Writer and Director: Paul Hendy
Musical Director: Francis Goodhand
Choreographer: Sarah Langley
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
The Lyceum Theatre is well-known in the region for pulling out all the stops when it comes to pantomimes, and they just seem to get better and better. On the face of it, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs isn’t really an exciting story and can be quite dark, but Evolution Productions in conjunction with Sheffield Theatres bring the tale to life in spectacular fashion. There are wonderful characters, infectious comedy, atmospheric scenery and truly unbelievable special effects.
The fun begins when chorus members enter through the audience and urge everyone to sing. The dame, Nurse Nellie played by Lyceum regular Damien Williams, is a larger than life character who interacts constantly with the audience. Muddles, aka Phil Gallagher of C-Beebies fame, is the happy guy with the cheery greeting for the kids and the great singalong songs. The comedy trio is completed by quirky Herman the Henchman (Richard Franks) who is arguably the star of the show. Once his wig is removed along with his hat, he almost resembles a lively Voldemort, but his talent for physical comedy, accelerated speech and facial expression is truly hilarious. His dream of being Freddie Mercury has to come true, and the enthusiastic renditions of all the favourites such as Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions nearly bring the house down.
The fairytale couple of Snow White (Joanna Sawyer) and Prince Charming (Oliver Watton) makes us believe in love and the seasonal theme of that happy ending. Their songs are sweet, they’re made for each other, and the routine on skates on a giant tree stump is breathtaking. Is it really the same couple? It’s a clever substitution if not. In true fairytale and pantomime style, the wicked Queen Ivannah (Wendi Peters formerly treading the cobbles of Coronation Street) cannot keep the lovers apart. Even with Michael Palin in the Magic Mirror, the queen cannot hang onto her position as “fairest in the land” with Snow White around. The queen’s castle is gorgeously gothic and she gets quite scary sometimes, but that all adds to the spirit of the story.
The Seven Dwarfs put on a show within a show. Their varying sizes and talents allow amazing variety: little Loopy is always tumbling flat on his back; Brains is a mathematical genius; Cheeky can tap dance and belt out a mean duet when he has a chair to hand; Sarge issues the orders; Sniffly sniffles and sneezes; Groover has the moves and grooves, and Brian is just down-to-earth and grumpy.
The sets are the traditional interchangeable backcloths, with castle turrets either side, but with the talented cast taking all the attention, it’s hard to notice the scenery. The chorus of dancers from the smallest little girls to the eight adults is a joy to watch, every move perfect and there are happy smiles all round. The costumes are lavish: traditional court clothing and Russian-inspired villager costumes, ending with a red and silver themed wedding scene. Nurse Nellie is dressed in extravagant fashion, there’s a helter-skelter and a Brownie Guide in there somewhere – “how can the prince prefer Snow White?” Nellie declares, “I’ve changed 12 times – she’s had the same dress on all night, even died in it?”
There’s a dance number with silver hoops, clever camp jokes for the mums and dads, a stunning black swan carriage for the queen, an enchanting fairytale woodland animal chorus and the scene with 42 fish jokes has to be seen to be believed.
When the 3D glasses are handed out at the interval it’s a clue that something special is to come, but no one is prepared for how spectacular it is. Suffice to say, the effects have everyone ducking and diving; where does the water come from? Will one of those spiders drop over here? It’s clever and oozes originality. To describe it more would spoil the surprise and novelty, needless to say, Snow White should be on everyone’s definitive to-see list this Christmas.
Just one question remains, how on earth will they top that next year in Mother Goose?
Runs until Sunday 8 January 2017 | Image: Contributed