Goldilocks and The Three Bears

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

There are certain things in this country that we are renowned for throughout the land: the traditional Sunday roast, the England men’s football team crash out of major tournaments via a missed penalty kick, and of course, celebrating Christmas with a panto! This year the Epstein Theatre is putting on a show, suitable for kids from one to ninety-two!

Goldilocks and the Three Bears sees circus owner, Dame Gertie (Mama G), and her beautiful daughter (Olivia Sloyan) struggling to keep their ‘Big Top’ open. They have a loyal band of employees ready to muck in and go above and beyond to save the circus which include Silly Billy (Brandon McCaffery) and The Ringmaster (David Tag), who both have fallen in love with Goldilocks.

To make matters worse, there is a rival circus in town, headed by the evil Baron Von Vippenall (Timothy Lucas), who has a penchant for animal whips and cruelty. The rival shows are in need of a knockout act that will bring the crowds in, and with rumour of some bears living in the woods nearby, maybe they can become the star attraction both circuses need, but who will get to them in time?

This has everything you want from a panto, spectacular song and dance numbers, stunning acrobatics, visual gags a plenty, some jokes for the kids and a few for the adults too! Add into the mix some super soakers, some fire juggling and an adorable children’s sing-along to close the show and you have the perfect festive family night out.

The show is anchored by two outstanding performances. Timothy Lucas is clearly having a ball as the villainous Baron Von Vippenall, I’ve not heard a more outrageous German accent since the late great Alan Rickman fell from the Nakatomi Plaza! He goads and taunts the audience throughout and his appearance never failed to bring a smile to my face.

Whilst Britain’s Got Talent star Mama G is in fine form as our traditional panto dame. It’s a charismatic performance filled with sass while Mama G displays some wonderful comic timing to match the spectacular outfits.

Olivia Sloyan and Hollyoaks star David Tag are the perfect pairing, both in fine voice, making a lovely couple and a pair of heroes you can’t help but root for. 

Brandon McCaffery does a grand job of getting kids involved as Silly Billy – he had the kids hollering in all the right places; it’s a performance as daft as it is fun. The supporting cast worked their socks off throughout, with some great routines and some nice bits of ‘improv’ when some cast members hilariously went off script.

There are numerous big song and dance numbers with the highlights being a dark and brooding version of Queen’s The Show Must Go On,which features some stunning visuals, whilst a near full cast rendition of There’s No Business Like Show Business is just one of many highlights.

With this being Liverpool, there are plenty of cheeky local gags and a few marking this year’s political upheaval for you to enjoy, which go down a treat with the older members of the audience. It’s a hilarious, silly, and thoroughly entertaining production from start to finish, the perfect antidote to World Cup disappointment and Christmas reruns on the telly!

Goldilocks and The Three Bears is on at The Epstein Theatre until 1st January tickets available here.

Snow White | Epstein Theatre

Snow White Image 2 - Credit David Munn Photography

Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Epstein Christmas panto is gaining quite the reputation for being the ‘must-see’ of the festive period in Liverpool, and this year’s offering of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is no different.

The story follows Snow White (Mia Molloy) and a chance meeting with Prince Valiant (Alex Patmore) which sets both their hearts a racing, however this raises the ire of Snow White’s wicked step-mother, Queen Kimberlina (Kim Woodburn).

Snow White Image 4 - Credit David Munn Photography

After escaping The Queen and one of her diabolical schemes: Snow White with help from Fairy Goodheart (Claire Simmo) seeks refuge with Seven Dwarfs, but this being a Scouse panto, these aren’t your typical fairy-tale little men. There is Snotty, Soft-Lad, and the rather posh, Wooly-Back, (he’s from the Wirral) to name but a few. Throw into the mix a very untraditional panto dame in the guise of Dame Debbie (Michael Chapman), loveable sidekick Muddles (Lewis Pryor), evil Henchman (Daryl Holden) and a special appearance by Derek Acorah as the Magic Mirror, some fantastic songs, and some brilliantly choreographed dance routines and you have the recipe for a perfect panto.

