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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (St Albans, Alban Arena)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Disney is all very well, but you need something more – even something different – when confecting a pantomime out of the story of Snow White, her wicked stepmother and the seven little people who succour her before Prince Charming steps forward with the kiss that restores her to life and happiness. Writer Paul Hendy and director Pip Minnithorpe are very well served by their cast and designer Helga Wood in this version of the story. There's a particularly effective walk-down in red Tudor costumes.

Toyah Willcox is Queen Ivannah – we’re definitely in the Balkans, perhaps even in Dracula country – swooping and sweeping across the stage in a dazzling selection of gleaming costumes and gravity-defying headpieces. Shea turns her skull-topped crutch into a real prop, rather than a necessary aid after a leg injury. The would-be court jester Muddles is Phil Gallagher – a instant favourite with the audience – and Herman, her black-clad henchman who is nursing a secret ambition to star in an Elvis tribute act is played by Bob Golding.

The dwarfs themselves are a well-differentiated collection, with Brian Wheeler as the gang boss, Michael Caballero as the hip-hopping Groovy and young Paddy Holden as Loopy capturing the audience’s affection as well as its attention. Rachel Lane’s choreography is excellent, making good use of the four principal dancers and of the juvenile chorus members in the village and woodland scenes.

Snow White herself is played by Jemma Carlisle as a princess with dignity as well as the common touch; she also sings and dances very well. Her Prince, with what sounds like a Scots accent (although he is heir to Moravia), is David McGranaghan, slightly less warm a personality than the bride he seeks in this interpretation. I found it interesting, by the way, that the audience didn’t catch on to the requirement to interact with the characters on stage as naturally as usually happens.


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