Talking mirrors, poison apples, wicked queens. On paper, Snow White could be really quite…Grimm.
But this is panto land, where everyone hums a merry tune, the baddies get their comeuppance (oh yes they do) and the heroine always gets her prince.
There’s much to appreciate in this colourful production of Snow White at the Floral Pavilion, from Claire Sweeney’s minxy Eartha Kitt-toned queen with her big 1950s Vegas lounge numbers to Sean Jones’s hapless jester Muddles.
Jones is probably best known for playing Mickey Johnson in Blood Brothers, although he actually started the year as Macbeth at the Epstein Theatre. Fie my lord, fie - Mickey to Macbeth to Muddles is quite an arc for any actor.
It’s an energetic performance (he spends a lot of time gasping for breath) which kicks off with a classic pratfall into the pit, followed by a nimble performance of a Wirral landmark patter song, and also includes a battle of wills with the audience over a string of loo rolls.
Sean Jones as Muddles. Photos by Brian Roberts
The latter comes in a brilliantly chaotic 12 Days of Christmas segment at the start of the second half which also involves Philips Meeks’ Nurse Dolly and Kieran Dumont’s dwarf Twitcher. The trio really go for it; they’re so boisterous there’s a definite risk of injury through deliberate shoves and accidental tumbles, but it’s an undoubted highlight of the show and is rewarded with proper roars of appreciation.
In fact, it’s the point when this Snow White feels like it really catches fire.
The first half is slickly played and gently amusing but at times it feels a bit undercooked and the script seems to yo yo between rather clunky namechecking of high street stores, throwaway adult innuendo (either go for it properly or leave it out) and some enjoyably sly and nimble lines that could be simply too subtle.
Naomi Gisbey as Snow White and Claire Sweeney as the Wicked Queen.
Elsewhere Naomi Gisbey proves a sunny Snow White (albeit one who does a lot of singing about work but not much working!) and Luke Walsh adds a spot of knowing dash as the Prince. His exaggerated arrivals on stage really need a properly flamboyant fanfare to set them off.
Both showcase strong voices in their individual numbers, and also in their duets.
And last but certainly not least, it’s heigh ho, heigh ho and a big chapeau for casting the tale in properly faithful fashion.
In recent years, there’s been a trend – for a number of reasons – for venues to choose children to play the septet of diminutive pick-wielding miners with whom the titular heroine seeks refuge in the forest.
So it’s great to see New Brighton sticking with tradition, and with actors who have the experience to craft charming and very individual characters.