As the final of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing approaches, judge, Craig Revel Horwood sashays into Manchester for another fearsome role as Queen Lucretia, villain of the region’s biggest panto of the year at the Opera House.
This is the third year for Qdos Entertainment at the venue and if you’ve seen the company’s last two productions you know to expect a big budget spectacular. And once again Qdos delivers with star billing, extravagant costumes, and show-stopping flying dragon and witch.
This year the story is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, although it’s not quite as we know it. Here the Wicked Stepmother is Snow White’s aunt and not content with merely killing off the raven-haired beauty to become once again the fairest in the land, she sets her sights on stealing her Prince too.
This leads to some very near the knuckle innuendo that at times goes beyond the usual saucy seaside postcard capers of pantomime. However, the audience knows what to expect with Craig in the driving seat and most of the camp naughtiness goes over the kid’s heads.
As a dastardly pantomime villain Craig’s Malificient-inspired glamour seems a little too fab-u-lous for a traditional wicked queen. He is Diva Las Vegas, surprising with his strong vocals, particularly in his solo of My Way, and his comedy turns in hilarious tongue-twisting and 12 days of Christmas scenes, with plenty of Strictly gags along the way.
There is good on-stage rapport between him and the main comedy characters, Ben Nickless as Muddles and Eric Potts as Dame Nora Crumble. This is Nickless’ second year as panto comic at the Opera House, and rightly this time he gets bigger billing on the poster. His energy and humour lift the show and he is excellent with the kids on stage for the song sheet. Together with experienced Dame, Potts, with his considerably big buns, they are a comedy dream-team – punctuating every scene with genuine belly laughs.
While the top-billed trio carry the majority of the action, sweet voiced Zoe George manages to win the youngsters’ hearts as princess Snow White, alongside Joshua St Clair as Prince Harry (yes, it does get topical at times).
The Seven Dwarfs defend Snow White with true Manc attitude and swagger. If you’ve seen Shrek the Musical, their costumes are the same as the diminutive Lord Farquaad. I would’ve liked to have seen them given more to do, but there is only so much you can pack into two hours and on Monday it was over-running 20 minutes as it is.
In all, Snow White is a riotous festive romp, which is just as much fun, if not more so, for adults as it is for kids.★ ★ ★ ★
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is at the Opera House, Manchester from 6-29 December 2019.