Birmingham Hippodrome Review
Saturday 21st December (evening performance)
If you see one professional pantomime this season let it be Birmingham Hippodrome's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This production really has it all...a star studded headline cast, jaw dropping special effects, stunning sets and costumes and enough laughs to last you a lifetime! Qdos Entertainment have provided a very traditional pantomime plot which really has something for everyone - in terms of all round entertainment I'd go as far to say this is the best professional panto I've ever seen! Making his pantomime debut - TV favourite Gok Wan shines as 'The Man in the Mirror.' As you would expect Gok is a real crowd pleaser and firm favourite with the ladies of the audience. He provides plenty of his comical 'Gokisms', and dressed in a figure hugging catsuit he really shows us 'How to Look Good in Panto.' Gok performs a fantastic rendition of the Sister Act classic 'Fabulous Baby' and teams up with the brilliant panto dancers to give a really 'confident' performance. Channel 4 have followed Gok through his panto journey and you can catch 'Gok does Panto' on Channel 4 on Monday 30th December at 7:05pm. Read more...
Gok's evil Alias is The Wicked Queen, convincingly played by Dallas actress Stephanie Beacham. She is perfectly cast as the oh so glamorous Panto Villainess and oozes evilness. Beacham has the audience in the palm of her well manicured hands and used this to her full advantage to lure both the cast and the audience under her wicked spell!
Eastenders favourite John Partridge makes a very handsome Prince, and gave a show stopping performance in his rendition of the all singing and dancing 'Runaway Baby.' He is teamed perfectly with 'Over the Rainbow' winner Danielle Hope as leading lady Snow White, and the pair gave a lovely duet of 'The Voice Within' amidst the magic of Act 1.
Appearing for his first time as pantomime Dame, theatre favourite Gary Wilmot provides many of the laughs as Mrs Nora Crumble, with his quick wit and outrageous outfits. Wilmot is very much a traditional Dame and I particularly enjoyed his 'Birmingham Balti.'
The real stars of this production are comedian Matt Slack and ventriloquist Paul Zerdin as Oddjob and Muddles respectively. They provide many of the show's laughs and both were side-splittingly funny. Zerdin in particular with his puppet sidekick Sam is a real national treasure. I am a firm fan of ventriloquist acts and although I had seen some of his material before in pantomime, I was nevertheless thoroughly entertained by the action and loved Zerdins new puppet pals spontaneously selected from the audience! A particular highlight of the production for me was 'If I did not work for the Queen' which was hilariously performed by Gok Wan, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin and Matt Slack. This comedy number was well polished and perfectly timed with props - slapstick at its best!
Snow White's Seven Dwarfs although appearing sparingly in this production were costumed and modelled very carefully to create the illusion of the 'mini men.' Without spoiling the effect for future audiences, it very much reminds me of 'Lord Farquaad' in "Shrek the Musical" and of the 'Oompa Lumpas' in Sam Mendes' new production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" with the way in which the Dwarfs were operated. This was unique and pioneering way to represent the Dwarfs and really enhanced the Panto magic spirit. With flying dragons, slapstick comedy and plenty of Birmingham and the Black Country topical references, this Pantomime is the perfect family outing and I would highly recommend the UK's biggest pantomime as truly unmissable. Runs til Sunday February 2nd.
Producers and Directed by Michael Harrison, Choreography by Karen Bruce and Musical Directed by Robert Willis.