This year's pantomime at the Churchill Theatre sweeps from the glitzy royal palace to the depths of the Forbidden Forest, as Snow White escapes her evil stepmother for a brief spell in exile with the dwarfs before being reunited with her childhood sweetheart, Prince Benedict.
The main poster girl is former EastEnders star Jessie Wallace, who sneers and stalks the stage with aplomb as Queen Lucretia, complete with horned head-dress and clouds of smoke accompanying every entrance.
She also packs a vocal punch, and her dramatic rendition of "I Put a Spell on You" is one of the best musical numbers in the show. Wallace deals very smoothly with junior hecklers too – mess with her at your peril...
Jason Sutton is a saucy, colourful dame as Nurse Nancy, with plenty of risqué remarks and wordplay to keep the adults entertained – cutting it particularly fine with a tongue-twisting sketch about the 'pheasant plucker's son'.
Nurse Nancy's son Muddles is a bumbling servant who hasn't got a chance of winning Snow White when there's a dashing prince to compete with. Played by magician and comedian Pete Firman, he anchors the show securely throughout, establishes an immediate rapport with the audience, and throws in a couple of very entertaining magic tricks along the way.
The 'magnificent seven' dwarfs are appealing, with excellent costumes from Mike Coltman, and their heroine, Snow White, is sweetly played and sung by Naomi Cowe.
Prince Benedict of Bromley has plenty of courtly dash, Oliver Tompsett strides about in silver boots and ticks all the boxes in the tall, dark and handsome stakes. He also has an engaging singing voice, opening the show and establishing its musical credentials straight away.
The music is a real strength of the production. Although many of the past and current hits delivered for the show use backing tracks (such as Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling"), there is also rich live music and sound effects from the theatre band – MD Steve Geere, bass guitarist Eric Guy and drummer Paul Gregory, with musical supervision by Olly Ashmore.
Writer Alan McHugh is a pantomime powerhouse, with 2017 credits for shows up and down the country – and he's ensured all the classic panto elements are in place for Gary Lloyd's seamless direction and lively choreography to shine.
Lloyd's ensemble are all bursting with energy, and they're assisted by an entirely adorable troupe of very young dancers from the Laura Bruce Dance Academy, who perform with great charm, style and commitment.
Some of the story's ostensibly most dramatic moments – like the eating of the apple, and Snow White's awakening – seem a bit rushed. But this show isn't too fussed about the fairytale's narrative. It's lavishly produced – so smooth, in fact, that it runs the risk of feeling a bit too formulaic. But it's a lively, glitzy panto with all the trimmings, and should fit the family Christmas outing bill very nicely.