The show is a riot from start to finish, filled with jokes for children and adults of all ages. Never taking itself too seriously: the show is packed with moments of slapstick, as well as family friendly jokes, with hefty dose of cheeky innuendo that never becomes coarse or vulgar but will have the adults crying with laughter. This is Snow White with a Scouse twist, with plenty of gags and phrases that will resonate with locals,, it’s a fabulously festive treat, (I’ll be doing most of my Christmas shopping with Scally the Dwarf).

Snow White Image 3 - Credit David Munn Photography

Top billing for the show goes to Kim Woodburn and Derek Acorah, however there is so much more to this show than just the star names. The whole cast work there socks off throughout, with intricate song and dance numbers that include: Mr Blue Sky, Killer Queen, and Devil Woman.

Michael Chapman as well as playing Dame Debbie both wrote and directed the whole thing and should be immensely proud of his achievements. He is outstanding as the sassiest, most gangster panto dame you’ll ever see, and pretty much steals every scene he’s involved in. Lewis Pryor shows what a great all-round talented performer he is as the loveable Muddles, whilst Mia Molloy is perfectly cast as our heroine with a beautiful voice and great character acting.

Snow White Image 6 - Credit David Munn Photography

There are a couple of very few minor issues: the action seems to take a bit of a lull midway through the first act, and there were a few misplaced lines here and there but we can always forgive that in panto can’t we? Oh yes we can! All in all this is a fantastic, fun, family show, which will leave young and old entertained from start to finish as well as being excellent value for money. Now where did I leave my trainers!?

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs is on at the Epstein Theatre until Wednesday 2nd January, tickets available here.

From the Heart of Everton’s Badge To The Grand Old Lady

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Blue Park Theatre Company take to the Epstein theatre stage this week with a warm and witty trip down memory lane…or more accurately Goodison Park’s rich history.

The location is the Everton Lock-up on the peak of Everton Brow, Radio Merseyside are recording an interview promoting the anticipated move from Goodison Park to Bramley Moore Dock. Two die-hard Evertonian’s however aren’t quite in agreement with the proposed move and in an act of defiance barge into the Lock-Up and barricade themselves inside in protest.

Jim’s goal is to find Prince Rupert’s gold and use it to save his beloved Goodison Park while nephew Robbo seems happy to come along for the ride. What unfolds however is a remarkable journey through Everton FC’s history taking in some of its most memorable and interesting characters ranging from the mighty Dixie Dean (Joe Shipman), to the iconic Bessie Braddock (Keddy Sutton) and even the flamboyant Prince Rupert himself (Carl Cockram).

Writer Kenny O’Connell succeeds in delivering a hugely entertaining script, with poetry from Bobby Parry this is a rounded piece of theatre complete with bucket loads of Scouse wit as well as deeply moving and poignant moments. The tribute to the victims of Hillsborough which is sensitively and respectfully done via a soulful rendition of The Hollies, He Aint Heavy being particularly moving.

Paul Duckworth and John Burns as Uncle Jim and nephew Robbo head up the talented cast of colourful characters and bounce off each other brilliantly. Each ghost from the past, key figures in Everton’s history; offers further opportunity for laughs along with well constructed and enormously entertaining exchanges. The accompanying video footage from historic games in Everton FC’s incredible history adds gravity to the piece, showcasing rich memories and magical nights at Goodison Park.

There are witty one-liners a plenty, cleverly researched mentions of past players and former managers as well as cheeky opportunities for several laughs at the expense of various figures from the red neighbours across the park which draw huge approval from the many Blues in the audience.

This evening of nostalgia and good-natured comedy will appeal to not only fans of the Blues but football and comedy fans alike. Funny, feel-good & cleverly constructed.

From the Heart of Everton’s Badge To The Grand Old Lady is on at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre until Saturday 25th August tickets available here.

Lennon’s Banjo

Lennon's Banjo cast in costume - credit Dave Jones

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lennon’s Banjo aims to shed some light on one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll mysteries of all time, where on earth is the Holy Grail of pop memorabilia which John Lennon learnt his trade on that’s been missing since 1958?

