Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to the Darlington Hippodrome we go for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – the first Christmas pantomime since the venue underwent a £12.3 million refurbishment.
The Qdos pantomime follows the beautiful, kind-hearted princess Snow White (Natasha Hoeberigs), who is proclaimed as the fairest one of all by the Magic Mirror, much to the envy of her stepmother, the Wicked Queen (Zoe Birkett).
Snow White is abandoned in the forest by the Wicked Queen’s henchman, Herman (Patrick Monahan), where she befriends the magnificent seven. However, the Wicked Queen tricks Snow White with an enchanted apple, and only the magic of true love’s first kiss from the Prince (Lee Ryan) can save her.
As the curtain (all) rose, there wasn’t long to wait before the first musical number, as panto-debutant Natasha Hoeberigs performed “Here in Darlo” – a bright and cheery track penned just for the production, and one that will stick in your head during the bus journey home.
This was the first of many songs throughout, with the pantomime featuring covers of modern, feel-good tracks including Justin Timberlake – “Can’t Stop The Feeling” and Steps –“Never Be Scared Of The Dark”.
Each number was sung to a great standard with excellent choreography to match, especially from the Joanne Banks Dancers who, once again, displayed some of Darlington’s finest dancing talent.
Both Lee Ryan and Natasha Hoeberigs were brilliantly cast in their respective roles as the Prince and Snow White, and were a joy to watch throughout the two-hour-long show.
It’s a shame the same can’t be said for Patrick Monahan – the weakest of the talent on show. The Teesside comedian appeared to forget his lines on numerous occasions and didn’t seem overly comfortable in the part on the whole. Nonetheless, the witty one-liners he injected were a redeeming factor in his performance.
The majority of the laughs during Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came from Mrs Nora Crumble (Eric Potts) and Muddles (Liam Mellor), who were simply brilliant.
Eric Potts, who also directed the show, made a marvellous dame, throwing himself into a plethora of outrageously over-the-top outfits. Meanwhile, Liam Mellor is a natural entertainer, getting the crowd going with his “cracking” sense of humour.
Yet it’s when the two come together that they really shine. The pairing, who previously worked together during Liverpool Empire Theatre’s production of “Dick Whittington”, have a delightful chemistry and great comedic timing, particularly during their Russian ballet routine and the Darlington adaptation of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.
And it wouldn’t be Snow White without the dwarfs, or “The Magnificent Seven” as they have been dubbed in this edition, as seven fully-grown men shuffled across the stage on their knees, donning large capes attached to dwarf outfits. The idea was skilfully executed and made for entertaining viewing.
Another concept that was well executed was the Magic Mirror, which was lowered down to display cameo appearances from previous stars to grace the stage (most notably, The Chuckle Brothers). Each of the stars made reference to the new theatre, which was a particularly nice touch and a reminder of the incredible venue the panto is based.
However, the real star of the show was Zoe Birkett as The Wicked Witch. The West End star dazzled from beginning to end, with highly convincing acting and a stunning rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Queen of the Night”- a truly exceptional performance.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ticked all the boxes for your traditional pantomime, although it’s a shame the audience were made to wait until midway through the second, much stronger act for the first shouts of “oh, no you didn’t” and “it’s behind you”, by which point many of the younger audience members had lost interest.
Nevertheless, the first act concluding with Zoe Birkett riding a 3D pterodactyl proved to be one of the highlights of the panto and a great use of the Darlington Hippodrome’s newly renovated facilities.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, is this the greatest panto of them all? It might not be the greatest, but it’s definitely worth seeing. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is cracking fun for all the family.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is at Darlington Hippodrome from Saturday, December 9th, 2017 to Sunday, January 14th, 2018. Tickets can be purchased from the box office on 01325 405405 or through the website.