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REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Darlington Hippodrome

Mirror, Mirror

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Darlington Hippodrome
Until Sunday 14th January 2018

Despite being a tradition for families around Christmas time, I love seeing Panto’s towards the end of their stints as the casts are usually more relaxed and tend to allow the fun and let slight accidental moments take centre stage. For me, a good panto must tick all the boxes: Lots of songs that entertain but advance the plot, colourful sets and costumes, funny jokes and not so funny dad jokes, bold sketches but most importantly, a show that puts the audience at the heart of its story. This QDOS production of Snow White ticks all the boxes.

Pantomime returns to Darlington after a season hiatus due to the £13.7 million refurbishment of the newly renamed Hippodrome, which not only is a beautiful home to show but allows Darlington to become the setting of the story. Snow White, unlike most Pantos, often omits the use of a fairy. Alan McHugh’s script cleverly uses the prologue to introduce the Seven Dwarves, or in this story the Magnificent Seven, who introduces to how they have been banished from the Kingdom and set up the plot.

We are introduced to Snow White (Natasha Hoeberigs) who is waiting for the arrival of Prince Lee of Langton (Lee Ryan from boy band ‘Blue’), who she hasn’t since she was little, as he arrives on a quest to seek a wife. Snow White insists on introducing him to best friend Muddles (Liam Mellor), who has an unrequited love for the Princess. Thanks to some help from his mother, Mrs Nora Crumble (Eric Potts), we see Muddles gain some much-needed confidence on his small talk to impress Snow White but is cut short by the arrival of Herman the Henchman (Patrick Monahan) and later Queen Sadista (Pop Idol and local lass Zoe Birkett).

The rest of the show follows the traditional story, where Queen Sadista’s jealousy of Snow White leads to the plot involving killing the young Princess, only for the kind heart of Herman to break the Queen’s spell and send her to live with his seven magnificent friends in the woods. The Queen learns of this through her Magic Mirror (which features recorded footage of past Civic Theatre Headliners The Chuckle Brothers’, Brendan Sheerin of Channel 4’s Coach Trip and the legendary Krankies) and vows to search for her in a spectacular finale to Act 1.

Act 2 sees Prince Lee’s search for Snow White continue as Queen Sadista’s plans turn to black magic and the famous (or infamous) poisoned apple, which we all know how that ends. As per everyone Pantomime, a happy ending is always at hand as the Magnificent Seven return to the palace as Queen Sadista is locked inside the very mirror which aided her.

Natasha Hoeberigs plays a kind hearted, traditionally friendly Snow White, with a gracious voice and princess charm. Her chemistry with everyone on stage and the audience allows her to avoid becoming a dainty Disney princess, but a character that young girls can admire for gratitude. As the headliner for this Panto, Lee Ryan packs in a neat performance, delivering a passable performance with the bad boy charm he has shown from his appearance in BBC Soap ‘EastEnders’.

The comedy is well supplied from all angles. Liam Mellor proves his wealth of experience of Comic Leads and becomes an instant hit with audience as the loveable teddy that every six-year-old has. Patrick Monahan’s stand up experience serves him well as the not-so evil henchman, especially with a more adult-filled audience like that performance.

In a time where Panto dames are evolving and become more dragessque, Eric Potts hits the nail on the head with Mrs Norma with a more typical approach. His energy is very infectious and for me he can easily be placed as one of the top 5 dames in the country.

Each Panto company has their way of playing the Dwarfs, some use real dwarfs while others tend use kid actors in costume heads to utilise their young dancing troops and save on running costs. This production uses the Shrek the Musical technique of having the actors on their knees with their legs covered by a cape. These 7 actors pull off this risqué trick with such energy and enthusiasm that makes the audience believe in the magic. Special mentions to local lad Reece Sibbald who leads these merry men and to Reuben Greeph, who plays the Saxophone live on stage for their big number.

The star of the show without a doubt is local lass Zoe Birkett. Birkett isn’t your average reality star. Using her acting training and West End credits, she makes evil seem effortless and a breeze without coming across as whiny. Bringing in some fantastic production numbers, my highlight was the end of Act 1 where she rides a Pterodactyl, supplied by illusionists’ Twin FX, into the audience while belting out ‘Queen of the Night’ to rapturous applause.

QDOS have continued to produce a spectacular Panto with a lively show filled with fabulous music, supplied by MD Steve Clark and band, gorgeous set and costumes and laughs for all the family. With next year’s Panto ‘Aladdin’ on sale now, all that’s left to say is ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall, this Pantomime was great, I had a ball!’

Review by Robert Wilson Baker


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