The whereabouts of the mother of pearl backed banjo have never been revealed but one thing is certain, whoever discovers this missing musical treasure which without we may never have heard the Beatles would guarantee themselves instant fortune.

Writer Rob Fennah aims to shed some light on this missing part of Beatles history in his new comedy play, aptly titled, Lennon’s Banjo. The story follows Beatles tour guide Barry, a fab four fanatic who delights in sharing his knowledge to anyone who will listen but especially tourists who roll up for his magical mystery tour. One day he stumbles upon an unopened letter sent from John Lennon to Stuart Sutcliffe detailing where the missing banjo is stashed. Ever the artist the language in John’s letter is flowery and littered with jabberwocky style riddles which will need deciphering before the precious pop memorabilia can be located. Unfortunately for Barry he’s overheard discussing the letter by a double crossing, dodgy dealing Texan who fancies finding the infamous banjo for himself. Cue comedy capers galore as the race to discover the whereabouts of Lennon’s priceless relic begins.

Eric Potts heads up a strong cast at the loveable Barry, happy in his Beatles bubble he is trusting in nature which could very easily become his undoing. Potts is a superb comedy actor, he excels in the role and portrays Barry with such heart you find yourself willing him to succeed from the off.

Mark Moraghan and Jake Abraham as Joe and Steve, Barry’s begrudging buddies and local Beatles memorabilia shop owners add depth to the piece as they team up with hapless Barry in the race to find the musical treasure. There’s mickey taking a plenty and despite their apparent irritation with Barry and his endless Beatles facts the genuine affection for their pal shines through. The scenes between the three being a real highlight of the show as the banter and the put downs flow they are likeable, relatable and enormously entertaining.

Villains of the piece Travis and Cheryl portrayed brilliantly by Danny O’Brien and Stephanie Dooley add another layer to the story as their desperate and debt driven search for the illusive banjo becomes increasingly complex while the consequences of not delivering it get higher. The two have great chemistry and despite attempting to double cross an unwitting Barry are enormously likeable.

The strong cast deliver Rob Fennah’s witty script to perfection in this laugh out loud production, with wonderfully clear storytelling littered with humorous local references. Lennon’s Banjo is a fun and fast paced comedy romp. With bucket loads of scouse charm, enough Beatles facts to keep you entertained for days and appearances from Pete Best in certain performances Lennon’s Banjo will leave you grinning from ear to ear while considering lessons in jabberwocky.

On at the Epstein Theatre until Saturday 5th May tickets available here.

Etta James show to visit North West!

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The smash-hit show, At Last – The Etta James Story, is set to tour later this month starring the sensational Vika Bull; marking its UK debut on the 28th March when it opens at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre, the show also stops off in Manchester on 10th April at Royal Northern College of Music.

Following its world premiere in Melbourne in 2013 At Last – The Etta James Story has since packed theatres throughout Australia and New Zealand. In 2016 the show returned to Melbourne for a sell-out season at The Arts Centre and July saw the show triumph for a third season at The Sydney Opera House.

The show tells the story of soul legend Etta James’ turbulent life and features some of her most beloved songs including Tell Mama, Something’s Got A Hold On Me, Sugar On The Floor, the heart rending I’d Rather Go Blind, plus her iconic signature song At Last and much more. Vika puts her heart and soul into this unforgettable show and is joined on stage by some of Australia’s finest and funkiest musicians.

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During a long and tumultuous career that saw her win six Grammy Awards and a star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Etta James has influenced a vast array of artists from Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart and is acknowledged as inspiring the careers of a new generation of singers from Christina Aguilera, Joss Stone, Adele and the late Amy Winehouse. Sadly, Etta’s frantic recording and touring schedule coincided with her ever-growing addiction problems and over time she not only sang the blues…she lived the blues. Mercifully, her passion for life and strength of character saw her conquer her demons and she continued to record and perform into her seventies.

“Phenomenal vocals – outstanding!” Broadway World

Tuesday 28th March, Epstein Theatre, Liverpool www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk

Monday 10th April, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester www.rncm.ac.uk