Tag Archives: Panto

REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

The panto-going citizens of Glasgow raised a cheer when the cast of the SEC Armadillo’s pantomime Snow White was announced. The almost universally adored Greg McHugh – he of the much-missed Gary, Tank Commander would star as court jester Gary, his TV co-star Leah MacRae would play Nanny McWee his mother (not sure the lovely Leah should be best pleased at that!), River City’s Frances Thorburn would be our heroine Snow White and a doyenne of British comedy acting, the wonderful Doon Mackichan would be the evil Queen Lucretia.

The quality cast, coupled with the sheer scale of the spectacle, add up to the city’s most fabulous, funny festive offering. There’s a camaraderie from the cast that just radiates to the audience, who are on-side with the high jinks from the start. McHugh is undoubtedly the star and his antics as the cheeky but naïve Gary are the highlights of the show, but there are star turns a-plenty, especially from Mackichan who is an absolute treat as the evil queen.

The only negative notes are a troupe of mildly horrifying looking woodland animals whose costumes look like they’ve been culled from the leftovers of the abattoir, all the more incongruous in such a spectacularly glitzy show and the auditorium itself, whose vast size does tend to engulf any audience reactions.

Definitely the most spectacular panto in town and certainly the most star-studded.

REVIEW: Cinderella – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Glasgow Academy of Musical Theatre Arts (GAMTA) have teamed up with Eastwood Park Theatre to present this year’s festive pantomime, Cinderella.

The set and costumes are a feast for the eyes, the glittering, decorated proscenium adds to the wonder before the curtain even rises. There’s glitz, glamour and special effects, all adding to the magic of the production.

While the youthful cast win in the energy and effort department, it is however, a dance-heavy, slow to get going, take on the traditional tale. There are some baffling additions to the story which seem to have been shoe-horned in to showcase GAMTA’s dance credentials, unfortunately they only add to an already over-long run time. It also suffers from the fact Buttons is being played by a young child and the object of his affections a clearly mature teen, it all adds a creepily uncomfortable element which will no doubt go over the heads of the children in the audience, but feels a tad uncomfortable for the adults.

Where it succeeds is in its comedy elements, Ciara Flynn and Rebecca McComb are a perfectly matched comedic double act as Ugly Sisters and provide the majority of the true highlights of the show.

The cast can’t be faulted for their skill or talent, however, they suffer from an over-long and overly-dull script that dilutes the magical potential the show could have had.

REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

If it’s a big traditional panto with plenty of glitz and sparkle you’re looking for, then Glasgow King’s certainly delivers year on year.

This year’s offering is Jack and the Beanstalk, starring local panto treasures Elaine C. Smith and Johnny Mac, and save for these two local favourites, it’s a minor TV celeb-free zone and all the better for it.

The story largely follows the traditional tale: there’s a huge furry cow, some magic beans, a growing beanstalk, a fabulously realised giant and the requisite evil baddie, some familiar tunes – mostly oldies, there are no new pop hits. It’s re-set to Glasvegas with some familiar local references thrown in and most of the usual panto tropes intact. There’s no slapstick, a tiny bit of audience participation, the dame is a woman, the princess doesn’t need a man to vanquish the foe and proposes to her beau – all a refreshing move in the right direction. It needs mentioning though that a sequence between Mac and Smith incorporating the names of famous chocolate bars, was seen last year almost exactly in Cinderella at the SEC Armadillo.

Elaine C. Smith is much-loved and a solid pair of hands for a production as big as this and Johnny Mac is entirely loveable and endearing as Jack, the audience is onside from his first wide smile. Less effective is Anne Smith as the panto baddie Mrs. Blunderbore, an unfortunate visual joke from Jack about her performance being a bit flat, is unfortunately accurate, and in contrast to her co-stars her costumes are utterly lacklustre – more Poundland than Pantoland.

All in all, it’s exactly as you would expect every year from the King’s – big, bold and beautifully executed. A fine night of traditional entertainment.

