Nova Horley reviews Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Grove Theatre, Dunstable
Having seen and thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 pantomime, I was hoping this year’s would be as good, and I was not disappointed. In fact if anything I would say this year’s was even better. The ensemble as a whole exuded enthusiasm, energy, pace and diversity within the bounds of the script, which was very well written.
To me this was all that a pantomime should be. Yes, you have your headline star, but this was not all about them, and the other cast members had an equal chance to shine. That makes my heart glad, as panto should be an inclusive event for the cast, crew and audience.
Evolution Productions appears to embrace this ethos, and I am so pleased that the audiences by booking again this year also want to see a pantomime in the old tradition, but with many up to date twists, that keep it fresh.
It was nice to see a live band under the baton of Patrick Rufey, who gave us some very catchy music, with good arrangements and meaningful words, no doubt backed by some excellent sequencing. My main compliment in this area goes to Patrick for keeping the musical numbers short and catchy, therefore not losing the younger members of the audience, who quite honestly do not want to listen to lovey-dovey duets and the like. A good choice of music too - very well achieved.
The sets were very lavish and worked well for the stage and the cast, while the costumes were all excellent, and were worn well by the cast. Nurse Molly had some really outrageous costumes, but all were good, very colourful and interesting. I loved the woodland creatures' heads - they were incredibly well designed, and the costumes to go with them. Helga Wood had kept in mind the needs of a cast, whilst designing some beautiful costumes.
Lighting enhanced the piece, and was very in keeping with the theme and as a way of drawing attention to various parts of the stage and the performers.
The sound balance between band and stage was excellent throughout, although I thought that Snow White in particular had her mic turned up too much especially at the beginning. It made it seem as if her voice was a little harsh, which it wasn’t, so perhaps the sound level could be brought down a little to make her voice more mellow.
Choreographer Arran Anzani-Jones created good shapes and partnering within the musical numbers, which kept the movement interesting. It's not always the case in pantomime, so I was pleased to witness that.
The opening was lively, and the younger members of the chorus were obviously engaged with plenty of smiley faces, and they were well-rehearsed; I saw the Purple Team when I attended. It was good to see the younger members of the cast integrated into the ensemble for the dance routines.
The ‘live’ mirror using Michael Palin was a great idea - there were some very funny moments created by his dialogue, and it gave us a different view on the voice of the Mirror.
I thought Will Kenning directed the whole production very well. I am not normally a fan of the director taking a part, as it is not always possible for them to watch the action and take part to see if it working, but he had coped well, and obviously had good backup for when he was onstage. Overall direction was very good, and Will also created a very funny Dame, as Nurse Molly. He interacted well with the other characters, and played the audience to the full.
Not being a CBeebies watcher, I did not know Richard David-Caine and Joseph Elliott, but thought they were both spot on for their parts and there interaction with the audience. Joseph created the aptly named Muddles, and threw himself into the part, keeping the younger members entertained. He was funny and loveable.
For me, Richard David-Caine as Herman was a star – he had every aspect of the part covered, and created many very funny moments, while always keeping sight of Muddles and the Dame. I loved what he did with the part, and of course the children loved it, as did the adults. His Freddie Mercury number was excellent.
There were some good exchanges between these three, very well-written and delivered, with some good ad libs too. I liked the mix of topical jokes with older more established material, the Brexit and Theresa May references were very funny. There were some slightly risqué jokes for the adult audience, but nothing that could be objected to.
Charlie Brooks as the wicked Queen Ivannah did not show that it was her first pantomime – she coped with the art and the audience with aplomb, and although I was not 100 per cent in love with her costume - I felt she would have benefitted from something a little more spikey and evil-looking in keeping with the nastiness she got into her portrayal. But it worked well with the movement she accomplished. Charlie showed that she was happy to be the ‘baddie’ and the way she worked the audience was very good.
Joanna Sawyer created a lovely Snow White, charming and light of touch. I have already commented on the mic level, but felt she delivered her musical numbers well, and I liked her slightly naïve interpretation, keeping it simple and not trying to be too clever and knowing. She created a good relationship with Prince Charming, played with good effect by Damien Walsh. Always a difficult part to play, but I thought Damien gave the part the right emphasis, while retaining some of the swagger needed for a principal boy.
It was good to see dwarfs playing the Dwarfs. There were some familiar faces in the line up, but they all kept their characters well, and made it a diverse seven with something for everyone. I was particularly taken with Cheeky, who was certainly that, and Brian was very lugubrious, which was great.
Needless to say, I was very impressed with this production, and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone in the area wishing to see a pantomime. Very well done to everyone involved.
* Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs until New Year's Eve. Visit grovetheatre.co.uk to book.