Every so often, the stars in the pantosphere align. This year’s offering at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre is a five-star extravaganza that celebrates the very best of Scottish variety and shows Glasgow how it’s done.
Bringing together a rock-solid panto storyline, a first-class cast and a crack team behind the scenes, this pantomomium is a glorious return to the heights of the King’s reign.
When Snow White turns 18, she is unceremoniously stripped of her royal title by evil Queen Cranachan and banished to the depths of the forest – where she finds sanctuary in the home of seven magnificent dwarfs.
This traditional fairytale has been well and truly pantofied as a host of other characters join us along the way for this hilarious adventure.
Taking centre billing on the poster and the hearts of the audience, Elaine C Smith dazzles as Nurse Bella Houston – who joins the fun adorned in glitter-clad overalls after a shift helping out the NHS.
The only thing this nurse is reeking of is glamour, and Smith holds her audience in the palm of her hand without breaking sweat. Scotland’s First Lady of Panto is an all-round entertainer who has perfected her craft over years. It’s no wonder Glasgow loves her.
Following last year’s moving rendition of Loch Lomond, Smith poignantly presents another Scottish ballad this year in what we hope might well be a new tradition of this great theatre.
Her glakit son Muddles (Johnny Mac) is equally cemented in the King’s panto troupe as he treads the King’s boards for his sixth year, but this year might just be his best yet.
This comic does pathos like no others – his ability to induce an ‘aww’ really is awwsome – but he rockets around the stage for 2 hours in a fizz of excited energy that bounces around the vast auditorium.
Mac makes the art of stupidity look ridiculously easy while always remaining in control of the chaos that unfolds. Even his picking on the audience is done with real love. This Muddles has the sweetness of a hot chocolate with all the trimmings on a freezing day – the perfect tonic for the winter blues.
The King’s dream team is completed with the shimmering Darren Brownlie as the Manny in the Mirror. He’s given far more space to shine than in previous years, now slotting perfectly into the comic trio. This mirror brings sass by the bucketload, bringing the laughs in at some rate.
The titular Snow White has a feisty revamp from the fairytale by Blythe Jandoo, who proves to every little girl watching that not all princesses need a man to rescue them.
But Snow White’s thigh-slap-happy Prince Calum is always on hand in case! Relegated to the doe-eyed airhead, Christopher Jordan-Marshall wrings plenty of laughs from this delightfully over-eager royal.
Jandoo and Jordan-Marshall come together for a perfectly-timed wall routine, where Muddles does his best to ruin their romantic moment. This fresh take on the classic routine really is a delight to watch – and one of countless routines that bring the house down in this perfect pantomime.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Magnificent Seven are a delightful part of this magical story – because Snow White wouldn’t be complete without seven dwarfs, who bring real magic to this fairytale.
The whole production comes together in a polished presentation that the King’s is synonymous with. Dazzling sets, pristine costumes and stunning dance routines are the sparkling tinsel on this Christmas tree; the eye-catching bow on this present under the Christmas tree.
Always firmly rooted in its surroundings, this year’s pantomime feels even more tailored to the audience watching than before. Nobody from Baillieston to Bearsden is safe from a ribbing in Alan McHugh’s script, with additional material by Johnny Mac.
It’s not all good in this panto of course, because every panto needs a baddie – oh, yes it does! Liz Ewing brings a delightfully devilish charm to the evil Queen Cranachan.
Squeezing out the boos from every seat, this monarch might be real baddie but she has a cracking voice to boot – so the audience can’t help but applaud her… occasionally!
With all the festive sparkle of a Bucks Fizz, this panto cork pops off when the curtain rises and never stops soaring.
It could be that those cherubs that adorn the crown of the King’s stage hand-delivered a pantomime from those theatre Gods overnight – but the reality is that every sparkle on this glitterball of a show is down to the mammoth team who have painstakingly put this show together, under the guidance of director Kathryn Rooney.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the superlatives to speak highlight enough about a show. But now we’re stumped… so do us a favour and experience it for yourself!
Mirror, mirror on the wall… which is the fairest panto of them all? I think we’ve found it!
Production images credit: Richard Campbell