The staging, jokes and choreography are excellent, as are keynote characters Muddles and Nurse Nellie, both played to maximum comedic effect by Rikki Stone and Rob Stevens, but the highlights for me were the vocal performances of Snow White (Juliette Dean), Fairy Fortune (Vikki Lyons) and most impressively the Wicked Queen – Michelle Pentecost. The adaptation of Defying Gravity from Wicked is as good as you might see in the West End, no surprise really as Michelle has a top theatreland pedigree.
From the opening act this Polka Dot production nips along at a cracking pace, and is knitted together by Muddles, aka the impossibly young looking Rikki Stone. He is the original cheeky chappie and makes an immediate connection with the kids.
One of the beauties of Thameside pantomimes is that the audience enter the spirit of the thing and know just what’s expected of them. It’s an annual pilgrimage and like all good devotees, they worship with a passion and really enjoy every moment.
With a receptive audience the cast know just what buttons to press and the laughter flows through the production. The male lead is TV personality Jeff Brazier and he makes the transition to stage hero comfortably and while his singing isn’t in the same league as the three leading ladies, he certainly passes muster.
If I had a criticism it would be that we don’t quite get enough of Rob Steven’s dame, though he milks every bit of the time he does get in the spotlight and interacts well with all the cast, including the wicked queen’s henchman Herman, played by James Chisholm. In fact the comedic highlight of the show is a sensational working of the Twelve Days of Christmas with beauty treatments for the queen replacing the usual gifts! It’s comic genius.
And another is that I didn’t really think the dwarfs themselves made the connection with the kids. They were updated to include parodies of the likes of Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Alan Carr and Gary Barlow but to my mind it was almost as if they were unnecessary extras to the plot – but then it would be a bit difficult not to include them, wouldn’t it?
All in all Snow White, which includes some popular pop tunes along with the traditional slapstick, dance and wicked quips, is another cracking addition to a list of successes. I’m not a big fan of recorded music rather than a panto having its own band but with live vocals of the quality on show here, you would have to forgive Polka Dot that.
The show runs until Sunday, 4 January, with morning, afternoon and evening performances available. Full details can be found at thurrock.gov.uk/theatre or by calling the Box Office on 0845 300 5264.