The Adventures of Pinocchio
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Sun 14 Jan 2024
The glamorous panto is back in town. The Newcastle Theatre Royal have once again delivered the country's most popular pantomime. By relying on the trusted partnership of Wallsend's Michael Harrison as Writer/Director/Producer and Clive, Danny and Chris on stage they have created a chemistry that brings the audiences back year after year. Add in the vocal talents of South Shield's X-Factor winning Joe McElderry and you have a very different production to the others in the region.
Here is the thing. There are those who think variety shows no longer exist. Tell that to the loyal audience who pack the show through its seven week run. We have songs, fire, magic, jokes - lots of jokes, gorgeous costumes, sparkly sets and a couple of big special effects. Amongst the chaos, occasionally the tale of Pinocchio breaks out however the audience are not necessarily here for that. This is pure variety at its best in the theme of Pinocchio. And it works. It works really well. This is the sumptuous Christmas show that entertains.
As a panto the show fully understands the three ringed circus as the audience and cast interact. I will stick my neck out here and say this is possibly the best one yet, simply because that interaction on and off the stage has improved and hit a new level. Rather than being a panto that is performed to an audience, the audience are very much a part of the experience.
So this time around, real life father and son: Clive Webb and Danny Adams are Geppetto and his wooden son Pinocchio. The young lad is schooled by Dame Rita Rigatoni - a role as flamboyant as Chris Hayward and the fabulous costumes that Chris has created himself for the roll.
Trying to act as Pinocchio's conscience is Jiminy Cricket - a roll that gives Joe McElderry the chance to - as Danny keeps pointing out - sing again.
Every panto needs a baddie and Wayne Smith is the Great Stromboli - who wants to add Pinocchio to his travelling show. He is assisted by the fox Phyllis (Christina Berriman Dawson) and the cat Kitty (Kylie Ann Ford) who aim to kidnap him before they perform in Sunderland (of course!).
The show frequently stops the exposition in favour of jokes and magic. It doesn't have to fit in the story as that is not the point of this show. It is about the entertainment. So when Fire Dancers Dave Knox and Grace Billings literally start setting the action on fire. This had a wow factor as the flames flew around.
The jokes keep flowing. Danny is the lynchpin around which both the action and the jokes centre around. A challenging task that he takes in his stride. Joe has taken to panto well as he is an entertainer to his core. The ensemble work hard to keep the fun flowing. Perhaps it would be nice to see more of Mick Potts though...
So there you have it. The best one yet? Yes, probably it is. You don't need to go to London to see a fabulous show. It is right on your doorstep.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Relaxed perf: Sun 10 Dec & Wed 10 Jan, 12 noon
Audio Described & Captioned perf: Tue 12 Dec, 7pm
BSL perf: Thu 14 Dec, 7pm