Writer: Alan McHugh
Director: Jonny Bowles
Reviewer: Dan English
Seasoned entertainer Joe Pasquale returns for yet another seasonal offering in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the pantomime at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre.
As the loveably hapless Muddles, Pasquale leads a delightful cast across the highly enjoyable production, marking the beginning of the festive period. The production continues the trend at the Orchard Theatre to combine performance with 3D spectacle, to great effect. The production revolves Snow White (Victoria Serra) escaping the clutches of the evil Queen Sadista (Rachel Stanley), while attempting to find love with Prince Calum (Alexis Gerred) and remain oblivious to Muddles’ own interest in her. Although unlucky in love, Muddles is supported graciously by his mother, the fabulous Dame Dolly Diamond (Ceri Dupree).
Pasquale is the driving force behind this production, bringing together the toilet humour for the kids and innuendos for the parents to hysterical effect. Pasquale’s Muddles is as endearing as he is inept, yet his warm heart and consideration for Snow White ultimate shines through. The entertainer brings his sharp wit to the role, delivering each punchline with sharp execution. Although his vocal delivery is excellent, where Pasquale shines brightest in this role in through his physical comedy. A scene involving Muddles and a rotating stool is enough to bring the house down, while a brutal encounter between Muddles and Prince Calum tests not only Pasquale’s talents but Gerred’s resolve.
Dupree’s fabulous Dame Dolly Diamond models an incredible range of costumes across the performance, with each outfit more outrageous than the last. A pantomime is arguably only as strong as its lead and its Dame, and in Dupree, this production certainly has its star Dame. There is a connection between Dupree and Pasquale that ensures the comedy does not stutter throughout, with the duo linking successfully a multitude of times. Dupree’s Tina Turner impersonation in Act Two is a highlight and showcases Dupree’s impressive vocal range.
A viciously vile wicked Queen, Stanley’s Sadista is aptly named and perfectly executed. Pantomimes are typically riotous and it requires a lot of the villain to rile the crowd on cue, something Stanley does superbly in this production. There are moments of pure villainy in the second half, especially as Sadista reveals her plot to poison Snow White, with Stanley combining well with the vibrant stagecraft on display to portray her wickedness so dastardly.
Serra and Gerred’s Snow White and Prince Calum respectively feel almost forgotten about in this production because of the success of the leading trios’ performances, yet this duo achieve a lot with the little material this production offers them. Although their love story is rushed, a connection does feel there between them by the end. Gerred’s Prince is allowed to be part of the comedy at times and Gerred does well to hold his nerve during a frantic Twelve Days of Christmas routine against the Pasquale and Dupree pair.
Iconic to the story yet seemingly underused in this production are the Dwarfs (Timothy Benjamin, Stuart Harris, Daniel Law, George Knapper, Stephen O’Rìain, Christian Tyler-Wood and Joey Warne). Perhaps thwarted by the copyright limitations placed upon stage productions of this classic, it is a shame that the Dwarfs do have a limited role in the performance, especially as when on stage, the seven were enjoyable.
There is yet another 3D film included in the pantomime this year and yet again it only enhances the performance. Blue-i Technology have created a 3D world that immerses the audience and gives the show a memorable experience for its patrons.
Ian Westbrook’s set design captures exquisitely the magical kingdom in which Snow White resides while also portraying the Dwarfs’ homely comforts. Easily manipulated, Westbrook’s design fails to hinder the choreography and in fact, often combines with the routines to only add to their effect. A particular highlight of the design is the blending of a curtain to actual set, eventually unveiling the Dwarfs’ humble abode in all its miniature detail.
Yes, we’ve heard the jokes before and yes, we know it will be alright by the end, but this is yet another pantomime triumph so well delivered by its talented cast.
Runs until 31 December 2016 | Image: Contributed