The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz Image 4 - Credit David Munn Photography

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Continuing their run of half term pantos Regal Entertainment bring The Wizard of Oz to St Helens Theatre Royal this Easter.

Their reimagined panto version of the much-loved family favourite sees an all new script as well as some star billing including a very glamorous Wicked Witch in the form of Linda Lusardi who is joined on stage by her daughter Lucy Kane, most recently seen on ITV’s The Voice.

The Wizard of Oz Image 1 - Credit David Munn Photography

Directed by Chantelle Nolan and written by panto legend Si Foster The Wizard of Oz tells the magical tale of Dorothy Gale who finds herself accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East by dropping a house on her. When the Wicked Witch of the West finds out about her sisters untimely death she makes it her mission to seek revenge but will have to get past the power of Dorothy’s newly acquired ruby slippers to do so.

While The Wizard of Oz isn’t traditionally a pantomime Si Foster’s script cleverly reworks the story to ensure there are plenty of opportunities for the traditional boos, cheers and shouts of ‘its behind you’.

The Wizard of Oz Image 3 - Credit David Munn Photography

Foster’s writing allows for Reece Sibbald’s Scarecrow to take on a ‘Buttons-esque’ comedy role which he laps up. A natural entertainer, both his comedic timing as well as physical comedy are exceptional as he gets into some hilarious scrapes and showers the audience with more than just the usual water pistols. My little reviewers absolutely loved the part where he shrinks in size & giggled about it all the way home.

Mia Molloy gives a great performance as Dorothy, she is in fine voice and more than does justice to Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Her dancing and acting abilities also impress proving she is indeed a worthy wearer of the ruby slippers.

The Wizard of Oz Image 2 - Credit David Munn Photography

The talented cast work well together and keep the story moving at a pace. There’s a sprinkling of cheeky jokes for the adults as well as lots of laughs for the little ones. One moment of corpsing from Lusardi & Sibbald absolutely bringing the house down.

Music of course plays a huge part in panto and its great to hear in addition to some of the traditional songs from The Wizard of Oz there are some recent favourites including Baby Shark as well as a roarsome song from The Greatest Showman.

The Wizard of Oz Image 6 - Credit David Munn Photography

With impressive sets, lavish costumes and strong support from both the senior and juvenile dancers The Wizard of Oz impresses visually as well as musically.

While the story doesn’t allow for a traditional love story element writer Si Foster has added just the right amount of comedic adjustments to give the show a panto feel while still remaining true to the story.

The Wizard of Oz is a hugely entertaining family friendly version of a much-loved classic with ticket prices starting at just £13 this Wizard of Oz is wonderful indeed.

Catch The Wizard of Oz at St Helens Theatre Royal until 22nd April tickets available here.

 

Robin Hood & The Babes in the Wood

The decorations may have come down and the tree has been packed away but there’s one festive treat still on offer as Robin Hood & The Babes in the Wood plays at Warrington’s Parr Hall until Sunday 13th January.

This traditional production is packed full of the usual pantomime favourites, cream pies in the face, water guns as well as being grabbed by the ghosties, or was it the ghoulies? There’s also a sprinkling of topical modern references including the floss, a certain Baby Shark song and even an appearance from the one and only Donald Trump as this fun, family show offers laughs a-plenty for all ages.

The Tony Peers Production written by Phil Beck (who also stars as Nurse Nellie) keeps things very panto traditional with Louise Willoughby playing Robin Hood to Charlotte Buxton’s Maid Marion. Willoughby makes for a strong and sassy lead with both ladies giving note perfect performances despite some hilariously difficult conditions brought about by comedy duo Nurse Nellie and Silly Billy (Phil Beck and Mike Carnell) whose comedy capers are greeted with shrieks of laughter from the audience.

As a double act both Beck and Carnell are fabulous fun, quick witted and enormously entertaining with impeccable comedy timing the duo ensure the action moves at a perfect pace as they gently guide us through the story throwing in plenty of laughs along the way. Ian Moore’s lecherous Sheriff of Nottingham revels in the boos while the Sheriff’s reluctant henchman Snarly played by Edward Leigh shows there’s more to him than meets the eye.

Robin Hood is a great fun production which offers the perfect introduction to festive theatre at a family friendly price. The small cast work brilliantly together, clearly having a lot of fun on stage they succeed in taking the audience along for this traditional and cheeky ride. While there aren’t the big show stopping numbers or dazzling choreography of bigger budget productions the laughs come thick and fast ensuring this panto covers all bases in terms of appeal, from toe-curling close to the bone jokes for the adults to slap-stick silliness for the kids.

My fellow mini-reviewer remarked on the way back to the car “My cheeks hurt from laughing so much” a true testament to the enduring appeal of panto; cheeky, charming and chock-full of fun.

Catch Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood at Warrington’s Parr Hall until Sunday 13th January. Tickets available here.