Runs until 5 January 2019

Image: Richard Campbell

Originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Cinderfella – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

There has thankfully been a seismic shift in the Pantosphere in recent years to reflect the society we actually live in, and at the forefront has been the Tron Theatre, and more specifically those works from the pen of the wonder boy of panto fabulousness, Johnny McKnight. That said, this is the festive show I’ve attended since childhood and from the days of Peter Capaldi, Forbes Masson, Alan Cumming and Craig Ferguson, it has never felt the need to conform to Christmas norms or patronise its audience. It has a special place in my heart and year on year it never fails to entertain on every level and for every age.

The smashing of gender stereotypes features large in this year’s offering Cinderfella, and boy do they do it with tons of style and even more humour. Poor, orphaned Cinderella is fighting to keep her late parent’s vintage store afloat, her only hope is to meet fashion entrepreneur Princess Charmaine and persuade her to invest in the failing family business. However, the only way a poor pleb like Cinderella can get near the Princess is to get an invite to her annual ball. However, this year the guest-list is a male-only affair – so what’s a girl to do?…

The music is chart-toppingly catchy and composer Ross Brown has obviously caught West End smash Six, another celebration of female strength, there’s also a nod to You’ve Got a Friend in Me in Muttons big solo number.

The all-female cast is absolutely dynamite. Sally Reid, all wide-eyed innocence and guilelessness is the titular hero and her comic timing is masterful. Lauren Ellis-Steele doubles up as “Scotland’s answer to Beyoncé” (more an Adele look-and-sound-alike) and also the Wicked Stepmother – it’s a perfectly pitched performance and Ellis-Steele has a fine set of pipes, and as with all McKnight festive offerings, she gets to go full-on Mariah in All I Want For Christmas, the song that traditionally brings the shows to an end. Jo Freer as Cinderella’s loyal sheep side-kick Muttons is a scene stealer as are Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Daisy Ann Fletcher as Cinders’ hapless and hopeless step-brothers Harry and Larry in eye-popping male-drag. 

This ‘estrogen epidemic’ is so well conceived and so well delivered, you can’t fail to be thoroughly entertained and its message of female self-reliance will make your heart soar. I can’t praise it highly enough – a fantastic, five star, festive feast.

Image: John Johnstone

REVIEW: Cinderella – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

The SEC Armadillo pantomime has gone all-out in its efforts to sparkle and shine brighter than its rivals: even before you enter there’s the dazzling 5 foot high letters spelling out the title of the show, then there’s the twinkling lights from the 20 foot Christmas tree, the flashing neon of the big wheel and the rainbow-hued SSE Hydro right next door. For sheer sparkling extravagance in set, costume and lighting design, no expense has been spared in this year’s offering, Cinderella. Cinder’s starlit crystal coach is a particular highlight, sparkling as it flies out above the audience.

There’s the cast too, Scottish TV comedy giants Jonathan Watson and Gavin Mitchell, music, theatre and River City star Frances Thorburn, musical theatre star Keith Jack and veteran comedy duo The Krankies.

The storyline is a simplistic and very streamlined version of the traditional tale: the two ugly step-sisters are mean to poor old Cinders (though not as mean as they could be); Cinders can’t go to the ball; the prince masquerades as a servant and falls in love with our heroine in the woods; Cinders gets her glad-rags on and goes to ball in disguise; Prince and Cinders are re-united; slipper gets lost; slipper finds its owner; the lovestruck pair get married, and yes, they all live happily ever after.

There’s no slapstick, no audience participation and no sweetie throwing as expected from a ‘traditional’ panto. There is however heavy reliance on The Krankies to provide the light relief, but their smut-laden and entirely inappropriate dialogue is woefully outdated in 2018 – and this comes from someone who is very much not of the ‘snowflake generation’. Watson and Mitchell are fine comic actors and do their best with the material given and Thorburn and Jack, both gifted singers only have a few short moments to show their considerable talents. They are all supported by a hard working, top-notch adult ensemble and a well-drilled children’s troupe from JazzartUK.

