Writer: Alan McHugh
Director: Guy Unsworth
Reviewer: Kate Goerner
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the Opera House Manchester’s panto – this year sees Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs being brought to life with a Strictly big-name baddie in Craig Revel Horwood.
Last year’s near-perfect production of Cinderella saw producers Qudos really find their feet in Manchester – so there is much to live up to this year. Thankfully the end result is a panto that ticks nearly all the boxes in terms of a fun-filled night out.
There is nothing like a dame – and this panto gets two of ‘em! And two of the best in the biz at that. Headline star Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood is well, a revelation, as wicked Queen Lucretia. With a voice as fab-u-lous as his frocks, Revel Horwood’s statuesque, pouting Queen is less maleficent, more mid-life crisis. That Revel Horwood can dance is no surprise – but that voice! From a sultry version of Venus to a showstopping rendition of My Way, it’s clear Revel Horwood is enjoying performing in the show as much as the audience was loving watching him. a generous performer, he had great rapport with his fellow company members.
It’s a joy to welcome Opera House favourite Eric Potts back as Nora Crumble. It’s been a few years since Potts was in panto here, but it was worth the wait. A generous and self-deprecating performer – Potts has been missed and great to have him back on ‘home turf’. Making a much-welcome return to the Opera House following his star-making turn here last year is comic Ben Nickless as Muddles. As natural on stage as it gets, Nickless nails it again – combining easy charm and likeability with killer impressions (James Arthur just beating out returning favourite Gary Barlow) and comic timing. Let’s hope Nickless is back to make it three years on the trot in 2020.
Zoe George and Joshua St Clair make the most of their stage time as love’s young dream Snow White and Prince Harry – with St Clair getting to show off his fine vocals that have seen him feature in hit musicals like Wicked and Kinky Boots. There’s a terrific rendition of panto staple Twelve Days of Christmas by Revel Horwood, Nickless, Potts and St Clair that (literally) brings the house down – terrific stagecraft.
Rather than the seven dwarves, we get the ‘Magnificent Seven’ – with the hardworking actors performing on their knees in the ingenious manner of Lord Farquard in Shrek the Musical. Their boy band-esque version of You Raise Me Up(complete with glittery microphones) was a real crowd-pleasing moment.
The candy cane-coloured sets and costumes are as lavish as you’d expect for a big-budget panto, with some pretty cool visual effects by The Twins FX – including a dragon that soars out over the stalls.
And the ensemble and juvenile dancers bring to life Ashley Nottingham’s appealing choreography well – the two male dancers partnering each other in once scene was a nice touch.
And while the frankly pretty scary magic mirror might be a touch too creepy for younger audience members, this is firmly a panto for all the family, with the innuendo never straying too far over the line – all credit to writer Alan McHugh and director Guy Unsworth.
All in all, it’s a strictly sensational pantomime and not to be missed.
Runs until 29 Dec 2019 | Image: Contributed