Writer: Peter Rowe
Director: Rob Salmon
Musical Director: Dan de Cruz
Reviewed by: Ruth Jepson
Theatre has a tradition of hiring only the very best triple threats, those who can dance, sing and act magnificently. Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto always goes one extra and takes all the quadruple threats with a cast who not only dance, sing and act, but also rock out on a variety of instruments!
As a fast-growing Leeds tradition. the Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto is keeping up it’s usual high standards with this year’s Red Riding Hood. Not a common story to be told in this form, but definitely a good one, especially with this fresh new twist from writer Peter Rowe. Titular character Red Riding Hood (Lucy Keirl) still has to get past the Big Bad Wolf (Ben Stratton) to bring goodies to her Grandma Milly Merry (Simon Nock), but this story has taken a trick out of Cinderella’s book and added a Prince disguised as a Woodcutter (Ben Mabberley) as well as the panto staple of an officious town official Sir Jasper de Ville (also Stratton) who is raising the rent and scheming to get the leading lady out of town.
The original story really helps this show rise above the usual tired traditional tales that every other theatre is trotting out again this year. It has also spiced up the script with a gigantic glob of not-so-tongue-in-cheek innuendos for Dame Milly. Nock honestly needs nominating for Dame of 2019, such a master of campy good humour is he (sorry, she). Never shying from an audience interaction or just making the other actors corpse, Nock could do the whole show alone and the audience would lap it up.
Of course it isn’t a solo act. Keirl gives a freshly feminist but still feminine turn as an excellent Red Riding Hood, and her paramour Mabberley has a romantic intensity that makes all the ladies swoon over him. The seductive wolf might be a bit uncomfortable to begin with, but hey, if it’s good enough for Beauty and the Beast… Let’s just say some parents will be having some very happy dreams about being his Lady in Red.
Unfortunately here are a couple of negligible negatives. The sound effects are a bit overdone, although that can be explained by the general over doing it of pantomime. There are also a lot of side characters to keep track of who don’t really add much more than padding to the show. The character of Jack Frost (Kenny Davies) could be removed entirely without impacting the story, and Fairy Cherry Blossom doesn’t really do anything other than provide narration, as good an actor and singer as Claire Greenway is. Side romance Ruffles (also Kenny Davies) and Little Miss Muffet (Laura Sillett) are also unnecessary but is at least adorable. They could command a panto all of the their own. Their Don’t Stop Believing date is a show stopper however, so it would be sad to see it not included.
On the topic of music, expect more pop hits than rock and roll, although the Big Bad Wolf singing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit is a blinding turn. Keirl’s imitation of Adele is also a spine-tingler when she sings Rolling in the Deep. And of course, the whole audience is on their feet singing along to the finale mega mix.
Overall Red Riding Hood is a hidden gem of the panto season. One for the adults to start a night out or an unusual work do, although children will enjoy the bright colours and silly slap stick comedy, even if most of the more sexual jokes go over their heads. A very enjoyable night out for anyone looking for something just that little bit different this Christmas.
Runs until 12th January 2019 |Image: Ant Robling