As ever there are a multitude of pantomimes across Merseyside this Christmas, but as Wirral’s biggest, the Floral Pavilion’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has to hit the spot. And we’re pleased to report that this vibrant, colourful show most certainly does, delighting the audience with a traditional, family-oriented pantomime that amply demonstrates just why the genre has proved so enduring.
There were several standout performances in a large, enthusiastic cast. Olivia Birchenough (who many children would recognise from Channel 5’s Milkshake) shines as the young heroine, not least because she is blessed with a beautifully melodic singing voice. She has no difficulty rallying the audience to her side in her battle against the Wicked Queen, played by Tupele Dorgu (familiar as Kelly Crabtree in Coronation Street for five years), who’s strikingly glamorous but also suitably cunning and malevolent. She too has a very impressive singing voice, and her commanding performance soon has even the youngest members of the audience booing and hissing every time she appears.
Chris Warner Drake (yet another superb singer) is the devilishly handsome Prince in a show full of classic, traditional characters. He was very popular with the audience, who responded warmly whenever he bounded – in time-honoured fashion – onto the stage. There’s another memorable performance from Stephen David as Nursie, a comical, larger than life character in the finest pantomime dame tradition. Special credit also to Chris Pizzey, who not only skilfully directs a lively, fast-paced show but also appears on stage as the endearing Muddles, whose facial expressions deserved a round of applause on their own. He’s an experienced children’s television and pantomime performer, and his expertise is very apparent in the witty, engaging performance he gives here.
These days the seven dwarfs are often played by children, but with one exception (the charming, 11 year old Evie Walsh) the roles are performed by a group of adult actors, who between them have a wealth of experience, including parts in the Harry Potter films (Darren Horan) and Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights (Albert Wilkinson). The audience loved their mischievous antics and they were ably led by Craig Salisbury, who gave an outstanding performance as Pop.
The professional actors were joined by young singers and dancers from local drama schools, principally the Liverpool Theatre School. In one especially delightful scene Snow White finds herself alone in a wood but is led to safety by a group of youngsters dressed as badgers, owls and rabbits.
There was a splendid group of accompanying musicians, and plenty of crowd-pleasing songs, including the dwarfs’ theme tune Whistle While You Work, and Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, which brought the house down with the added line, ‘I’ll be your sunshine boy from Birkenhead’. Nursie, Muddles and Kip (one of the dwarfs) also joined together for an hilarious, rumbustious rendering of The Twelve Days of Christmas, when to everybody’s delight there was some serious water pistol action. As well as slapstick comedy that everyone enjoyed there was the occasional ‘nudge, nudge’ joke that (hopefully) sailed over the children’s heads – but, as with the rest of the show, all in the true spirit of pantomime and nothing that could cause offence. The production is also a visual treat, with attractive sets and eye-catching dance routines.
By the end, with gentle encouragement from Muddles, the audience were on their feet for the show’s climax, bringing to an end an evening where everyone (including the cast) looked as if they’d had a thoroughly good time. Our family party included girls aged 4 and 16, and there can be few pleasures to match turning round to see your children howling with laughter. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs deserves to be a spectacular hit.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs continues at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton until 4 January 2015. For more information, click HERE.