as Brenda, Louie Westwood as Betty,

Dickie Wood as Buttons, Victoria Farley as Cinderella and Abigail Matthews as Fairy Godmother

Abigail Matthews get's the show off to a strong start as she belts out the Queen hit 'It's a Kind of Magic' and her endless energy see's her through the performance without fading. Victoria Farley makes a perfect pretty traditional Cinderella with her faultless vocals and strong stage presence whilst Dickie Wood has the audience in the palm of his hands as the cheeky Buttons. The song choices work perfectly with everything from Sia to Justin Timberlake and the YMCA to a wonderful song sheet about bumblebees and tuna! (Good luck getting this one out of your heads!). David Ashley is back again and this time he has teamed up with Louie Westwood and together they have amazing chemistry as Brenda and Betty, the ultimate man hungry ugly sisters (with a touch of a TOWIE influence) and the laughs come thick and fast from this outrageous pair. As a panto you normally expect to see either a Wicked Stepmother or Baron Hardup in a production of Cinderella but both characters were absent from this version but they certainly were not missed, the dead wood had been cut away and we could focus on the core characters and anything that gives us more time with with Ugly Sisters has to be a good thing. Leading the cast and providing the 'celeb' factor is ex Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas who is making his panto debut as Prince Charming and he has made a very strong start and even showcases his singing and dancing skills. This panto delivers everything you could ask from a panto and then some, well done to all involved. It feels like the official start of Christmas.

5+/5

The London Palladium

Cinderella

Produced by QDOS Entertainment

Review by Darren Chivers

Starring  Lee Mead as Prince Charming, Amanda Holden as the Fairy Godmother, Count Arthur Strong as Baron Hardup, Paul O'Grady  as the Wicked Stepmother, Julian Clary as Dandini, Paul Zerdin as Buttons, Natasha J Barnes as Cinderella with Suzie Chard, Nigel Havers and Wendy Sommerville

Forgot Bros, forget The Spice Girls, there's only one reunion that really counts in 2016 and that's Panto and the Palladium! The Palladium is an overwhelming venue in it's own right but when the orchestra strikes that first  attention commanding note and the stage comes alive with lights it really is one of those moments that make the hairs on your arms stand up, this was something special. This was pantomime on a whole new level, a lavish, glitzy and slick production that simply could not fail to impress. Amanda Holden's Fairy Godmother is captivating, this is a very talented lady, she can sing, dance and act and has that very important likeability factor and she get's proceedings off to a magical start with an impressive flying scene and this is just one of three flying scenes to give any West End show a run for it's money. With so many big star names it could have been a disaster (All those egos!) but this cast worked very much together, each has their moment in the spotlight and got their moment to twinkle and shine, this is an ensemble piece with all of the cast doing what they do best alongside an array of talent. To have Julian Clary share the stage with Paul O'Grady is simply genius and of course the camp stakes are raised to their very highest but would you expect anything less. Clary certainly provides the jokes that only the adults will (or at least should!) understand and whilst bordering close to the mark at times he knows how far he can go. If anyone was born to play the Wicked Stepmother it is Paul O'Grady, that gravelly voice and sharp comedy timing is captivating, he is pure panto wickedness. This production gives us everything and for this version of Cinderella you don't have to settle for a Wicked Stepmother or a Baron Hardup as you have both as well as the ugly sisters, although with so many characters something had to give somewhere down the line and you see less of the ugly sisters than a traditional panto of Cinderella, but it works, Paul Zerdin is a comedy genius and a notable addition to any panto cast, his routines with his puppet sidekick Sam were both original and hilarious, no spoilers here but expect the unexpected. Lee Mead is a dashing Prince Charming and belts our a few musical theatre hits much to the delight of the audience and his pairing with Natasha J Barnes as his future wife Cinderella is perfect. The sounds, lighting, outrageous costumes and song choices were faultless and all added to make this the most amazing pantomime I have ever seen and certainly the most lavish of productions. This is the future of pantomime. Together the cast performed with such gusto, a perfect level of energy and excitement that was strong throughout and enticed us as an audience into this magical panto world. Please don't let this be a one off, panto, it is very much as home in the Palladium and it really has to be a regular event. I take my hat off to each and every person both on stage and off who pulled this performance off, be proud, be very proud.

