Sunday, 26 December 2021

Pocket Picks: Our top Pantomimes of 2021!

Pantomime is one of the greatest British festive traditions, bringing so many people to theatres; some for the first time and some as a yearly tradition. We look back at some of the pantomimes we've reviewed here at Pocket so far this year and pick out some of the highlights! But even though we're choosing our favourites, we must send our admiration to all those involved in theatre across the UK, whether in a panto or anything else. With closures happening all over due to the pandemic yet again, it has reminded us how privileged we are to get to experience the joy that is live theatre. So keep supporting your local venues, and go see a panto!

"...this year we’ve got a couple of proper names in the always good value, Bonnie Langford and Lee Mead. Along with Myra Dubois as the wicked fairy, Lloyd Hollett as Muddles, the Court Jester, Claudillea Holloway as the princess and Joelle Moses as the Queen, this combination proves to be the best overall cast I can recall." 

"The whole show looks very pretty and colourful, is beautifully lit (including projected the floor slabs in the kitchen a la Strictly on TV) and the coach was pulled by two beautiful small white ponies, which always warm the heart. Stewart Nicholls as Director, Alan Burkett as choreographer and lighting Designer Richard Jones give the production a polished and elegant feel that is a perfect show for the wonderful Richmond Theatre. A real Christmas treat."

"It works because the cast are integrated together well by Director Jonathan Kiley, the comedy feels fresh and fast-paced, and the music led by Burke is wonderful, backed by a five-piece band under Francis Goodhand.

It is traditional pantomime as it should be, full of energy, great fun, uplifting music and still telling a story that captures the imagination and dreams of young and old."

"This is also a show that is wonderfully costumed and lit borrowing from the earlier production of the show at the Palladium both the Ice-Skating scene and Finale costumes are stunning and the choreography by the excellent Ashley Nottingham is marvellous. Andrew Ryan, himself a great Dame, directs the whole show keeping the pace even and using the stage well."

"This is a good production that takes risks and shows what can be achieved with a deep understanding of pantomime tradition, good music selection and a hard-working cast, even when budgets are restricted by the Venue’s size or location. That result is a credit to Chris Jarvis whose debut as a Dame after over twenty-five years as a leading man demonstrates what he has learned from working with the likes of Su Pollard, Andrew Ryan, Kevin Johns, Nick Wilton, and Matthew Kelly over those years. And not once do you wish for Disney’s “Be Our Guest” from the film but instead sit back and enjoy being a Guest of this welcoming venue."

"The sets are wonderful and complex with a good village scene, May market scheme, an underused Cottage interior and a huge final walk downstairs for which there was no chance they would ask Biggins to walk down!

There is a lot of business in the show and Director Ken Alexander has done a very good job weaving it all together into a good narrative, with plenty of song and dance and lots of laughs for a lively and entertaining show."

"As is traditional the panto had a nice mix of classic songs with some contemporary, this gives the show a current feel...My personal favourite moment was the whole cast singing a recent Eurovision favourite, “Think About Things” by Icelandic band Daoi Freyr including the songs dance moves made famous on Tik Tok. The character of Councillor Higginbottom, played by Tony Whittle is dressed throughout as Freddie Mercury and weaves Queen lyrics into various parts of the script. The joy of a Pantomime is exactly the escapism that audiences will long for after a news heavy 18 months. I would recommend heading to The Hackney Empire to smile along with two hours of fairytale fun, glitter, and magic."

"Director Michael Gyngell keeps the pace steady allowing time for the comedy routines to be delivered seamlessly into Alan McHugh’s formulaic storytelling script. My only criticism is the sound balance perhaps because I was sat stage right side of the auditorium or was not familiar enough with the song choices, the music was too loud for the singers at times, and we could not catch all the words.

This is a top-class show with all the elements you expect in a well-balanced family pantomime, led from the front by Gok Wan but with first-class support from the rest of the Principles and Ensemble. A most enjoyable return to the live theatre enjoyed by a full house."

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