As part of its 120th birthday celebrations, Birmingham Hippodrome, together with QDOS Entertainment, have mounted possibly the most lavish show outside London. Starting life at the home of variety the London Palladium last year, where it stared Julian Clary as the Spirit of the Mirror and Dawn French as the Wicked Queen, Michael Harrison’s production has been revived and revised for a Midlands audience, and the result is a sparking evening’s entertainment.
It’s true to say that the actual Snow White story probably took up about 20 minutes of the show, but when the pantomime entertainment crafted to surround it is of such high quality, it’s hard to complain too much. I really would have liked to have spent more time with the dwarves however (or The Magnificent Seven, as they are labelled here). They appear to be a supremely talented bunch of performers, but are not allowed to develop any real individual characters.
Instead the star of the show is undoubtedly Birmingham Panto favourite Matt Slack, now in his seventh year playing the comedy role at the Hippodrome. Slack is clearly in his element controlling the action and the audience, and the script gives him plenty of opportunity to display his talents. A fine series of impressions of comedians went down well, but it was the sequence with numerous lip-synched song phrases, all perfectly chosen and timed for prime comic force, that brought the house down. And some of the jokes do, I hope, go over the heads of the younger members of the audience, and straight to their parents who, in the performance tonight were rolling in the aisles, while wondering how he got away with what he’d just said. Slack treads a fine line at the smutty end of the humour scale but judges perfectly how far to push it. Just be prepared to explain to your 6 year old what a Gynaecologist does!!
Alongside Slack it takes a performer of real skill and experience to hold their own, and Lesley Joseph is an absolute hoot as Queen Dragonella. Not the nastiest of panto villains, although she can summon up a great dark incantation when she needs to, Ms Joseph is allowed to play with the audience, and the other cast members much more, using her comedic timing to create a very funny villain.
As often with panto some of the funniest moments are when things go wrong, and Slack and Ms Joseph were involved in a moment of comedy gold involving a serious wig malfunction in the middle of the panto classic reworking of 12 Days of Christmas. It stopped the show for almost a couple of minutes as everyone on stage, as well as in the audience, were trying to pull themselves together.
Supporting these two were Joe McElderry, in fine voice as The Spirit of the Mirror, Andrew Ryan, sporting a fine array of damish costumes as Nanny Annie Aspirin, and, for particular local flavour, the acerbic Doreen Tipton (Gill Jordan) as The Lady in Waiting.
Faye Brookes and Jac Yarrow are ideally cast as Snow White and Prince Harry of Harborne (you can guess where one or two jokes about Prince Harry are headed!) and the dance troupe Flawless are even shoehorned in for a couple of routines, nothing to do with any vague sense of plot, but it’s all good entertaining stuff.
The set, lighting, and particularly costumes are lavish and the live band, under the direction of MD Robert Willis, keep everything sounding fantastic. The special effects by The Twins FX are also spectacular.
If you fancy a great evening’s entertainment that will keep the whole family entertained, and manages to combine 7 Dwarves with a flying Reindeer Sleigh, dancing snowmen and hip hop dancers, then you will not be disappointed.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday 2nd February.
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