running until 9 January
Panto season is well and truly upon us! The Charles Court Opera are back in a new venue with their latest ’boutique’ pantomime, bringing a touch of the bizarre and a bucketful of hilarity to the King’s Head this Christmas.
This year’s show, the Snow White-inspired Mirror Mirror, feels a bit thinner on the ground plot-wise than last year’s offering Billy the Kid, but makes up for it by being funny, warm-hearted and more than a bit bonkers. In a brilliantly-conceived break from tradition, the dame is also the princess, as John Savournin takes on the role of Snow White. As he did as Nelly in last year’s production, he perfectly balances sweet naivety and knowing innuendo and his wonderful baritone vocals add another dimension of comedy in numbers such as ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’. Improbably widowed by soul legend Barry White a few years previously, our Snow White is now housekeeper for the seven dwarves but gets into danger when she becomes a love rival of the Queen, battling for the love of the prince Larry Black.
The rest of the cast wonderfully complement Savournin, as the small ensemble work together well to create farce and comedic musical brilliance. As the Wicked Queen, Andrea Tweedale’s gorgeous soprano is used effectively in the role of a villain who isn’t quite convinced of her own villainy. Amy J. Payne throws her all into the role of the Prince, while Nichola Jolley consistently impresses with her strong vocals and excellent comic timing in the role of Harry, the valet. However it’s Matthew Kellett who steals the show with his portrayal of not one, but all seven dwarves, each with their own distinctive accent and named, due to a cease-and-desist order from Disney, things like Crabby, Gleeful and – most memorably – Half-Baked.
Writer and musical director David Eaton has once again worked magic with the score, transforming well-known classics with lyrical twists that have the audience in stitches. Jolley’s transformation into a frog is accompanied by an utterly hilarious reworking of ‘Mamma Mia’, and the obligatory messy baking scene features an amazing rendition of ‘Uptown Funk’. Yet it is the four-chord medley that proves to be a highlight, moving from Pachelbel’s Canon to ‘Let It Go, via Les Mis and ‘Time To Say Goodbye’.
The production makes great use of the small space and costume designer Mia Walldén includes exquisite detail, notably Snow White’s ever-changing headbands. Throughout, the show maintains a wonderful balance between grown-up humour and childish traditions, complete with sweets thrown into the crowd and cream pies. The whole show is a work of comic genius and a brilliant alternative to the large-scale, celebrity-led pantos. A first-rate, five-star performance.
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