Review: Snow White at the Stafford Gatehouse

Writer: Wink Taylor

Director: Richard Cheshire

Choreographer: Phillip Joel

Produced by Red Entertainment, it was clear from the casting announcement the Stafford Gatehouse wanted to bring something special for Christmas this year. They lined up a company of well known faces from Kids TV and the West End, along with Mauren Nolan create the most star studded panto Stafford has seen for a long time.

The sets are beautiful. With no fly and little wing space, its no easy task to create the variety of set changes a panto of this scale demands. However, its made to look easy with a variety of glittery backdrops, a fold out two storey cottage and ofcourse a huge mirror complete with a spectacular sound affect by Sound Designer Jimi Howell. The sets are topped off with Bradley Caldwell’s colourful lighting design that brings the stage to life.

Writer Wink Taylor, who also plays the Henchman crafts a fantastic panto full of humour while keeping a firm focus on the central story and character development, which contributes towards standing this panto up against some of the best. Ofcourse, no panto is without humour and there are lashings of it from slapstick to family friendly jokes, along with all the panto essentials of a ghost scene and buckets full of audience participation.

Director Richard Cheshire keeps the production grounded but most importantly slick and fun.The run time is around two and a half hours and it flies by as you become absorbed in this panto world that’s alive infront of you. Cheshire brings focus to the key moments of the story, such as the first meeting of Snow White and the Prince which means no matter if you’re six or 60, you’ll want the story to get its happily ever after.

No fairytale would be complete without a love story and with Rebecca Keatley as Snow White and Keith Jack as Prince Joseph of Stafford, under Cheshire’s expert direction you see their relationship develop. Both Keatley and Jack are fantastic at what they do, Keatley is sweet and sincere and Jack authoritive and brave, while also showing a level of vulnerability too when he’s captured by the Queen to prevent him seeing Snow White. An emotion often overlooked in a panto, but adds a level of atmosphere and emotion that only adds to the performance.

Both Jack and Keatley have excellent voices too, Jack is most known for the TV show ‘Any Dream Will Do‘ and his belting of ‘Close Every Door‘ was stunning. Similarly, a duet of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ with Keatley may go off into a comedy routine, but the opening verses are defining at setting the scene between their growing relationship.

Maureen Nolan’s domineering voice entices boos as the Evil Queen and without so much as a smirk, you really do get pulled into her dastardly plan to try and tear Snow White and the Price apart.

Sean McKenzie plays the Dame and works well with Mike Newman as Muddles. Every time they’re on stage together, you just have a great laugh and they bring some of the best comedy stints in the panto.

Completing the main cast is Wendy Abrahams as Fairy Wendy who is sweet, sincere and works with Theo the Mouse, a defining character to the story. Theo maybe naughty, but with his innocent humour, some great one liners and impressions he’s a very lovable character.

Closing Act One is You Will Be Found and is another example how well crafted this panto is, down to its choice of music to help move the story forward. The soundtrack also contains other crowd pleasing music from Grease, Hairspray and a clever use of the opening rifts of Defying Gravity as the entrance music for the Evil Queen.

Underpinning the musical soundtrack is choreography by Phillip Joel which is fun, flamboyant but equally dramatic. The ensemble featuring James Kalu, Jason Tsoutas, Emma Kennedy and Marly-Rae Gaunt pull this off with perfect timing and bounds of energy. Poison, sang by Nolan is a fantastic example of this where the ensemble fill the stage to create a sense of drama at the moment the Evil Queen makes the poisoned apple.

There are no other terms to call this panto of Snow White, other than panto perfection. The cast, the company, under the direction of Richard Cheshire have put together a solid panto grounded in a detailed story, a fantastic cast and some really glitzy sets. It’s a demonstration that even without the mega budgets some pantos have with prices to match, you can create a spellbinding panto for all the family.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Value for Money Comments:
With adult tickets priced at £24, you can’t go wrong with this top quality panto at a reasonable price. For more info on my value for money rating, click here

🎁 This production was gifted in exchange for a fair and balanced review

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