I’ve seen the City Varieties Music Hall Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto for a good few years now, but this year is in a different league entirely.
The plot is engaging, genuinely twisty and packed full of fun. The characters are fresh out of panto-land but they’re not stereotypical and each carries a uniqueness and quirks I just love. Writer Peter Rowe has gone for a very heavy percentage of subtle adult jokes, the kind that go over the tops of the children’s heads. I’m not sure there are too many jokes or entertaining slapstick moments for the kiddies, but that suits me just fine, because most of the audience are adults anyway. If this is the direction future Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantos are set to go in, then count me in as the number one advocate.
Honestly, I think this might just be one of the best pantomimes I’ve ever seen.
Most of the laughs are awarded to the incredible Simon Nock as Grandma Millicent Merry (aka the Merry Widow). It feels less like I’m watching a panto dame and more a stand-up comedian. His sarcastic tone and hilarious banter with the audience couldn’t possibly be more my cup of tea. I’d return this year to watch him in the show again.
Lucy Keirl is a great heroine, playing Red Riding Hood with fire, passion and bravery. She doesn’t really need a Prince, but when the lovable Prince Florizel Fortunate (Ben Mabberley) comes along, who could resist? The love story isn’t the be all and end all of the show, which makes for a really refreshing change. It’s mainly there as a subplot and comic device, so hats off to the creative team for choosing a bit of a different direction.
Gosh, all of the cast are fantastic. Credit must go to villain Ben Stratton who plays the Wolf and dastardly Sir Jasper de Ville. He plays both parts perfectly and his singing voice is particularly impressive.
What’s even more wow-ing is that the cast all play live music throughout the show. So not only are they all super talented actors and vocalists, they’re making up the house band too! Spectacular.
I don’t think I can put into words just how much fun this production was. It’s beautiful to watch a talented team of people do their thing without taking it too seriously – though without viewing it as a bit of a laugh either. The enjoyment and satisfaction on everyone’s face really added to the wholesome vibes and it was a total treat to watch.
If you’ve got to make one panto choice this year, head to City Varieties. You’ll have a blast! The show runs until 12th Jan 2020.