Mats Musical Theatre has made an expedition to pantoland for its Christmas offering Once Upon a Time. Not yet another full-length version of Cinderella, Snow White or Sleeping Beauty but a mixture of all three, plus familiar characters from the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Jack and the Beanstalk. Very clever really and created by British writers Paul Barron and Sarah Dyson in 2006.
The show was a first directorial outing for Andrea Carman. She coped well with a large cast ranging from a work gang of tiny dwarfs to rumbustious experienced character actors such as political witch Evil Evelyn (Susanne Richardson) and Captain Hook ( Mark Richardson)
The show's plot ostensibly hinged on the forthcoming wedding of princess Lottie (Katherine Williams), Cinderella's daughter, and prince Marvellous (Tim Blackett), Snow White's son. This being pantomime, there had to be traditional "supporters" such as cook Gertie, (Tom Rennie in raucous drag) and Nick and Nack, Lottie's comic assistants (Suzanne McNally and Dominic Ruddock), Nick in a vivacious trouser role and Nack as contrasting lump. Jack (Annie Ruddock), also in trousers, was a commanding best friend to prince Marvellous.
Once Upon a Time took a little while to warm up, though there was a good spat between the two mothers and a scary harangue from Evil Evelyn to start with. Once the audience got into the swing of booing, hissing, "Look out! Behind you!" and joining in the singing, things went well.
Those songs were fairly modern, with Danny Clenott and Mark Richardson as two increasingly sozzled princes Charming, giving their all in Red Red Wine. The prince and princess' duet of I Got You Babe was sweet and lyrical. The music backing under conductor Craig Thomson was extremely competent. Scenery, lighting with lots of dramatic strobe, bright costuming with hints of original panto characters - all were thoughtfully presented and glamorous. With Tweet Bird's usual scrumptious pre-show catering, Once Upon A Time is a good night out for grown-up lovers of pantomime and a great way to entertain and educate kids about panto.
The season ends November 24.