Disney’s animated version celebrated its 75th anniversary on the very day the world was due to end. With apparently only a few days left to fill, Andrew was ratcheting the Whingers up into fully festive panto mode.
Phil declined Andrew’s offer of a flashing fairy wand at the gift shop so Andrew tried to engage with with a little game. “What would your name be if you were one of the seven dwarfs?” he asked. Unsurprisingly it didn’t take long for the Whingers to rechristen themselves with the interchangeable monikers of Sloshed and Tiddly.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs* had an awful lot to beat, let alone live up to. The New Wimbledon’s last panto starred the irrepressible Dame Edna dipping her heels into the genre for the first time with enormous success. But the theatre that is now celebrated for its splendidly off-the-wall seasonal casting now features someone who is not only making their first panto appearance, but, at the age of 67, her first ever stage appearance to boot.
Dallas‘ Priscilla Presley is by no means lowered lightly into pantoland. No Pamela Anderson-style 15 minute cameo such as the pneumatic wonder performed when she gave her genie here in Aladdin a rather discombobulating five winters ago. No, you get a great deal of the diminutive Ms Presley for your oil baron bucks. Her Wicked Queen is arguably the largest role in the show requiring comedy (“A creature so gorgeous I won Miss Tennessee”), singing, dancing and even flying. And drifting over the stage as the cast perform an energetic version of her once son-in-law’s “Thriller”. No one can accuse her of not being game.
And no one can accuse her of not rising to the challenge. In fact we so taken by her we found it difficult to take her eyes off her; it seemed rude to hiss, but of course we did. And all this having to compete with the requisite gaudily glittering scenery, special effects, dancing animals (sadly not a “nice beaver” in sight) a dashing Usain Bolt by way of Lazy Town‘s Sportacus-posing Prince (James Austen-Murray) and seven Ellie Simmonds-obsessed dwarfs (led by the hugely likeable, Segway-riding Warwick Davis), each nicely defined as individual characters in their own rights and tights.
Even though there’s no slosh scene and even less forgivably no dame, it’s still tremendous fun, which is what one might expect, coming as it does from that prestigiously prolific panto pensman Eric Potts. There’s also New Zealand comic Jarred Christmas as the Queen’s Henchman Herman who had us looking for an aisle to roll in in his scene with extended and hilariously exaggerated Geordie and Cockney accents and an apparently old (but new to us) panto gag involving onions and a motorway.
By saying Lee Carroll‘s Mudddles handles the children who are called up to the stage nicely we are not implying he should be added to a list. Heck, he even passed the birthday call out moment with aplomb, looking appropriately muddled for a nano second before sensibly moving swiftly on as Phil frantically waved his arms in the air responding to the call out for a five-and-a-half year old named Phillippa (Andrew had been tampering with the birthday box yet again).
No doubt every panto in the land has a Gangnam Style dance routine this year, but perhaps not performed by a person of restricted growth. Mr Davis leads the cast for a sparkily absurd and amusing canter around the stage.
Parents should be warned that a tiny tot immediately behind the Whingers was so caught up in the story that (SPOILER ALERT) that when Snow White ‘died’ it howled in a most heart-wrenching way. How the Whingers tried not to laugh. So perhaps we should not be too harsh with our other grumble that the Queen’s magic mirror wasn’t even remotely sinister enough for us. For the record the child’s minder nursed it back from the brink and by the end no serious damage appeared to have been done. Perhaps it was as enthralled by the finale’s gorgeous turquoise colour palette as we were.
Which would mean the circle of life was completed. Phil’s earliest theatre experience – remembered by his mother but not by Phil – was a particularly impressive shade of blue fabric on a panto chorus member’s costume. He was so taken by it he banged on about it for days apparently. Enough said.
With Presley famously related to two of the biggest icons of pop history one wonders who might be on the panto shopping list for future years. Yoko Ono or Sean Penn should expect that call from Wimbledon at any time.
*Dilton Marsh’s Dilton Players players will be giving their own Snow White next month. Perhaps Heather Mills is free in January?