Review: Little Red Riding Hood (Liverpool Everyman)

 

Sam Haywood, Zita Frith and Jonny Bower

Sam Haywood, Zita Frith and Jonny Bower

Having decamped for three years to the Playhouse, the Everyman’s legendary rock’n’roll pantomime can now return to its original home, and Little Red Riding Hood is the first to be performed in the newly built theatre. Its predecessors at the old Everyman were enormously popular, and the long run scheduled for Little Red Riding Hood reflects a confidence that demand for tickets will be high again.

Jocasta Almgill and Sam Haywood

Jocasta Almgill and Sam Haywood

And judging by the enthusiastic audience response on the night we went, the Everyman has another hit on its hands. We’ve come to expect imaginative sets, colourful costumes and foot-stomping music (and we get all three in spades), but the new building’s state-of-the-art technology facilitates a range of other eye-popping special effects. To the delight of the audience characters fly through the air and disappear through the floor, and there’s some spectacular use of lighting and back projection. But there’s more old-fashioned fun as well. The show’s publicity promised ‘more water than ever before’, and however far back you sit you can’t be sure of escaping the traditional water pistol soaking.

Tom Connor and Ben Mabberly

Tom Connor and Ben Mabberly

There’s also a strong storyline, with an array of entertaining new characters and elements of the film Frozen grafted onto the familiar tale. As we’ve come to expect, music is to the fore, with many of the cast playing instruments and singing as well as acting. There are plenty of classic numbers to get the crowd dancing in their seats, including Tutti Frutti, Three Steps To Heaven and I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Zita Frith and Jonny Bower

Zita Frith and Jonny Bower

The energetic cast look as if they’re having a whale of a time, and their sense of enjoyment is infectious. Several audience favourites are in the line-up, notably Adam Keast and Francis Tucker, whose double act expertise is applied to the characters of Woody and his love interest Betty Berry. Nicky Swift, after two years away appearing in Les Miserables in the West End, is back as the fairy Poppy Petal and Jocasta Almgill is the plucky heroine Little Red. Zita Frith as the winter witch garners most of the boos and hisses, though Jonny Bower as Wolverine – who perhaps could look more wolf-like – gets his share as well.

Francis Tucker and Adam Keast

Francis Tucker and Adam Keast

The show’s maybe a little too long, especially for the younger children in the audience. But the glee on their faces as they left told its own story, and the adults couldn’t hide their grins either. After a great year at the new Everyman, this is the perfect way to end it (and to kick off 2015).

Photos: Brian Roberts

Little Red Riding Hood continues at the Everyman until Saturday 17 January 2015. For more information, click HERE.