Review: Santa Live (Panto Live)

“I’m on a seafood diet … I see food, and I eat it”.

Beatrix the Bad (Martina McClements) is on a mission to ruin Christmas, so Santa (Martin Callaghan), Nanny (Ian Ray-White) and the elves go to the rescue along with Santa’s adopted daughter, Crystal (Leanne Burkenshaw).

Filled with bad jokes, lively singalongs, and interactive buttons, Santa Live! follows on from last year’s Cinderella (available on-demand this year) and uses virtual backgrounds and audience prompts to keep things moving during a 90-minute running time.

Martina McClements and Sonia Wrightsons as Beatrix the Bad and Agnes the Goblin in Santa Live

With two live shows a day until Christmas Eve, and the ability to watch on-demand from Christmas Day for a month, you get a lot of opportunities to enjoy the show for your money. There’s an activity pack for children to engage with as well.

Good panto mixes traditional and suggestion, and Santa Live! does its best to keep up with both. Ian Ray-White plays the dame part as the Nanny, while Jade Butterfield’s elf Booksh-elf provides the customary flatulence that seems to characterise all pantos these days.

With songs like Elton John’s “Step Into Christmas” and Ava Max’s “Sweet But Psycho”, as well as familiar carols, there are a range of tunes to appeal to all ages, but the tone of this panto is definitely pitched at the little ones who are waiting for their stockings to be filled on Christmas night. Everyone loves a bit of magic, after all.

Cast of Santa Live

A tune or two may be overambitious, but the story moves along well, and the virtual backgrounds look very effective. There are moments which feel beholden to The Wizard of Oz (a snowman (Jordan Wright) stands in for the scarecrow) and Frozen (snowman saved from melting).

Overall, this is an entertaining family panto to appeal to children – I liked the ability to ‘shout out’ to school groups viewing and to join in via Facebook QR code or Twitter hashtag.

You can access all live performances (playing twice daily) of Santa Live plus watch an on-demand version from Christmas Day. For information and tickets (you can also see Cinderella) go here.