2017/18

Reviews in the section

  • Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

  • Rotherham Civic, Rotherham

  • Wakefield Theatre Royal

  • Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe

  • Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol

  • Beck Theatre, Hayes

  • London Palladium

The Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

Peter Pan

Produced by Daryl Back in association with HQ Theatres
Adapted by  Simon Aylin

Review by  Caroline Morrell

Starring Adam Woodyatt as Captain Hook with Antony Lawrence, Abigail Matthews, Ryan Anderson and Stanley Dougherty

Since the Wyvern opened in 1971 this is only the 3rd time that they have had Peter Pan as their annual pantomime. Generally I struggle with Peter Pan as a panto, it just feels a bit like it is being shoehorned into the genre and it has a very different set up to the other titles regularly put on, no dame, no Fairy Godmother, no opening village scene and a lot of child actors (Lost boys, John and Michael) etc..however this panto does deliver many of the other panto vital ingredients, the ghost gag (or rather gorilla gag) is there, there's an energetic and hilarious version of the 12 Days of Christmas and audience participation a plenty including the moment chaos pursues as the audience pound Captain Hooks with foam rocks to bring about his downfall. There are some inspired song choices from across the decades and a song sheet and dance routine to match and fitness workout. The Wyvern can be proud of this production and there was a look of genuine amazement on many young faces as they watched Peter Pan fly onto the stage at various points. Antony Lawrence delivers much of the comedy as Mr Smee, he knows how to work the audience and has the audiences on his side throughout and Abigail Matthews (returning for the second year running) gives a stand out performance as Tinker bell with an abundance of energy. plenty of attitude and a beautiful singing voice. Adam Woodyatt makes for a brilliant Captain Hook with just the right amount of menace for a family panto. Woodyatt clearly has a soft spot for Swindon as this marks his 3rd panto appearance at the Wyvern and the audiences seem to have taken them to their hearts, he totally deserves the rapturous applause he received as he took his bow, an honorary Swindonian.  Aladdin has been announced for next year's Wyvern panto (Fingers crossed for a return of Swindon panto regular David Ashley! greatly missed this year), it will be nice to have a  more panto-like panto but I believe Daryl Back in association with HQ Theatres has come up trumps with their version of the JM Barrie classic this year, it's an awfully big adventure. Rating 4 stars.

 

Rotherham Civic. Rotherham

Jack and the Beanstalk

Produced by Shone Productions 

Written by James Shone

Review by  Tim Foers

Starring Nigel Pivaro as Fleshcreep with Danny Mills, Andrew McGuire, Rosie Houlton , Natalie Pilkington, Lorendo Domini and Bippo

.

Fe fi fo fum, it’s panto time in Rotherham…. Oh yes it is!  Once again, James Shone has produced a high standard pantomime…… As for the beanstalk, we were asked to sing Let It Grow! (Well, as far as the theatre’s ceiling would allow it to!) That is not the only parody referring to the beanstalk in this Giant-astic show.

Bad boy Terry Duckworth AKA Nigel Pivaro trades the Weatherfields Coronation Steet cobbles for the stage playing the part of Fleshcreep.  Hollyoaks Andrew McGuire delivers the role of Jack so naturally, he was given a perfect role and with Rosie Houlton as his princess to be – this is no ‘joking’ affair for the soprano/comedienne!

Danny Mills (Dame Trott) and Gareth ‘Bippo’ Ellis (Silly Billy) have a chemistry that just works…..  even Bippo gets to ‘don’ on a silly Trotty-like costume!  Such a shame the scarce crowd on this opening afternoon performance left these two pros wondering if it was worth performing….. Oh yes it was!

Natalie Pilkington spreads fairy dust on this lavish production of breath-taking scenery and costumes, second to none choreography.   No ‘Bum’ notes this year!

So, ‘FE’ quick to catch this ‘FI’ve weeks run festive FO-tacular of FUM!

Rating 4.5 stars.

Wakefield Theatre Royal

Aladdin

Written by Daniel O'Brien

Review by Tim Foers

Starring Chris Chilton, Chris Hannon, Dean Bray,  Melissa Rose,  Beth Tuckey, Paul Hutton and Danielle Bird

Is Wakefield’s offering of Aladdin Genie-us?  Oh yes it is!  As my first time watching this group, I was impressed.  For me a panto needs all the traditional elements as well as an updated script and they have both thanks to Daniel O’Brien’s script. 

Okay, so the 12 Days of Christmas sketch and a good soaking with water may be in almost every year’s script, but they are  crowd pleasers and still funny and fresh… (not a bra that will only hold three here!) There is no slave in this version, instead a fabulous Abanazar played perfectly by Chris Chilton has his trusty staff with a crystal ball on the end to aid him in his devious plan.  Another difference is Wishee Washee is played by a girl here in the form of the very talented Danielle Bird.  Warning though..  her water pistol aim is spot on!  Regular Wakefield favourite Chris Hannon, returns as Widow Twankey…. 2 words here sum him up Fabulous Darling……. (my Jason Gardiner impression) He has class!