 

 

 

Peter Pan

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Following on from last Christmas’s terrific Snow White, Regal Entertainments 2018 festive pantomime is a high-flying production of the classic children’s tale Peter Pan, directed by Chantelle Nolan.

From the colourful costumes and sets to special effects including a lovely flying sequence complete with impressive projections and a scream-inducing underwater 3D section (word of warning, younger children may find the shark a bit too scary!), it felt like this was St Helen’s most lavish panto to date.

The theatre’s resident comic Lewis Devine takes on the role of Peter Pan, a slight departure from his usual comedy sidekick role, although he does bring in plenty of comic touches regular audiences will recognise.

Clearly relishing the chance to play the leading man, a relaxed Devine enjoys easy rapport with the cast and audience alike. And as always he is great with the kids who come up on stage at the end of the show.
One thing Peter Pan does have is a brilliant baddie in the nefarious Captain James Hook – here played by Brookside favourite and theatre regular Louis Emerick.
Emerick is probably too likeable and charming to ever be a really bad baddie – but that’s ok. The audience loved his easy manner on stage and his Scouse gags got plenty of laughs.
He shows great chemistry with the Theatre Royal’s popular resident dame Si Foster who plays a warm and witty Mrs Smee (as well as writing the show).
It’s a delight watching them together on stage and if you thought you saw the year’s best version of ABBA’s Fernando in Mamma Mia 2 – think again!
In fact all the songs hit the mark, with musicals fans in particular sure to be delighted with some lovely company numbers including Revolting Children from Matilda, and Wicked’s Dancing Through Life. And the reworking of Nativity’s Nazareth into Neverland to open the show was inspired!
2018’s cult hit Baby Shark is included and the only disappointment on the music front was the absence of a number from The Greatest Showman, which seems to a staple of many pantos this year.
Strictly Come Dancing’s Kristina Rihanoff has lots of fun as a stubborn and sulky Tinkerbell – and it was a treat getting to see her show off some ballroom moves – while Georgina Parkinson (Wendy) and Abigail Middleton (Tiger Lily) made the most of their supporting roles and both showed off fine voices. A large juvenile cast ably supported the principles, as did the ensemble.
The only real criticism is possibly one of Peter Pan as a panto as a whole, rather than particularly in relation to this production. With no real love story, or an out and out comic ‘Buttons-esque’ character, the show did lack romance, and laughs – while plenty (the running Peter’s Camp gag was a real winner!) – were not as constant compared to previous pantos here, particularly the sort of slapstick humour that has kids in hysterics!
But that aside, this is a highly-enjoyable, warm, family friendly version of a much-loved story brought to life by a cast clearly enjoying every minute.And as usual, tickets are commendably good value and affordable for families – starting at just £11.
Until Sunday 13th January 2019 tickets available here.

Cinderella | Opera House

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

First staged in 2016 at the London Palladium then last year at Birmingham’s legendary Hippodrome Qdos Entertainment’s Cinderella has been brought bang up to date by writer Alan McHugh with Corrie jokes a plenty and hilarious local references a go-go. Both Ben Nickles who plays Buttons and Ugly Sister Les Dennis adding material to the laugh a minute script ensuring a riotous night out is guaranteed.

All the stops have been pulled out in this spectacular production; lavish sets, colourful costumes, catchy songs and a superb cast ensuring the Opera House panto remains at the top of theatre goers agenda for another festive season.

Our Ugly Sisters Phelina (Connor McIntyre) and Michaela (Les Dennis) are mad for it as they blend the silly with the slapstick and throw in some cheeky charm for good measure, the pairing is genius as panto pro Les leads the way, reminding us all just why he’s one of the best in the business.

Rochdale comedian Ben Nickless quickly becomes an audience favourite as Buttons; he laps up the applause and delights with outrageously funny comedy capers and hilarious impressions, a born entertainer who comes very close to stealing the show.

Gareth Gates and Shannon Flynn make for a perfect pairing as the dashing Prince Charming and the down on her luck Cinderella proving that they’re not afraid of getting stuck in with the slapstick when their romantic meeting turns into a hilarious battle of wills with lovesick Buttons.

Hayley-Ria Christian makes for a super sassy Fairy Godmother while Jack Wilcox is a commanding and charismatic Dandini.

The ensemble cast and young company, always a favourite of mine in panto add vibrancy with slick delivery of Fabian Aloise’s choreography adding additional charm to this feel-good family show.

Qdos Entertainment has got Cinderella just right in terms of pitch, the script is jam-packed with hilarious gags and witty one–liners while the innuendo we all expect from panto never tips into crudeness, its good old cheeky fun and plenty of it.

The transformation scene at the end of Act I really has to be seen to be believed and is worth the ticket price alone as the gasps of delight from the audience both young and old are heard loud and clear. While panto may one of theatre’s oldest traditions this production feels fresh and vibrant.