Very much geared towards adults, this is a beautifully staged panto, but I can’t help think that opportunities were wasted by the script writers and director with such a talented cast of actors.

Runs until 30th December 2018

Tickets available HERE

REVIEW: Ricky McWhittington – Platform, Easterhouse, Glasgow

Senga McWhittington presides over the Oldie Weegie Sweetie Shoppie in dear old Glasgow town, but her son Ricky has different ambitions – he’s set to head to the bright lights of the big city. When Senga’s shop becomes over-run with vermine, all under the control of the stinky Queen Rat, Senga needs her boy back to help save the day. Helped by Fairy Gallus Alice and a cast of colourful pals, will the shop be saved, will Ricky fulfil his destiny and will Senga get her man? That’s the story of Ricky McWhittington, this year’s festive offering from Platform.

Every panto trope is here: the goodies and the baddies to cheer and hiss and boo; the rhyming dialogue; the fantastically clad panto dame ready to harass some unsuspecting (male) audience members; a young couple falling in love, some up-beat pop numbers to dance to, and the traditional ‘cloot’ so we can sing along together at the end.

This is a panto full of charm and heart and perfectly pitched to its young, local audience. The cast are universally excellent, the acting so good, the tiny audience members know exactly who to boo and hiss for from the start, and hearteningly the girls kick ass and can stand their ground against any foe.

This is a panto who knows its audience well – both child and adult friendly, the audience is fully engaged from start to end. An absolute charmer from a fantastic cast, in a wonderful theatre with the friendliest and most welcoming staff in the city.

Tickets are almost sold out, so be fast, details here: http://www.platform-online.co.uk/whats-on/event/392/

 

REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Wee Muppets – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

It may be Snow White whose name is on the poster, but it’s the boys (dressed as women) who totally steal the show in Eastwood Park’s 2017 fun-filled panto.

With nods to the Snow White story, it’s a new take on the familiar tale. The baddie this time is wicked step mother Spella Binding (Stephen Arden), a former 80s pop diva who’s competing with ingénue Snow White in Pantoland’s version of the X-Factor. Spella’s side kick is Siri, a real live version of Apple’s famous app, (a fine-voiced Lisa McKecknie) and while there’s an apple involved it isn’t the poisoned kind but an i-Pad with a virus that infects our Snow. True love as always is the key to saving her, but refreshingly it’s all girl power here, and there’s no need for a prince to save you when you’ve got the love of your friends and family.

Snow White played by Charis Murray, Molly Muppet played by Lee Reynolds, Siri played by Lisa McKecknie, Lady Marmite played by Greig Adam and Evil Stepmother and 80s pop diva Spella, played by Stephen Arden

The goodies and the baddies are well-defined: Greig Adam’s Lady Marmite is a heroine you really want to root for and evil Spella is the perfect panto villain. Both Adam and Arden shine, the pair’s stage presence is so strong that while the others are a pleasant distraction, and undoubtedly talented, you are willing either, or both of them back on to the stage – they are where the action is. It’s heartening that there’s so much local talent in the cast and the local jokes and banter hit their mark.

This truly is entertainment for all the family, there’s no smut, just a lot of sass, songs we can all sing and dance to and a perfect running time of under two hours including the interval.

Snow White and the Seven Wee Muppets runs until Saturday 30th December at Eastwood Park Theatre and is truly family friendly.

Info, including how to book can be found at: https://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/article/8908/Snow-White

Title image: Siri played by Lisa McKecknie, Evil Stepmother and 80s pop diva Spella, played by Stephen Arden, Snow White played by Charis Murray, Molly Muppet played by Lee Reynolds and Lady Marmite played by Greig Adam

Image credit: Mark Gibson

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty – Cumbernauld Theatre

Masters of the art of traditional storytelling with a modern twist, Cumbernauld Theatre don’t disappoint in their staging of Sleeping Beauty.

This is not an all guns blazing, special effect driven, pop hit laden extravaganza, instead it is a beautifully told, traditional tale – a real pearl in a sea of crass commercialism.

