Mirror, mirror, on the wall; who is the fairest of them all? It's a tough call, but in this production of Snow White, the answer is the Handsome Prince, played by Ben Harlow. Harlow puts his past as Gaston to good use in Beauty in the Beast, giving the prince a comic-book cheesiness, imbued with bizarre theatrical flourishes. At one point he leaps on stage, waving jazz hands with a cry of “Jellicle cats!”
However, he may soon have a rival in the form of Patsy Kensit – the headline act of this production. Kensit plays the Wicked Queen and, while she seems a little uncertain onstage and rushes through her lines, there is little doubt that with a another few shows under her frock, she will get into the rhythm required by panto and will become the star of the show.
The performance is nicely paced, and some fine decisions have been made about using pop songs. Director Alison Pollard avoids using too many and stays away from the obvious choices, picking a handful that audiences know but which are not over-familiar. Praise be to the panto gods, there is nary a whiff of Lady Gaga.
I'd Do Anything alumnus Sarah Lark as Snow White also puts her West End pedigree aside to deliver a perfectly sweet performance. While her singing voice may be a little bit too mature for Snow White at times, her ability to belt out a number is welcome for one good reason – amplification.
The singers are often drowned out by the band and microphones occasionally drop out, meaning some lines were inaudible to anyone beyond row C. Not that it means anyone gets lost in the plot (it's panto after all), but one would expect issues like this to have been ironed out by the time of the official first night.
David Spinx, perhaps best-known as Keith Miller from EastEnders, is also featured on the show's advertising and he is sadly underused. With brilliant comic timing and a fabulously malleable face, it would be nice to see more of him as the Wicked Queen's withering henchman, Ramsbottom (or Cats/Dogs/Pigsbottom as the Queen calls him).
It's interesting to note that, unlike other pantos, there is no undercurrent of jealousy from Muddles (played by perky children's TV presenter Barney Harwood) as love blossoms between Snow White and the Handsome Prince. Snow White is not Muddles “bestest friend in the whole wide world”, nor are there any references to friendship between boys and girls being strange. In this refreshingly uncomplicated relationship, she is simply “his best mate”.
This Snow White is a slick production and, once the cast find their feet, some of the outdated pop-culture references are excised and the production issues are ironed out, it should be practically flawless.