Dean Bray (Aladdin) and Melissa Rose (Jasmine) as the story’s love interests have the right chemistry and outstanding vocal ability.  Paul Hutton is the funniest policeman I have ever seen as Hanky Panky.  Sadly Beth Tuckey as the Empress was given a repetitive dialogue that wore thin after the 3rd time….more a script problem than with her performance.  This panto may not have a celebrity cast but with lavish costumes and scenery, music to fit perfectly and an up to date and funny script….. this panto is definitely GENIE-US…..

Rating 4 stars.

 

Wycombe Swan

Jack and the Beanstalk

Produced by Qdos Entertainment
Written by  Jonathan Kiley and Alan McHugh

Review by Caroline Morrell

Starring Simon Webbe, Nigel Ellacott, Chris Jarvis, Ashleigh Butler, Jo Parsons, Leah Godbold , Oliver Hacker and Ediz  Ibraham

It's disappointing to say but this panto sadly failed to deliver and left us feeling a little underwhelmed. Overall the cast had little to no chemistry and appeared to be simply going through the motions in an effort to get to the finale. Ashleigh Butler has come on leaps and bounds since I last saw her in pantomime a few years ago, it certainly seems as if she has taken a singing lesson or two but her princess portrayal just does not seem to work, there is a certain demure quality required for this role which was generally lacking from this portrayal. Her dogs provided the cute factor and were adored by the audience, the sad loss of Pudsey earlier in the year must have been a massive blow and our thoughts were of course with Ashleigh. She did seem to forget whether she has tatty rags or tatty frocks in the 12 days of Christmas scene and when one of her dog routines went a little awry she was unable to fully recover and appeared to  giggle and leave the stage very abruptly and embarrassed. Simon Webbe never really stopped being 'Simon from Blue' long enough to be Jack, there was even a Blue classic shoehorned into act 2, at times Webbe's singing seemed a little to R&B to fit in with panto leaving the opening number somewhat flat and underwhelming. The gratuitous scene which ultimately left a topless Webbe centre stage seemed a bit much for a family panto, it really was not needed although no doubt for a certain portion of the audience I'm sure this would be a highlight. The show does boast an impressive extended 3d scene, I'm not generally a fan of 3D but this worked perfectly and had the audiences reaching out in mid air and then jumping back in their seats to avoid spiders, dragons and even maggots. Chris Jarvis deserves all the credit in the world, he was really trying and getting nothing back from the audience, now it has to be said this was a matinee and made up of quite a few school groups, that said the performance should not really suffer for that reason alone, I am sure that Chris with the backing of a more enthusiastic audience would be amazing and his energy levels certainly cannot be faulted. This was my first time seeing Nigel Ellacott appear as Dame, I have heard great things and had the highest of expectations but sadly instead got a mediocre performance that the audience did not seem to warm to, the routines did not flow, the jokes were hit and miss and there  are too may occurrences of the dame appearing, seemingly just to showcase yet another costumer change before delivering very little dialogue, appearing for no reason and vanishing once again. Maybe I expected too much, Nigel's bedroom undressing routine was however a highlight, yes it's been done before and brings back memories of John Inman's version of this routine but this was a stand out moment of comedy.Overall the pace of this production  seemed off, the jokes were aimed far too much in the favour of the adults, there should be a good mix of humour to suit all ages bit sadly that mix was lacking. Jo Parsons lacked any real menace as Fleshcreep and his costume lacked imagination and looked cheap, unlike the rest of the costumers in the show which were impressive. I truly wanted to love this performance, it's a great venue and Qdos are ultimately the best panto producers out there but this one missed the mark, it's just a blip I'm sure as previous Wycome shows have been of such high quality. To end on a positive, and it really is a big positive, Leah Godbold gives a stand out performance as The Spirit of the Beans, her singing voice is nothing short of sensational and she provides a captivating performance.

Rating 2.5 stars.

 

The Bristol Hippodrome

Aladdin

Produced by Qdos Entertainment
Written by Alan McHugh

Review by Darren Chivers

Starring Marti Pellow as Abanazar, Joe Pasquale as Wishee Washee and Hayley Tamaddon as Princess Jasmin

I have never yet been disappointed by a Hippodrome panto and this year's was a dazzling and spectacular performance of Aladdin, a sure fire hit and mega crowd pleaser, this is how to do panto! The Hippodrome came to life with some amazing special effects (Prepare to wow at the flying carpet scene!) and praise has to be given to both the sound and lighting departments. Joe Pasquale takes centre stage throughout much of the performance as Wishee Washee, his routines are slick, perfectly timed, family friendly and hilarious. There is less dame than usual in this production as Wishee Washee appears a lot more but David Robbins plays Widow Twankey perfectly, a great dame. Marti Pellow makes for a demonic Abanazar, he plays the villain with passion and menace without being over the top, a wonderful performance, just how Abanazar should be..and there is of course his wonderful singing voice just to add to the performance. One big surprise I really don't want to spoil for fans of Andy Ford who has appeared previously in many Hippodrome pantos, he may not physically be there but his presence is felt much to the delight of the audience, a GENIus idea! Hayley Tamaddon has a beautiful singing voice and plays her role with demurity and Alexis Gerred plays Aladdin with Gusto, and again an amazing singing voice, this show is brimming over with talent. The cast work well together with a great chemistry and buzz of energy and overall this production has the highest of production values and is a true feast for the eyes, the entire show dazzles and sparkles and keeps your attention throughout. I could not fault any part of this spectacular performance and for me this is the one to see this year. We know that reviews are subjective and it just goes to show how reviews really are one persons opinion, a leading industry newspaper only gave this AMAZING performance 1 star! I can only imagine they went to the wrong venue in error, 1 star is so misleading and extremely unfair...we only issue up to 5 stars, if we could give more then we would. 'Nuff' said!