3/5

The Pomegrantate Theatre, Chesterfield

Aladdin

Produced by PHA

Review by Tim Foers

Starring  Lee Brennan as Aladdin and Liz McClarnon as Jasmin with Greg Ashton as Gladys Twankey and James Dangerfield as Wishee Washee.

There is plenty to admire about this production, from it's dazzling costumes to stunning scenery, not to mention incredible special effects. This show boasts a very talented cast which had suffered a casting change due to ill health of Christopher Howard allowing Joe Connors to step in as Emperor Chop Suey.  Lee Brennan and Liz McClarnon are the celebs appearing and as Aladdin and Jasmine they had an ‘Eternal Flame’ bond (see what I did there!) which left us wanting ‘A little bit more’ (Get it?) before the final curtain!  Well done to both of these panto pros. Greg Ashton as Gladys Twankey had plenty of charisma, but seemed to lack rapport with the audience at times and his Honey G’s impression was really the only standout Twankey Delight for us.  James Dangerfield as Wishee Washee was definitely a dab hand with a water pistol and was funny to boot but sadly the script let him down at times, he is capable of so much more.  Aaron Spendelow and Chloe-Louise Driscoll as the Slave and Genie shone in their roles but again the script lost its way with these characters. Keith and Ben Simmons as the Chinese policemen are naturally funny and their very well rehearsed Who, What and I Don’t Know gag was the best version I’ve ever seen.  As for their flying sketch, that was worth the ticket price alone!  Michael Garland as Abanazar was just the right level of evilness for youngsters to handle.  Music was lively, choreography was second to none.  A few more panto traditions and more ‘oh no you don’ts’ are needed for me and maybe a quick polish of the script, Overall a good panto but it didn't quite deliver.

4.5/5

The Hawth, Crawley

Peter Pan

Produced by Evolution Productions

Review by Amanda Holmes

Starring  Emma Barton as Tinkerbell and Shaun Williamson as Captain Hook with Hilary O'Neil, Joseph Elliot, Richard David-Caine and Michael J Batchelor.

Peter Pan has always been my favourite pantomime subject, it is one of those shows that really does have something for everyone and at the heart of this wonderful pantomime is the strong and solid story of Peter Pan that has been delighted audiences for so long. This was my first panto from Evolution Productions and it's safe to say they impressed me in every aspect, there was audience participation by the sack load and dazzling special effects and a stellar cast mixed in with a sprinkling of perfectly fitting fun songs and all of those classic panto traditions you would expect but most of all a strong script, often what is lagging in pantos but not here! Shaun Williamson is superb in his role as the evil Captain Hook, but I had to remind myself he was the villain, at times I found him winning me over to the dark side as a fan of Hook. Emma Barton was a fabulous Tinkerbell complete with some of that Eastend fighting spirit, she reminded me at times of the version of Tink played by Julia Roberts in the film version of Hook. Now to Mrs Smee...Loved loved loved this character, so many laughs, so many costumes, so outrageous, its great to have a Dame type character thrown into the Peter Pan mix, it really does work. I have been a big fan of Hilary O'Neil for many years, ever since she stole the show for me in a touring production of Summer Holiday, she is a true star and had no less than three parts in the show but it;s in her guise as the Mermaid that we see how talented this lady is as she belts out some famous impressions. I could easily name check each and every cast member but I will sum this up by saying the entire cast should be proud, with high production values I loved every minute of this.

4.5/5

The Birmingham Hippodrome

Dick Whittington

Produced by QDOS Entertainment

Review by Olly Webb

Starring John Barrowman as Dick Whittington, Steve McFadden as King Rat with The Krankies  Matt Slack. Jodie Prenger, Andrew Ryan and Danielle Hope

Walking into the Hippodrome you can almost taste the spectacle you’re about to witness. A bejeweled backdrop and a jazzed up proscenium are just the start of this prime example of Panto fun. Steve McFadden’s King Rat opens the show with the usual rhyme, his gruff voice somewhat lost in the poetry and music, garbling through the lines. A technical issue more than performance for this highly trained RADA graduate. His leather clad, tattooed King Rat is a vile and deplorable character and highly effective, with the supreme rat gigantic puppet frightening even the bravest among the audience. Barrowman’s arrival on stage as the eponymous hero Dick is a questionable jetpack sequence to a crowd of the usual townsfolk ensemble in a jazzy song and dance number. He truly is the life and soul of this show, clearly enjoying every moment on stage. Throughout you could be excused for thinking this was actually a John Barrowman concert, as the west end star owns every scene he appears him. Everyone held on to every line as his dulcet tones melted our hearts. The occasional corpsing only adds to his charm.

