Small but perfectly formed

 Snow White, Katie Marie Carter, finds helpers in the forest among a collection of furry friends

Snow White and the Magic Mirror

Lichfield Garrick

*****

LICHFIELD Garrick has built up a well-deserved reputation for punching well above its weight when it comes to Christmas shows and this year is no exception.

While bigger, brasher shows go in for big stars and bigger and better special effects with everything from 3D to flying horses, the Garrick’s secret is to keep it cheerful, fast and simple, and remarkably slick, with a show equally as suitable for toddlers as for grannies and all built on traditional panto values.

We reviewed on a matinee school’s performance and I am sure my hearing will recover before Christmas – infants  booing or screaming could be used as a weapon against terrorism – and took along my grandson, who, at not yet three, was certainly the youngest there and he loved every minute, as did his granny who is three and a bit . . . well a few bits really.

The show is colourful, fast paced and, above all entertaining for both adults and children with Midlands Today’s Joanne Malin magnificently malevolent as the evil Queen Evelyne of Transylvania. The news presenter had a life as a dancer in musical theatre before the lure of television and it shows  in every dance number with  a particularly nifty display of tap, that lost art coming back into fashion.

There is even a big tap number with the entire cast which is nice to see, particularly as most of the cast are a new generation of actors only recently out of drama school.

 Meanwhile, back at the plot, we learn the glam but wicked queen has done in the king and intends to deny her stepdaughter, Princess Snow White, her rightful place on the throne when she reaches 18 by the simple expedient of having her killed before her birthday. You can’t argue with the logic.

So, moving on to the intended victim, Katie Marie Carter, on her professional debut, is a pretty princess with a fine solo voice which blends well in duets with her dashing Prince Harold of Tamworth played with equally fine voice by Daryl Amstrong.

Adding humour to proceedings we had Greg Bernstein as Chester the Jester, a likeable and extremely athletic lad who seems to have cornered the market in excruciatingly bad Christmas cracker jokes.

Ian Adams as Fraulein Von Strudel with Joanne Malin in regal mode as Queen Evelyne

But for really bad jokes, look no further than Ian Adams as Fraulein Von Strudel. Adams, who seems to be running a rest home for banter that has fallen on hard times, has been writing and directing Christmas shows at the Garrick for seven years and he adapted this from the original, Brothers Grimm tale rather than the more sugar coated version from the Walt Disney Studios – all mixed with dollops of traditional British panto.

Adams has been playing dames since the last century and some of his jokes and quips were probably around the century before that – some were probably translated from the original Latin - but old, silly jokes in Christmas pantos are as traditional as turkey and sprouts at Christmas lunch. Audience groaning among the laughs and shouts is all part of participation.

He is full of enthusiasm and the kids loved him, yodelling as asked on cue whenever he appeared – the hearing is definitely starting to return, honest.

For the good guys we have Leone Heath as Villia and goody two shoes, or two wands probably, Witch of the Woods while grassing everyone up, because she cannot tell a lie, we have Chelsea Flain as the Magic Mirror, all aided by Lizzie Alderson as Masha and Josh Andrews and David Brewis as guards (and much else) with the five of them taking every other part and forming a lively chorus along with the Snow White children.

The cast also operate the seven puppets of the seven dwarfs whose names seem remarkably similar to Trumpton firemen, which is another feature to delight young children.

The panto is helped by clever sets from John Brooking allowing effortless scene changes to give us forests and mountains, the dwarfs’ cottage, the Queen’s poisoner’s pantry and a glittering palace and also by an excellent eight piece band under musical director Adrian Jackson, who also happens to be the Garrick’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director.

Jackson, a respected international arranger and conductor, has for many years  collaborated with Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, original creators of Les Misérables  and the One Day More finale to the first half is as good a panto act closer as I have seen. It involved the entire cast with Harry and Snow White on balconies on opposite sides of the stage and was quite magnificent.

And it all ends with a sequence of sing-along monster favourites from Ghostbusters to Time Warp to make sure everyone goes home happy with a smile and a song.

The Garrick is keeping up the tradition of family pantomime for all ages, and most particularly for younger children and once again has produced a a real Christmas Cracker. To 05-01-14.

Roger Clarke

 

And look out behind you . . .

****

IF you want to know just how good a pantomime is, try joining an audience of schoolchildren and their teachers at a matinee performance.

I did just that when the Garrick was packed to the rafters with the little....angels, and oh boy, did they participate.

Every opportunity to respond to those 'Oh no you won'ts', was grasped with gusto, and when that classic panto Dame Ian Adams invited the youngsters to yodel back at him each time he appeared, it was bedlam.

Having the excellent orchestra perched just behind some of the scenery at the rear of the stage works really well, and musical director Adrian Jackson was even afforded a few speaking lines when there was a pause with his baton.

One of the stars is popular BBC Midlands Today presenter Joanne Malin, such a nice girl to be handed to role of the evil Queen Evelyne who wants to do away with Snow White and keep the crown for herself.

Ian Adams and Prince Harry, played by Daryl Armstrong, shake a leg in one of the lively dance numbers

She looks great, but maybe she doesn't come over quite nasty enough at times, though the kids love to boo her. And Joanne, an actor/dancer before moving itno journalism, treats the audience to a sparkling tap-dance at the end of the show.

Young Katie Marie Carter, making her professional debut as Snow White, is excellent and enjoys some fine duets with handsome Daryl Armstrong who reveals a fine singing voice as Prince Harry.

Some of Chester the Jester's one-liners may have been over the heads of the young audience, but Greg Bernstein is a bundle of fun in the role.

No dwarfs in the title, but there are dwarfs in the panto - seven muppet-like puppets who are all operated by members of the cast. To 05-01-14 (oh yes it is)

Paul Marston 

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