Heigh-ho? Or Yee-HAW! By coincidence a definite dash of Texan flavour’s been added to the pantomimes being produced in SW London this year. Dallas’s Linda Gray is busy giving her Fairy Godmother in the New Wimbledon Theatre’s just-opened Cinderella [review here], and now it’s the turn of Gonzales, TX’s most famous daughter – and long-time Richmond resident – Jerry Hall (also, like Gray, a former theatrical Mrs. Robinson, oddly enough) to make her panto debut in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Richmond Theatre.
Where Gray’s turn as Fairy G starts out a tad tentatively, Hall gives a thoroughly assured performance from the moment she appears as the Wicked Queen, prowling the stage with aplomb, flashing great gams, relishing the boos, and showing an unsurprising gift for self-parody. Already a rather cartoonish figure as it is, Hall ramps up that cartoonishness here to delicious effect. Rolling Stones shout-outs are kept to a minimum (maybe the presence of Sir Mick amongst the Gala Night audience had something to do with that …) but there are some fun local refs which Hall delivers divinely, not least a worryingly well-received jibe at “those cheap chavs in Chiswick.”
More so than Wimbledon’s more luxuriously cast offering, this panto may appear to be a star vehicle with Hall as the main draw. But, as it turns out, the actress gets lively, likeable support from CBeebies fave Chris Jarvis as Muddles, from Nicolas Colicos as Herman the Henchman and from Aimie Atkinson’s sassy Snow.
And the ace up the production’s sleeve turns out to be the actors cast as the Seven Dwarfs: Ollie Clarke, Michael Caballero, Scott English, Jon Key, Fergus Rattigan and father-and-son duo Phil and Paddy Holden. They’re a sparky and characterful bunch who get many of the production’s most enjoyable bits. In particular, in young Paddy Holden - a truly delightful, adorable and hilarious “Loopy” - a major star is born.
The production’s script, by the ubiquitous Eric Potts, reuses some material from the writer’s Priscilla Presley-starring version of the show seen at Wimbledon two years ago (and currently at Manchester Opera House), in particular the “Moravia’s Got Talent” conceit. But that element comes off much more effectively here, thanks to an inspired Pudsey parody and a truly startling SuBo moment from Master Holden.
Aside from the inevitable opening bop to “Happy” and the use of Labrinth and Emeli Sandé’s grammatically-challenged “Beneath Your Beautiful” as a love duet, music choices are surprising and delightfully retro, with tracks by Madness, Elvis and Michael Jackson incorporated, plus some selections from the Disney film. Hall hissing out a very unexpected Eurythmics/Blondie mash-up as she stirs her cauldron was my favourite moment. A tad less opulent than what’s on offer at Wimbledon, then, but just as much fun.
Booking until 11 January. Further details here.