Cinderella really is the perfect package; it’s lavish, sparkly, sequined fun suitable for all the family. This extravagant production is everything panto should be and more.

Guaranteed to entertain from start to finish leaving you feeling suitably festive and full of Christmas cheer. Big, bold and brilliant!

Cinderella is on until Sunday 30th December 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.

Cinderella | Oldham Coliseum

Darren Robinson Photography

Mini Reviewer Daisy, aged 8

This classic fairy tale, based on a girl and her two stepsisters plus their stepmother, has been chosen as the Oldham Coliseum’s Christmas pantomime.

Cinderella is played by Shorelle Hepkin, who shows off her great personality, and of course, there is Buttons, played by Richard J Fletcher who is her mate and has some extra funny scenes.

The costumes are amazing and wow the audience, putting the ‘ooh’ into ‘Shock’.

Darren Robinson Photography

Sue Devaney is fantastic as the wicked Stepmother and shows off some brilliant vocals.

As for the two stepsisters, who are played by Fine Time Fontayne and Simeon Truby, they are hilarious-especially when they come out dressed in emoji costumes with big haired wigs!

There’s a great glittery set, which shines throughout all the scenes and there’s some classic hits I enjoyed singing along too, from ABBA, to Baby Shark to This is Me from The Greatest Showman.

I loved it!

Daisy’s verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Darren Robinson Photography

Mum of Daisy, aged 30 plus 10

The Oldham Coliseum definitely knows how to put on a panto and this years’ offering, Cinderella, is no exception. From start to finish there’s something for kids, parents and grandparents and all come out beaming from ear to ear by the end.

If you want tradition you can’t go wrong here as it’s got everything; not one but two great dames as the ugly sisters (aptly named as Pumpy and Trumpy Squeezepocket played by Fine Time Fontayne and Simeon Truby); the super fabulous Sue Devaney who steals the show as Cinders Stepmother and of course there’s Buttons, the comedy sidekick (Richard J Fletcher).

Darren Robinson Photography

You’ve also got all the classic panto lines to keep the audience involved such as ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘oh no she isn’t’ plus there’s a mix of current pop tracks that keeps it ‘down with the kids’.

My four year old and eight year old were in stitches when the step sisters ‘flossed’ and joined in with glee when Baby Shark was being sung.

A fantastic festive night out!

Mummy’s verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cinberella is on at the Oldham Coliseum until 12th January tickets available here

Cinderella

Cinderella Image 11 - Credit David Munn Photograph

Panto isn’t just for Christmas at the Theatre Royal in St Helens with Regal Entertainments continuing their tradition of regular school holiday pantomimes with this Easter’s offering of Cinderella.

The theatre continues its run of attracting well-known names to St Helens with Lee Latchford-Evans from cult pop group Steps taking the role of Prince Charming.

A trained actor as well as singer, Latchford-Evans showed off an easy likeable charm as the Prince as well as a predictably good singing voice.

Georgina Parkinson was a sweet-voiced Cinders with funny man Lewis Devine returning as Buttons following his stint at The venue at Christmas, and proving just as popular with audiences this time.

Cinderella Image 1 - Credit David Munn Photography

Resident dame Si Foster (who also co-writes with Ben Ebgelen) and Mark Newall take on the role of Kendall and Kylie the Ugly Sisters – a brilliant double act who throw plenty of shade and wow in a series of tremendously tacky frocks and wicked weaves. Watch out for the Bags for Life gag – bravo!

Samantha Palin is a warm and distractedly dotty Fairy Godmother, with big hair and bling that wouldn’t look out of place on a Real Housewife of Cheshire. And Andrew Geater is a dashing if somewhat snooty Dandini – they both have fantastic voices and get their moments to shine vocally.

I’m a sucker for the traditional panto transformation scene that usually closes Act 1 and the show certainly doesn’t disappoint here with a gorgeous mix of ballet, baby animals (courtesy of the charming juvenile dancers) and yes – real Shetland ponies! (One of these makes a hilarious reappearance in Act II that had my young co-reviewer in stitches and that I know he will be talking about for days to come.)

Cinderella Image 10 - Credit David Munn Photograph

All of the music is incredibly well chosen. From 80s anthems like Holding Out For a Hero and Love Lifts Us Up (Where We Belong) to musical theatre floor fillers like One Night Only and Fabulous Baby, every song was a total crowd pleaser.

And needless to say Step’s fans won’t go away disappointed with a medley of their biggest hits featuring to the audience’s total delight.

Add to this beautiful and vibrant costumes, charming sets and a brilliantly funny and topical script (anyone who has ever pleaded with ‘Alexa’ will appreciate one gag in particular) that will appeal to all ages, adds up to a warm and witty show that will leave you feeling fuzzy inside.

And with ticket prices starting at an incredibly reasonable £13 – this is a high quality family pantomime at applaudingly affordable prices.

A cracking treat for Easter!

On until Sunday 15th April, tickets available here.