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.

 

 

 

Dick Whittington

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Opening Night verdict 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

Qdos Entertainment, the worlds biggest pantomime producer bring their magical production of Dick Whittington to Manchester’s Opera House this festive season.

Starring the hugely popular John Barrowman, an absolute  panto pro he has the audience in the palm of his hand from the off, whipping off his trousers to reveal the tightest pair of pants to ever grace the panto stage! Joining Barrowman are legendary double act, The Krankies, stalwarts of the cabaret circuit since the 70’s, Dick Whittington marks their seventh season alongside Barrowman and their on stage chemistry is electric.

Sprinkled with lots of adult humour Dick Whittington is high on audience interaction and chock-full of laughs as Dick (Barrowman) falls in love with Councillor Krankie’s (Ian Tough) daughter Alice (Lauren Hampton). dastardly King Rat (Phil Corbitt) however has other ideas as he tries his best to come between our lovebirds.

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Fun and frolics are high on the agenda as Barrowman greets the Manchester audience with an “Ey up chuck!” he is a highly entertaining, hugely charismatic, singing, dancing, innuendo spouting machine! Pair this with an outrageous performance from the Krankies and you really have got a match made in double entendre heaven. Lots to keep little ones and Mum & Dad highly amused with a few jokes perhaps a little too close to the bone for older children, who Mum and Dad may be desperately hoping don’t get certain jokes, let’s just say there could be some interesting conversations on the way home!

The rest of the sparkling cast compliment our leads perfectly with special mention to Jacqueline Hughes who delights as The Spirit of Bow Bells and Ryan Kayode as Tommy the Manc Tabby Cat who judging by the applause received was clearly an audience favourite too.

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As you’d expect there are ad libs galore particularly between the hilarious Krankies who remain sharp as a tack. Jeanette Tough, now aged 70 could give Debbie McGee a run for her money as she’s flung around the stage, barely stopping for breath and even ending up inside a giant sharks mouth!

The choreography is executed perfectly by the Company who are joined on stage by local children from the Stalder Academy of Dance.

Many of the usual panto traditions are here, there’s ghosts & ghoulies, silly songs and sparkly sets plus a surprise soaking for some audience members, however this is as Dick with no Dame which for me seemed an odd choice, please Qdos can we have our Dame back next year? Preferably Manchester favourite Eric Potts. The 3D section is enormously impressive but scared my young guests to the point of having to cover their faces, much too frightening for young children.

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The cast have undeniable chemistry, particularly evident during an underwater version of 12 Days of Christmas, which has the audience in hysterics from start to finish.  The storyline is secondary to the madcap mayhem playing out before us as Dick Whittington entertains and delivers a highly memorable night, for some this may be classic ‘British humour’ that needs a little updating, there was no doubt however that Dick Whittington brought a lot of laughter and festive cheer to Manchester last night, it’s a cheeky, festive treat!

On at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 7th January, tickets available here.