SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
Malvern Theatres, Thursday 19th December, 2013
Once again Malvern Theatres come up with a Christmas cracker of a pantomime – it works so well because it upholds the familiar traditions of the genre. At the helm is Chris Pizzey who not only directs (and provided additional material to Andrew Ryan’s marvellously corny script) but also appears as funnyman-in-chief, Muddles, jester to the Wicked Queen. Pizzey has an instantly likable persona, energetic and clearly enjoying himself.
My only quibble with this Snow White is it takes a while to get going. I’m not sure that reading out birthday messages and shoutouts to members of the audience is best placed in Muddles’s first monologue.
Olivia Birchenough is a perky Snow White with a more than decent singing voice. Songs from the Disney animated feature are put to good use along with more up-to-date pop numbers that get the youngsters in the audience singing along. Pantos that use ‘original’ songs miss a trick in terms of audience engagement. Seasoned old pro Charles Burden (if I may call him that) is a splendid dame, Snow White’s nursemaid, Dolly, holding his own when it comes to banter with the audience and working like a dream with Pizzey in time-honoured panto routines.
Sue Holderness is an impressive, imperious and enjoyable villain – you almost want her evil plot to succeed! It is her Wicked Queen who steers the silliness into darker waters. When she offers Snow White the poisoned apple there is genuine tension in this iconic moment, even though we know what’s going to happen. The kiddies near me were thoroughly caught up in the action.
Ben Harlow is a charming Prince Frederick, dashing in a camp and goofy kind of way, and director Pizzey gets a lot out of his strong singing voice and his comedic skills. Pizzey also capitalises on the talents of one of the dwarfs in particular, bringing out ‘Smiler’ (Jamie John) to join the nurse, Muddles and the Prince for a raucous rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas – although I have seen rowdier.
Routines like the ghost scene are executed superbly well, proving that the traditions and tropes of the form are still effective and still have currency in the hands of skilful performers. And above all, it’s still very, very funny.