*thanks to the New Theatre for inviting us to review
“The fairest panto in all the land” is how Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs bills itself on the front of its programme. And while I can’t claim to have seen all the pantomimes in the land to know if that’s strictly true, it’s certainly a great night out with everything you could wish for in a panto.
There’s a love story; a baddie to boo and hiss at; glitzy sets and costumes; singing and dancing to recognisable pop songs; a panto dame with an array of hilarious costumes; plenty of humour and local references. It’s all there in this slick and polished show from Qdos Entertainment, the world’s biggest pantomime provider with 684 to their name so far.
We saw it last night at the New Theatre’s official press performance and all five of us were thoroughly entertained for two hours.
All around us people were laughing so hard they were shaking. Mostly the grown-ups I must admit. And in particular Cardiff Daddy who has always loved attending the New Theatre’s panto even before we had children. Those who know him in the real world – be warned; he has a new collection of jokes that will make you groan just in time for the festive season.
The children in the audience were loving it too, even if a lot of the more risqué humour went over their heads. Littlest is 3¾ and this was his first proper panto – he loved it as much as the rest of us and had such fun joining in with all the shouting. The only slightly scary element was the evil-looking green face in the magic mirror. He didn’t bat an eyelid at that although I can imagine more sensitive children might not like it.
Stephanie Webber is our heroine Snow White, looking every bit the Disney character with jet black hair and the classic blue and yellow dress. Panto regulars will remember her from last year’s Peter Pan where she played a mermaid opposite David Hasselhoff’s Captain Hook. She’s equally as delightful this year with a kind and smiling face and such a sweet voice.
Her handsome prince is played by Bridgend-born Chico who made his name in X-Factor and who naturally sings his most famous hit Chico Time. My kids had no clue who he was and neither did Cardiff Daddy… but the reality TV star still made a very likeable hero. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Muddles (played by a very endearing Tam Ryan) though whose love for Snow White remains unrequited.
Samantha Womack plays Queen Lucretia, the evil witch who wants handsome Chico for herself Snow White dead so she can reclaim the title of fairest in the land. She’s best known as Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders… although if you’re as old as me you’re more likely to remember her as Mandy in Game On and by her maiden name of Samantha Janus. She was really impressive when we saw her earlier in the year as Morticia Addams in The Addams Family musical and she makes a brilliant panto villain too. She’s so charismatic and just the right kind of evil so as not to scare the youngsters in the audience too much.
My two eldest children were excited to see legendary Welsh rugby player Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas as Queen Lucretia’s henchman. They remember him from two years ago when he played the Genie in Aladdin and every time they see him on TV commentating on the rugby they shout out “it’s the genie! The genie!” Alfie certainly made an impression on them two years ago and this will no doubt be strengthened by tonight’s performance, which included a brilliantly funny take on the Hakka.
As with previous pantos there were a couple of references to him being gay. When we first saw him in panto such comments were more in support of his coming out and lead to incredible cheers and support from the audience. It was quite beautiful to be a part of. There were a couple of jokes last night which were a bit more school-boyish. Personally I don’t think these were needed in this day and age… although the rest of the audience certainly found them funny.
Panto dame extraordinaire Mike Doyle – in his fifth consecutive year at the New Theatre and 27th year of panto overall – brings so much to the show as Dame Betty Blumenthal.
For a start, the Bridgend-based performer looks amazing. His brightly coloured costumes are so over the top and visually resplendent with huge hooped skirts, crazy patterns, plenty of sparkle, and the most amazing head wear. Doyle’s costumes are such fun and imaginative, the cupcake-themed outfit in particular. He gives a hilarious take on Shirley Bassey, complete with sparkly dress and over exaggerated vocals. Fair play to him; he really hit the high notes with such power and ease. My children were laughing their heads off despite only vaguely knowing who the Dame from Tiger Bay is.
Doyle also brings in plenty of local humour and banter. He gets us all saying “Ohhrigghhhh” in our best Cardiff twang, complete with accompanying hand gestures, every time he enters the stage. If this morning’s school run is anything to go by I know my children will be doing this for weeks.
Towards the end of the show Doyle also leads Alfie, Chico and Tam in a hilarious rendition of “If I were not in pantomime something else I’d like to be” (based on a song I remember from childhood “If I were not upon this stage”). Carefully coordinated movements soon descend into complete chaos with the cast whacking each other in the face and knocking each other over. It’s a brilliantly funny scene that must have needed such careful rehearsal. They seemed to love it as much as the audience who were shrieking with laughter.
The stage also looks brilliant throughout, from the huge gold and red shimmering ballroom ready for Snow White’s 21st birthday party; to Lucritia’s potion lab; and the two-storied house of the seven dwarfs complete with spiral staircase.
Laugh-out-loud funny and with lavish sets and costumes and strong performances, the New Theatre’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is classic panto entertainment for all the family. It’s a sparkling night out that really put us in a happy festive mood.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the New Theatre Cardiff until 14th January 2018. Call the box office on 029 2087 8889 or book online. Tickets cost from £13 to £34.
Call the box office if you’re celebrating a birthdays or other special occasions on the day you’re attending and you could find it being announced on stage towards the end of the show.