Pantomime has really come back into fashion in recent years and the Christmas season has become a highlight for theatre critics everywhere. From the star-studded versions playing in Wimbledon, Birmingham and Glasgow to the original and slightly subversive ones you can find at the Hackney Empire and the Lyric Hammersmith, its the one time of year where families can go on mass to enjoy seasonal Christmas fun. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, produced by Evolution Productions, may not push the art form of panto forward in any way, but provides a safe, fun though slightly under cast version of this perennial favourite.
It's the Dwarves who steal it, especially the work of Michael Walter, who as Sarge is the leader of the merry pack, the shortest, oldest and wisest, his duet with Victoria McCabe's Snow White on how his love for her has made him feel "like the tallest man in the world" has the biggest (apologies) "ah" factor of the night.
Eddie Dredge as the Bristolian Muddles is a constant delight, with his dream to one day be an Elvis impersonator leading to the showstopper number at the end where the 'King' most definitely enters the building, and there is reassuring support from Steve Bennett (who also directs), who brings years of experience in the role of Dame to bear; he hits every beat, every joke, in the way only an old pro can. When these two are working together Snow White finds its strongest footing.
You couldn't ask for a more winning Snow White than the one we see from McCabe, blessed of a lyrical singing voice and as pretty as a picture, and Daniel Oliver is dashing enough as Prince Charming, though his top register seemed to desert him on press night, and he doesn't seem to have much to do outside of dashing off his pearly white teeth.
Sarah Averling could afford to bring more villainy to the role of Queen Morgiana; it's a U version performance at the moment that needs to be pushed up to a PG. The children's uncertainty about booing her speaks volumes and when Phil Daniels turns up in video cameo as the magic mirror, it makes you wish you could be seeing his panto bad guy instead.
It may lack some of the spectacle of the biggest pantos in the land but the audience, both young and old, lapped it up. Give it a week for the performers to settle and inhabit their roles and you could probably add another star to the mix.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs plays at the Octagon Theatre, Yeovil until 5 January 2014.
- Kris Hallett