Writer: Alan McHugh
Director: Ian Adams
Reviewer: Clare White
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre’s festive family offering is a sparkling affair enjoyed by an audience of all ages. The pantomime production is a madcap farce delivered in the best British tradition and full of laughs – and let’s face it, we could do with a few of those.
When Princess Beauty pricks her finger on a spinning wheel cursed by evil Carabosse, she’s set to sleep for 100 years, unless her friends can save her. The plot bears little resemblance to the traditional fairy-tale, but it does feature all the expected pantomime chaos in a tried and tested formula – the slapstick, silly gags and the opportunity for enthusiastic audience participation. There’s also a flying dragon, flossing (as in the current dance craze), gentle ribbing of surrounding areas (Bilston and Dudley take the brunt) and water pistols. It’s a new spin on an old yarn, if you will.
Without even having any actual lines, Sooty manages to steal the show. This is no criticism to his co-stars, it’s just that, well, he’s Sooty. Everyone’s favourite puppet is joined by his ‘sidekick’, entertainer Richard Cadell as Muddles, who is responsible for the funniest set pieces, audience engagement and impressive magic tricks.
Following her Strictly Come Dancing success, an iridescent Debbie McGee floats onto stage as The Fairy Crystal. While not the strongest actress, she’s a sweet and shimmering delight in tap shoes, endearing herself to the audience by frequently getting the giggles. The show’s choreographer Julie Paton is suitably evil as villainous Carabosse, and while their parts are condensed to make way for the comedy characters, Bethan-Wyn Davies and Oliver Ormson bring West End calibre to the roles of Beauty and Prince Harry.
Making a welcome return for the third year a row is comedy character Doreen Tipton, AKA actress Gill Jordan and Ian Adams as Queen Wilhelmina. Black County heroine Doreen feels a bit underused this year, but the self-proclaimed ‘lazy cow’s’ negative quips and straight-faced innuendos (featuring Shih Tzus, bowel movements and little pricks) go down well with the adults, and (hopefully) float over the heads of younger audience members. Multitasking to the max, Adams is not only the panto’s dame but also its director and pulls off both with great success.
Production values are high, and the set design and special effects are particularly good. Apart from a couple of tunes adapted from The Greatest Showman, there isn’t really a stand out musical number, but overall its colourful and captivating spectacle – so much so that even a mini theatre-goer under the age of two is transfixed to the action on stage throughout. Engaging family fun indeed.
Runs Until 13 January 2019 | Image: Tim Thursfield – Express and Star