REVIEW: Miracle on 34 Parnie Street – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at http://www.thepublicreviews.com/miracle-on-34-parnie-street-tron-theatre-glasgow/

There’s no denying Johnny McKnight’s theatrical credentials: writer of hits such as The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam and Wendy Hoose; director of Blithe Spirit for Perth Theatre and Carmen Redux for Scottish Opera; undisputed ‘King of Panto’ with hit after hit here at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, The Lyceum in Edinburgh and Stirling’s macrobert, to name a (very) few. This year McKnight asks us simply to believe, taking the much-loved 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street and reworking it for a Glasgow audience in Miracle on 34 Parnie Street.

Things are not quite going as smoothly as planned at Glasgow’s favourite department store T.J. Confuse: Santa has turned up to work in the grotto but to everyone’s surprise Santa isn’t a he, but a she (with a platinum beehive to rival the late Amy Winehouse). To add to the mayhem, Kristine Cagney Kringle, gloriously played by McKnight himself, is claiming to be the real deal, but the sceptics just won’t believe and Kristine finds herself in court and on a mission to restore to the masses, the real meaning of Christmas.

It’s camp, it’s kitsch and punctuated throughout by original songs from Ross Brown which range from traditional panto sing a-long to pop and R&B and it’s all dressed up in eye-popping designs from Kenny Miller.

The cast of six work their socks off, actor/choreographer Darren Brownlie particularly impresses as the up-tight, commercially focussed store manager Mr. Bellhammer as does the ever reliable Julie Wilson Nimmo in multiple roles, Michelle Chantelle Hopewell as Chantelle possesses a stunning R&B powerhouse singing voice but does less well when delivering her lines, her accent obscuring much of her dialogue. But there was never going to be any doubt who was going to be the star here: McKnight (clad in what can only be described as a Kim Kardashian/Maria Carey mash-up) has the most finely tuned comic timing and razor-sharp wit you will find on any stage anywhere. That he genuinely seems to love what he’s doing is a delight to watch.

Writer/director/star McKnight has his finger firmly on the pulse of panto, perfectly pitching each show to its target audience and this is no exception, you would be hard pressed to find a greater number of local references than this, even the title references the theatres address. The storyline is cleverly multilayered and speaks volumes about crass commercialism and of sexism – hell, this is a more stirring, rallying cry for feminism than any you could wish for. It is peppered with witty one-liners (and more than the average share of ad-libs as McKnight picks on the audience and his fellow actors foibles to hysterical effect), however, as much as this theatre is known for its more cerebral Christmas content, the line: “that’s too meta, even for The Tron” gives you some idea of the usual audience, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it maybe goes a little too over the heads of the typical tiny panto-goer, save for the fart jokes of course. That said, they were a-whooping and a-hollering at the musical numbers and booing and hissing in all the right places.

If it’s something different than the usual run of the mill fairytale with chart hits shoe-horned in that you’re looking for, then look no further than Parnie Street – head on down to the Tron and just…believe!

Runs until 4 January 2015