Jodie Prenger has the thankless role of the fairy, appearing in a puff of smoke intermittently. She sadly doesn’t get the chance to bring anything new to this role and hardly appears in the first act except to join in King Rat’s rhyming and the occasional song. However in the second act they finally unleash her raw vocal talent as she belts out some fabulous vocal harmonies with Barrowman.

The Krankies’ natural performance feels improvised the entire way as their energy and performance never wavers, keeping the audience (and actors) on their toes, bringing a great deal of the Fandabbydozy charm to the two of them. Moments of self-deprecation and audience bantering just added to their performance. Barrowman and Wee Jimmy have a stage chemistry like no other, they dance, sing, act, leap and tumble together as if 20(ish) years younger. They have a real friendship and it shows, the Trio have appeared in Panto together for many years in Scotland, and rather than becoming tired of one another it simply makes them more willing and comfortable around one another. The 12 days of shipwreck scene certainly shows this as they hide each others’ props around the stage to raucous laughter both in the audience and on stage. Something I think that brings real life to Panto, as opposed to other theatrical performances, is the ability to actually have fun on stage together, and share that fun with the audience. Something the cast does expertly. A special mention has to go to Matt Slack, a local favourite who appears on stage to thunderous applause. His Lee Evans-esque comedy routines and impersonations led many to fall in love with his cheeky and witty Idle Jack

Dame Sarah, played by the fabulous Andrew Ryan, pranced about the stage in everything from lingerie to a Christmas Pudding, quoting Shakespeare all the while. It did feel he wasn’t used enough, sometimes only doing small comedy sequences. With Dame Sarah, the more is certainly the merrier. Overall Dick Whittington is how pantomime should be done. Fun, silly, cheeky and for kids. Children are very much the heart of this show and that is ultimately what Panto is for. A family show that all ages can enjoy - a way to get kids into theatre, and Dick Whittington certainly achieves this and more. The cast and crew should be incredibly proud of their achievements.

4.5/5

Rotherham Civic

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Produced by Shone

Review by Tim Foers

Starring Zoe Birkett with Rob Forknall, Sean 'Rollo' Rollason

 

Mirror, mirror on the wall... where’s the most fab panto of them all? – Rotherham of course! Cast change due to ill health Rob Forknall stepped in as Dame Dolly G, get well wishes to Steve Barclay.  This fast-paced panto leaves its audience booing and hissing the Pop Idol queen diva Zoe Birkett who plays the wicked queen with gusto…. Her ‘Bad’ rendition is far from bad!  This west-end/pop idol star isn’t too scary so kids needn’t worry!  Sean ‘Rollo’ Rollason, a panto firm favourite here in Rotherham once again delivers as Muddles…. Although he isn’t a ‘Smart Fella’ with his muddled up words – I’ll leave you to work it out!  His rapport is well timed and he delivers a natural panto jester with bags of energy (and daft props!)  Now for the X-Factor influence, When I say Dolly…. You say G! (Honey G has a lot to answer for!) but panic not as Rob Forknall spares us a ‘rapping’ disastrous performance!  He’s a dame with a good wine texture….. ‘bubbly’.   Enola Dyer as Snow White is vocally strong which puts  Anthony Collesso  in the shadows as his vocals are not as strong n his role as the Prince.  Talk about a fast-paced show,  Laura Hardgreaves’ fairy dialogue runs on Durracell…. It’s spoken very fast!  try to keep up.  Having said this, it is a show that has a well written script, costumes and scenery to wow at, choreography at a highest degree and …. no I won’t spoil the image of the mirror…. It’s a spook-tacular affair that makes this a modern-day panto!  This is James Shone’s 3rd panto season with us and he’s firmly secured a giant of a panto for next year!