Review: Goldilocks and the Three Bears at Epstein Theatre ****
Panto season is packed with fairy godmothers, sleeping princesses, diminutive miners, magic carpets and improbable runaway vegetation.
So basing a Christmas show (loosely) on the more unusual Goldilocks fable immediately means it stands out from the crowd.
This re-working of the porridge thief fairytale was a big hit for St Helens Theatre Royal last season, and its production team has transferred it pretty much lock, stock and big top to the Epstein for 2022.
In Reece Sibbald’s straightforward story, Goldilocks (Olivia Sloyan) and her mum Dame Gertie (Britain’s Got Talent’s Mama G) run a circus which has a handsome Ringmaster (David Tag, charming but somewhat underused) and talented acrobats but no big star name to attract the punters.
When word gets out that evil rival, whip cracking Baron Von Vippermall is in town looking for the three bears – who had escaped his violent clutches – Gertie, Goldie and co fear it means the end for their own circus dreams. Can they save the bears and win the circus war at the same time? And will Goldilocks and the Ringmaster ever admit their love for each other?
Directed by Sloyan, the show is tight, bright and pacy – occasionally a little too pacy, with the dialogue feeling a bit garbled here and there (not helped by some blurry amplification during the first half of the performance I saw).
And happily, despite there being some nudge nudge innuendo for the adults, it’s all relatively tame, certainly compared to some other productions this season.
Still, panto is essentially for kids, and there’s plenty that engages young audience members including Brandon McCaffery who proves a hit as a Mr Tumble-a-like Silly Billy, and the family of Scouse bears who look the part and are great fun.
Above: Tim Lucas as Baron Von Vippermall. Top: Olivia Sloyan as Goldilocks. Photos by David Munn
But while Goldilocks and the ursine trio may be the titular stars, it’s Tim Lucas who steals the show in glorious fashion as the baddie Baron.
Lucas, straight into panto from his brilliant turn as Sammy in the Blood Brothers UK tour, is a baddie you just love to love, and the energy (and sound level) ratchets up a notch whenever he’s on stage.
Channelling Chitty’s Child Catcher-meets-Oz’s flying monkeys-meets Cabaret’s Emcee, with Day of the Dead make up and a ridiculous accent pilfered from Ade Edmondson’s Baron von Richthofen in Blackadder, he emerges creepily from the darkness, purring provocatively at unsuspecting sections of the audience and cavorting about the stage with a gleam in his eye.
Elsewhere he turns up dressed as a bee in a slapstick scene with Silly Billy which descends into enjoyable farce, and has two big musical numbers – Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting and the grandiose The Show Must Go On.