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Review: The Snow Queen at Liverpool Everyman ****1/2

Well deck the halls and put out a mince pie for Santa – the countdown to Christmas has officially started.

You can always guarantee seasonal silliness mixed with a good dose of musical mayhem at the Everyman’s near-legendary rock ‘n’ roll panto.

But this year the team at Hope Street seems to have turned the entertainment level up to 11, with The Snow Queen one of the best festive shows the theatre has staged in recent years.

The Ev has, rightly, worked on the premise that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, which is fair enough. But in the past couple of seasons, panto audiences might have felt a certain sense of déjà vu – same style of set, same basic story arc, same sort of characters in marginally different situations.

And it’s true The Snow Queen follows a similar pattern. But at the same time, it feels re-energised, fresh, and as sparkly as a frosty winter morning.

Whoever hold the stargate stone also controls the destiny of the various lands, from cold to hot. And it’s a straight battle of good verses evil, albeit with combatants swapping sides as spells are spun, as the Snow Queen fights to keep control of the jewel.

Lucy Thatcher as Viletta. Above: With Lloyd Gorman (Hench). Photos by Robert Day

Lucy Thatcher, clearly relishing her trademark wicked role, chews the scenery as the titular monarch Viletta who dreams of expanding her icy dominion to encompass both the warm lands and the hot lands (the latter a primary-coloured confection of Strictly samba-ing sun worshippers). She also plays a mean Ron Burgundy jazz flute when required.

She’s attended by Lloyd Gorman’s lovelorn Hench, the lovechild of Michael Fabricant and Jon Pertwee, while her mortal enemy is the perky, pig-wrestling Laputa (Nikita Johal) who comes to claim the mythical stone along with the affection of Jamie Noar’s artless Malachai.

Francis Tucker and Adam Keast. Photo by Robert Day

But the entire cast is on point, from the hard-working Danny Burns and Barbara Hockaday – who between them play nine different roles including fairies, sheep and a startling Liberace-meets-Louis XVI – to veteran panto pranksters Adam Keast and Francis Tucker who make a fetching pair of rockhopper penguins.

The jokes fall thick and fast – a large proportion of them aimed squarely at the adults in the audience, while the music, performed by the cast, ranges from Puccini to Take That via Katrina and the Waves and Lenny Kravitz.

And while the energy perhaps dips a little at times in the second half, this is still very much a Christmas cracker of a show.

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