The New Wimbledon Theatre’s panto offering this year is pretty much as traditional as it gets. From the grand, glittery backdrops and scenery to the innuendo, triple threat ensemble, and all the old gags recycled from decades ago. It’s a real spectacle. There’s a little modern twist on the story of Snow White, which I dare not spoil, but otherwise, it sticks closely to the story we all remember from when we were kids. There are even a few songs from the Disney film, which I can only imagine the producers are paying through the nose for. Maybe Dick and Dom really are working unpaid to cover the licensing costs.
Ruthie Henshall is a deliciously evil Queen Lucretia, as she glides through the air, lifted up by a chorus of demon henchmen, and performs the gloriously camp I Put a Spell on You. Lee Mead makes a charming Prince (of Lambeth) and gets us all singing along to the backing vocals of Any Dream Will Do, which is unapologetically shoehorned in, but no one’s complaining. John Archer is a fantastic comic as Oddjob, getting the balance just right between getting us to laugh at him at times and with him at others. I could’ve probably watched him reel off terrible jokes and haphazard magic tricks all night long. Matthew Kelly makes for a very traditional panto Dame, a new comedy costume for each scene designed by Mike Coltman. The show skips fairly quickly through the narrative, and with Archer and Dick and Dom providing so much of the comic relief, Coltman’s Dame perhaps plays a smaller role than in some other pantos, but I enjoyed the performance nonetheless.
As an avid Loose Women watcher, it’s a real treat to see Brenda Edwards guide us through the story as The Spirit of Pantomime, showing off her fabulous vocals. Hannah Lowther does a great job at giving Snow White a bit of bite, rather than just presenting her as another totally passive panto princess. I haven’t seen Dick and Dom since they hosted Da Bungalow on Saturday morning telly, and they work brilliantly here with Archer, Coltman and the others, bringing clowning and slapstick into the show, and of course, getting all the audience to shout “bogies” whenever they appear.
The principals are supported by a superb ensemble of talented triple-threat performers. Jonny Weston and Lucas Angelo Ward are particular standouts in The Magnificent Seven. There are a few elements of the production that feel outdated (even for panto), and the casting of seven non-disabled actors as the seven dwarfs feels increasingly inexcusable. It’s such a shame when the production values are so high and the rest of the show has been thought through and executed with so much attention to detail. I haven’t seen a Snow White panto since I was a kid, and I was quite surprised they hadn’t arranged an alternative (such as casting actual actors of short stature in these roles!).
Putting that aside, Paul Robinson’s choreography is slick and stylish, Richard G Jones’ offers a colourful lighting design, and there are some great special effects, including a snowstorm at the end of the first act which puts the audience right at the centre of the blizzard. It’s a real variety show: an old-school panto with song, dance, comedy, a little bit of storytelling, and a few classic panto routines thrown in for good measure, with strong, engaging performances from the whole cast.
Review by Joseph Winer
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, don’t miss the fairest pantomime of them all!
West End Legend and multi-award-winning actor Ruthie Henshall leads our star cast alongside X Factor singer, actress and television personality Brenda Edwards, musical theatre star Lee Mead, legendary panto Dame and TV presenter Matthew Kelly, comedy television presenters Dick & Dom, Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist John Archer and TikTok sensation Hannah Lowther.
Wimbledon audiences are in for a panto treat this Christmas. Don’t miss out or you won’t be able to look yourself in the mirror!
Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the perfect Christmas treat for your family.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is at New Wimbledon Theatre from Sunday 4th December, 2022 to Saturday 31st December, 2022.