prince and snow

Gyasi Sheppy as the Prince and Evie Pickerill as Snow White. Pictures: Alex Styles

Snow White

The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton


The Grand has pulled a real Christmas cracker with a home grown panto setting the bar right up there for the festive season. It is simply superb.

Snow White is everything you could ask for in a traditional panto, its funny, at times daft and delightfully stupid – oh yes it is – has familiar, well sung musical numbers, its fair share of slapstick, a good fairy and a bad fairy, and brilliant costumes and sets, including an AI generator to replace the usual mirror.

And most important of all, it is family friendly enough not to be generating questions from puzzled youngsters who still think sex is what Santa uses to carry his presents, or attacks of the vapours from maiden aunts who think it comes between five and seven.

There are a few mildly risqué moments, this is panto after all, Prince William of Wombourne for example, not him as such but what his mates call him - Willy is always worth a titter for youngsters – but its all good clean fun.

And fun is the operative word in Panto, led here by Muddles, which sees the welcome return of Tam Ryan, who along with dame veteran Ian Adams, who plays Nanny Nolly, wrote the script, a script that doesn’t mess about, whizzing along at a cracking pace.

muddles and nolly

Tam Ryan as Muddles and Ian Adams as Nanny Nolly

Adams is in his element as a dame, a role he first played as an ugly sister in 1999, and this will be his seventh bout of donning frocks at the Grand, but from what he tells us, he doesn’t care . . .

The pair work well together and have a very messy cooking sketch, with rats, which sees Muddles take a bit of a pasting, which is nothing to the battering he gets in a violent rendition of If I were not in panto song. The pair also give us a fun variation on the classic Abbott and Costello sketch of Who’s on first.

On the side of the righteous is the good fairy Elementa in the shape of Kelle Bryan, once of girl band Eternal, runner up on Love Island and a Loose Women regular. She adds a bit of glamour to proceedings and, as she has a black belt in kickboxing, is a match for the baddy, Queen Dragonella.

I must admit old Dragonella does her best to be nasty, but we sort of like Niki Colwell Evans too much to really give her the bird. Incidentally, she will be back in the Midlands next year as Mrs Johnstone in a new tour of Blood Brothers – a role she makes her own.

She does the evil bits well and her voice just fills the Grand, making it really hard to boo talent that good. Luckily Elementa blows up her book of spells – brilliant improvisation by Niki there, methinks as the book exploded into rather invisible flames – so Dragonella, who it turns out is . . . just buy a ticket, I can’t tell you everything. And then we all live happily ever after.

Northern Ireland’s Gyasi Sheppy, a favourite on CBeebies, arrives hot foot from the principality of Wombourne – who knew it was so elevated - and falls for Snow White in the pretty form of Evie Pickerill, not as if it is exactly love at first sight as she is a fellow CBeebies presenter.

In support are a nine strong ensemble who are villagers, furry animals, nasty Queen’s helpers, guards, puppeteers and . . . skaters.

Ah, yes, skating with four of the ensemble on ice at the opening, coached by a certain Robin Cousins, and puppeteers? Well this is Snow White and the seven . . . . Peaky Miners. All to do with the local diamond mine. And the miners are puppets, a sort of Muppets or Avenue Q meets panto, which works well.

Behind it all, quite literally in this case, is an excellent seven piece band at the rear of the stage under musical director Adrian Jackson, who is not only the show’s producer, but the theatre’s CEO and artistic director.

Not that he is a stranger to conducting having led his own City Concert Orchestra and he is a formally trained trombonist, the same as Gustav Holst, as well as arranger and MD in a past life.

It is Jackson’s drive which has seen the Grand create its own panto, a policy he pioneered at Lichfield Garrick, and on this showing, his decision has paid off in spades. This really is a sparkling, glitzy panto with enough silliness and stupidity for little boys and enough prince and princess love story for little girls, as well as enough fun and entertainment to keep even the most curmudgeonly old codgers amused. It really is a delight and a family treat for the festive season.

My grandsons, well versed by now in the art of panto, had decided by the interval it was a five star show, and who am I to disagree. Directed by David Janson and choreographed by Natalie Bennyworth, Snow White will be battling the forces of evil(ish) to 05-01-23.

Roger Clarke


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