Hi ho hi ho, it’s off to the panto we go this week at Burnley Mechanics.
The wicked Queen Avarice is weaving her evil magic, Snow White and the Prince are falling in love, Chuckles the jester is cracking his jokes and six little men (and one not so little) are stealing the show.... and the hearts of the audience.
I was in one of those packed audiences on Sunday afternoon, along with dozens of little wannabee Snow Whites – little girls in their own mini costumes – who were absolutely enthralled; loving the fun and games, the beautiful dancers, those delightful dwarfs and the sheer magic of panto.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is being presented by Burnley Pantomime Society and while others were planning their Sunday afternoon it was curtain up at noon for one of the two performances of the day from the cheery cast who have been working hard for the past few months to bring this panto to the Mechanics stage.
When the lights went down, the music began, the curtains opened and we were greeted by a stunning set and .... a muscly man in a pink fairy costume!
I won’t say more as it will spoil the enjoyment for those still to see it, but it’s a great fun start.
Director Martin Chadwick and his co-director Kevin Kay have done a great job keeping this panto modern and upbeat, with lots of little twists, but without straying too far from the original tale.
Snow White’s evil stepmother Queen Avarice is the only baddie you need when Kath Watkins is on form and she was definitely on form on Sunday showing all her versatility as she poured scorn on the audience, generating bellows of boos, while also demonstrating her lovely singing voice.
Dave Pilkington, a Burnley panto favourite, played Dame Edna Bucket with costumes that get wackier as the show goes on and Jonathan Pye was great as chuckles the jester. He really worked hard delivering a string of nonstop jokes and keeping the children entertained with his antics.
Louise Young is a delightful Snow White. She looked perfect in the part and made our heroine so lovable. While Gary Leonard takes to the role of Prince Ferdinand – who falls in love with Snow White as he avoids the clutches of her evil stepmother – like the proverbial duck to water!
I liked the pairing of the experienced Stephen Dixon as Justice Quill with young Regan Kerr as his clerk Scribbles, as they played out their own little sub-plot on the wonders of modern technology. Whether singing light opera or prancing about in panto, Stephen is always excellent and Regan is making a name for himself on the local stage and I am sure he will go far. There was sparkle from Jenny Gill who plays the good fairy and Rebecca Wright, who makes an excellent debut with the society as the magic mirror.
Wayne Brankin was Slurp, the henchman with a heart – and a bad leg (you have to be there), who is sent to murder Snow White but cannot go through with it and happily sees her off to live with the Dwarfs in the forest.
There we meet Brainy, Sniffle, Blushful, Smiley, Snoozy, Grumpy and last but not least (but always late) we have Dozy – as they “hi ho hi ho” their way into the auditorium, all bright, bubbly and bearded. One adult, and six children making their debuts in principal roles, and what a treat they were. They all brought out their individual characters, were word perfect with great timing and so much fun ... well done one and all.
The chorus gave us masses of colour and the Lynn McCheyne dancers were excellent back up to the principals. Their woodland scenes were really beautiful.
The musical accompaniment from MD Jonathan Chalker and his musicians was just right and did not drown out the dialogue as seems to happen more and more these days in local shows. The musicians also had great interaction with the cast on stage and the audience, a really nice touch.
I was also impressed with the slick scenery changes. I know it’s the way of modern theatre, but I don’t think it necessary for the audience to see all the backstage staff changing scenes and there was none of that. Well done.
An afternoon at the panto was a great Sunday treat (including the delicious hot dandelion and burdock at the interval) and well done to all concerned for all the added extras, the sub plots,the fantastic scenery, colourful costumes, and the talented cast who give up their time for weeks in advance to entertain us and bring the magic of panto to our doorstep.
Snow White continues from Thursday to Sunday this week. Call the Mechanics box office on 664400 for tickets.