Rating 5 stars.

The Beck Theatre, Hayes

Aladdin

Produced by Qdos Entertainment
Written by  Neil Bromley and Tony Casement

Review by Tanya Cutting

Starring Rita Simons, Kristian Morse, Neil Bromley, Emma Warren, Alfie Parker and David Tarkenter

It's firstly important to say that unfortunately Rita Simons was unable to appear in this performance, heavy snowfall had an effect on pantos up and down the country and poor Rita was snowed in and unable to get safely to the venue.  It's early in the run and I can see a fizz of chemistry starting to build between the cast. I truly feel this production just needed a couple more performances to tighten up a bit, dance numbers for example were not quite in time, it's getting there, so close! by the end of the run I would imagine it will be a very tight different show.  It was sad to see Wishee Washee doing his best to get the audience on his side but many jokes were falling flat, he did have stage presence and look out for his budding very special relationship with the curtain dragon. The children loved the performance and ultimately that's where a panto is aiming so they certainly delivered there. There are some wonderful song choices guaranteed to have your toes tapping and you humming along and the traditional elements such as the ghost gag (or Mummy gag in this case|) and the panto rendition of the 12 days of Christmas are all there.As an adult who had gone along with high hope being a panto fan I just felt a little underwhelmed, I wanted more and I wonder had Rita appeared would it have had that little extra something. It was however well worth a watch so well done to team Beck in their big anniversary year.

Rating 3 stars.

The London Palladium

Dick Whittington

Produced by Qdos Entertainment

Review by Olly Webb

Starring Julian Clary as the Spirit of the Bells, Elaine Page as Queen Rat, Ashley Banjo & Diversity as the Sultan and his men, Paul Zerdin as Idle Jack, Nigel Havers as Captain Nigel, Gary Wilmot as Sarah the Cook, Charlie Stemp as Dick Whittington, Emma Williams as Alice, and Lukus Alexander as Eileen the Cat

 

London Palladium’s panto is the most lavish in the world and oh my does it show. If you want a prime example of how panto should be done, go to the Palladium.

Walking into the auditorium you are met by a glittering back drop with the usual Qdos flare.

The very opening of the show with miniature London busses carrying the title ‘DICK WHITTINGTON’ bejeweled and lit, you know exactly what the next two and a half hours are going to be like. The story itself starts in London, rather than the usual Gloucester beginnings. We meet Dick arriving in London to seek fame and fortune, he falls in love with the beautiful Alice and must defeat Queen Rat to become the Mayor of London. Both played by ‘Half A sixpence’ Alumni, the romantic leads have the perfect amount of truth, believability and pantomime campness to them. The characters of Dick and Alice seem to disappear throughout most of the story, namely because of the bold and brassy cast needing their time to shine. Paul Zerdin is a delight to watch as Idle Jack and not a single person in the audience could help not laugh at his comedy routines. Gary Wilmot’s Dame was somewhat in danger of becoming unnecessary in the long run and I was worried that she would be the most forgettable of the bunch, however a routine of singing every single tube station (EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.) to the can-can,  more than makes up for his lack of onstage time elsewhere. Elaine Paige  spends most of her time sneering or belting out popular show tunes with adjusted lyrics. My favourite scene in this show has to be the Paige/Clary duet to ‘I knew him so well’. And so we move to Julian Clary. he is fabulous. Descending on the stage bestride a golden bell, ‘singing’ You Can Ring My Bell he owns the entire production. The marvellous thing about Clary is his effortless glamour. Walking on the stage as if he’s come in from a hard night out with a coffee in one hand, heels in the other and a cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth. He has everyone in stitches, including the cast!  Last year, the main comment all reviewers had to say about the panto was the lack of diversity in the cast. To mollify this, the producers put Diversity in the cast. The move was bizarre, unexpected, but ultimately genius. The dubstep street-dance routines were initially a shock to the system, but as soon as the troupe got going it was a sight to behold. The Sultan and his men are meant to be a differing culture to the London lovies, so these songs worked so perfectly as a juxtaposition to the west-end style. Dick Whittington is a fantastic family pantomime for many reasons. Firstly, it is a simple story that can be doctored to include as many weird and wonderful characters as possible. It’s got memorable characters a plenty. And of course the lead is called Dick and with the likes of Julian Clary, Elaine Page and Gary Wilmot the jokes write themselves. Not only this, but the cast have a stage chemistry like no other. They dance, sing, act, leap and tumble together as if 20(ish) years younger. The 12 days of Christmas 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 well. 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.

Rating 5 stars.