|Image Source: Mark McNulty|
Written By: Mark Armstrong
Date: December 13 2016
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
There have been many memorable and completely different shows at the Empire this year, such as Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, Annie, The Bodyguard, Chicago, Blood Brothers, Cats and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. However, there is only one way that you could end a year at any theatre, especially the Empire, and that is with the annual, star-studded Christmas pantomime.
The show this year is Snow White, and Jorgie Porter leads a cast of stand-out names by playing Snow White. Leanne Campbell plays Queen Morgiana in her fourth consecutive panto appearance at the Empire, Liam Mellor reprises his role of Muddles, Colin Connor acts as Herman The Henchman, Stephen Fletcher is Prince Brian Of Birkenhead, and Pete Price makes a cameo as the face and voice of the Magic Mirror. Oh, and as the title of the show would have you expect, there are appearances by the Seven Dwarves.
The story goes that Queen Morgiana is fearful of Snow White growing up and becoming prettier than her. Her worst fears come true upon Snow White’s 18th birthday, at which point Prince Brian turns up and falls in love with the princess. Cue methods of nastiness by Morgiana, some via her fearful yet reluctant henchman Herman, and when it seems like there is no solution to Snow White’s woes, her friends – both old and new, and both large and small – provide as much assistance as they can as she strives to maintain her love for the Prince. But with the wicked Morgiana aiming to remove her from the picture so that she can receive an ego-boost for her looks and enhance her own financial security via the Prince’s riches, can Snow White succeed?
The costumes for the main characters are excellent; it’s odd to see Snow White with blonde hair, but it actually adds something different to this particular version of the show, and in actual fact some may find the blonde-haired Snow White look to be better. The sets are also very good; it’s clear that a lot of work has gone into making the settings look as faithful to the story as possible, especially for the home of the Seven Dwarves, which comes complete with miniature chairs and tables. And there are several songs for the audience to join in with, both from the original show and in the form of modern hits or festive tunes, particularly a localised and humorous version of Twelve Days Of Christmas.
As for the performances: all of the cast do a good job, but I was particularly impressed with Colin Connor as Herman The Henchman. His role is a secondary one, but the mix of an Irish accent and a down-to-earth explanation of certain events on stage made for an amusing combination, which along with some strong material, good ad-libbing and suitably-OTT delivery and mannerisms made him a treat to watch, and to me he ended up being the performer who I most remembered when all was said and done. That being said, everyone brings their A-game to the show, and once can easily immerse themselves in the experience due to the believable performances by all. And the jokes, whilst occasionally hit-and-miss, resonated with both children and adults, meaning that the whole family could laugh along with the show.
What helped to make this show seem special was the addition of minor touches: attendees were given treats as they entered, and on sale (from a custom-built store, no less) were a variety of colourful toys for the kids to enjoy and for them to use to join in with some dance numbers. There were also Christmas hits being played beforehand and during intermission, and Xmas adverts were shown on the big screen during the commercial break, all of which added to that warm, fuzzy feeling of festive fun and Christmassy nostalgia.
For those looking for some festive fun and a chance to pass the Christmas panto tradition down to a new generation of youngsters, Snow White at the Empire is a very good option.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent