After a three-month delay, it is finally panto time at the Questors Theatre, which has been operating in Ealing for a whopping 93 years.
The Christmas show is something of an institution, and even performed with a bit of sun outside and blossom forming on the trees, it remains a treat.
Writer Ben Crocker is in classic princess mode this year, and it is the tale of Snow White which gets his version of jokes, songs, and tradition.
With Pam Redrup’s direction, John Hennessy’s musical wizardry, Tim Edwards’s lighting and Shaari Latif-Shaikh’s eye-popping costumes for everything from Dame Dolly’s many changes to a cute set of woodland animals, there is much to enjoy.
The basic story hasn’t changed much. Queen Caligula hates her pretty stepdaughter, Snow White, who is just turned eighteen. She cancels her birthday ball and plans her demise, but a group of seven friendly trolls and the Dame (and lovestruck son, Danny) are determined to help.
Then there’s the principal boy, Prince Frederick. Add a good fairy and two assistants (one to cheer and one to boo) and all the elements are there.
The songs are well-chosen: the Queen “can’t get her out of my head”; Danny wonders about the Prince (“is she really going out with him”); Dame Dolly – in full Bet Lynch gear – says “thank you for the music”); and Black Wing, the Queen’s side woman, asks at a tricky plot point “should I stay or should I go”.
There are big chorus numbers, too: the trolls have Uptown Funk; the villagers open with Mr Blue Sky and close with Together We’ll Be OK (the Cannon and Ball theme).
Peformance-wise, I liked Sam Moran’s Queen and Derek Stoddart’s Dame a lot, and enjoyed the comedy relief of Mark Redrup and Robert Vass as the inept villains. Rianna Sam-Kubam looked a picture as Snow White, while Caitlyn Vary’s Prince and Marija Velkova’s Black Wing are memorable.
The trolls – Hannah Lepper as Half Pint plus members of Young People’s Ensemble B at the performance I saw – were fun, and naming their puppet member Alan after late company stalwart Alan Chambers was a nice touch.
With a lively pace, audience interaction, a singalong, and a lot of laughs, I’m happy to report that the Questors have weaved a bit of magic here in West London yet again. Oh yes it has.
Snow White continues until 27 March in the Judi Dench Playhouse, Questors Theatre. Buy your tickets here. The theatre is a short walk from Ealing Broadway station or bus stops on Uxbridge Road.