The Manchester Opera House managed to cast former Coronation Street star Tina O'Brien before her stint on this year's Strictly Come Dancing. The panto also stars Emmerdale's Andy Devine and Deena Payne as Herman and Queen Morgiana.
The show's writer Eric Potts tries hard to successfully blend slapstick humour, sight gags, "Why did the chicken cross the road" style jokes and plenty for the adults. The results are mixed leaving many older members of the audience perplexed as some of the lines which are supposed to be serious leave many giggling, whilst it does lack those intentional laugh-out-loud moments. An opportunity to include more Strictly mentions and Corrie's tram crash storyline is missed, which is a shame as it makes the panto appear more current.
O'Brien does a good job as Snow White (even though she is saddled with an awful black wig) bringing innocence and a cheeky knowing smile to the role. Although, many of the song and dance numbers do expose that vocally she is not the best. Payne does admirably and even though she fluffed many of her lines on the night I attended, she enters into the panto spirit, relishing the boos from the audience.
Devine though looks out of depth and frankly a little bored as the henchman - Herman. He has great droll comic timing but simply lacks oomph and therefore fails to convince all of the time. Mike Toolan is clearly an audience favourite and he has good chemistry with O'Brien.
Warwick Davis' direction is spirited and he fills the stage constantly, but sometimes the piece needs more urgency as some scenes do grind to a halt. For me, Tam Ryan is the star turn here as he is witty, has good vocal ability, clearly understands the genre and his rapport with the audience is second to none. Trevor Jones also does well as Prof - the leader of the seven dwarfs. A special mention must go to the ensemble and swings who are all superb.
Although you may cringe in disbelief that Payne has been given Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" as her stand out song - shoe horned in for no reason really (hearing is believing!) - there is nothing totally bad about this production. The audience loved it and if you enjoy pantos, this does deliver. The script though is sadly not in the same league as last year's Opera House production - Potts' Aladdin.