Largely following the fairy tale as we know it; the wicked witch fails to secure an invite to Princess Aurora’s christening, she damns the princess to a life of isolation as the curse of sleep will come to the young lass if she ever receives a scratch. Despite the best efforts of her doting parents, the adventurous young tike inevitable falls foul of the curse and it takes true love and a pure heart to set her free.

This gentle production is the perfect introduction to “real” theatre for tinies, and shows that you don’t need pyrotechnics or pop hits to keep them enraptured. A heart-warming, sweet and wonderfully told tale.

Runs until 24 December 2015

REVIEW: Aladdin – macrobert, Stirling

Scotland’s undisputed King of Panto, Johnny McKnight serves up the first treat of the holiday season with his disco-tastic, glitterball spangled version of Aladdin at the macrobert in Stirling.

There are afros, flares and platforms a-plenty as well as enough synthetic fabric to start a disco inferno as we boogie on down to Discotopia. Along with her two kids Wishee Washee (Robert Jack) and Aladdin (Dawn Sievewright), dear old Marge O’Reen Twankey (Andy Clark) runs the last launderette in town, the Dream Cuisine and Dry Clean, an establishment which does a natty turn in pies and bridies as well as washing and ironing.

Marge’s eldest Aladdin is in love with the campest prince in town (Martin McCormick) and as it ever was in Pantoland, the path of true love never runs smooth. In “the worst case of panto romance ever seen”, Aladdin and the blonde hair-flicking, disco-posing object of her affections encounter opposition and obstacles in the form of the Prince’s class-conscious mother (Helen McAlpine) and evil “Aunty” Lilith (a spectacularly clad and suitably menacing Julie Brown), and of course there’s the small matter of a rusty old lamp hidden in a deep dark cave.

As with the best pantomimes there’s as much here for adults as children, there are canny contemporary cultural and political references for the grown ups and the requisite number of slapstick, bum and bogie jokes for the teenies. The music too, manages to include the widest demographic, from 70’s disco and pop classics such as: “Lost in Music”, “Night Fever” and “We Built This City” albeit this time on sausage rolls not rock ‘n’ roll! through current hits: Pharrell’s “Happy” and a knock-out version of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” from Mrs. Twankey ( an hysterical Andy Clark) to the ubiquitous “Let it Go” from Frozen, which as well as being a sing-a-long favourite with the young audience, provides the perfect vehicle to highlight Dawn Sievewright’s stunning vocals.

McKnight eschews the ordinary panto fare and the writing remains clever and on-point throughout, never needing to resort to cheap smuttiness or crudity to get the laughs. There’s also an excellent take on the famous Abbot and Costello “Who’s on First” sketch, whose wordplay goes down a treat with the young audience,proving that classic writing never fails to be funny.

Complementing the writing is a truly outstanding cast led by some of Scotland’s most highly regarded and accomplished theatre actors. Andy Clark as our beloved dame, deserves a medal, not only for his comedy skills but for agreeing to wear Marge O’Reen’s eye-watering ensembles, all of which seem to feature a bikini!, each entrance is accompanied by gasps and in one instance a covering of the eyes in disbelief at what we are seeing. Robert Jack (a familiar face from the much-loved Gary, Tank Commander) is a revelation, his timing and physical comedy skills are of the highest order, managing to raise laughs even when he’s not at the centre of the action. Dawn Sievewright is a fabulously feisty Aladdin and her vocals are world class. Hilarious support is provided by Helen McAlpine (The Queen/Jeanie) and Martin McCormick (Prince Jasper) – there really is not a weak link anywhere in this production.

Mention must be made of the quality of the set design by Karen Tennent and the seamless transitions between the multiple changes, which would put most larger theatres to shame.

There’s no magic carpet here: “we’ve no got the budget”, but this Aladdin is all the better for it. This truly is a Christmas cracker, it’s a witty, wonderful, disco-tastic spectacular for the whole family – the perfect start to the festive season.

Runs until 4th January 2015

Tickets available here: http://www.macrobert.org/event/aladdin/