WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: Greenwich Theatre
WHEN: 18/11, press night 24/11, runs to 7/1/18
Our heart sank when we discovered that Andrew Pollard (writer of this, his 12th pantomime at this venue) wasn’t going to be its dame as usual.
- Read on for reasons including how new dame Anthony Spargo (pictured) shapes up
However, regulars need not fear as new dame Kylie is played by Anthony Spargo (pictured above), a veteran of five previous pantos at Greenwich Theatre.
Pollard appears on a screen early in the pantomime as if it hand on the baton to his predecessor and its one Spargo picks up enthusiastically and never lets out of his grasp.
He’s playing one of two ugly sisters and they make a memorable arrival to It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls. The soundtrack is, as ever, a clever mixture of songs many generations would remember (from a fun singalong of Rock Around The Clock to a comedy reinterpretation of big recent hit Despacito).
Spargo’s fellow ugly sister is Lizzy Dive, who reminds us of Rebel Wilson, and they make a particularly vile pair. Elsewhere, Paul Eritoph is strong as the bumbling Baron Edmond Halley and we especially enjoyed the local references to locations including Greenwich Park and the Observatory.
James Keningale impressed as an unlucky-in-love Buttons and we enjoyed the role swapping by Dandini (Jean-Luke Worrell, in fine voice) and Prince Charming of Chigwell (Michael Lanni, cute in his first professional pantomime).
Michelle C. Hopewell was both funny and vocally impressive as Fairy Starlight and Louise Young completed the main cast as a sympathetic and engaging (Cinder-) -Ella.
The thing that Pollard’s scripts do so well is to marry what is best about traditional pantomimes (the visual comedy of the bath scene involving the Ugly Sisters was particularly good) with a comedy that will appeal to both young and old alike (the bum-ing routine was delivered with a nod and a wink to those who might appreciate it on more than one level).
We described Pollard as our favourite dame since Sir Ian McKellen in 2015 and we’d love for him to return as the dame in 2018 at this venue but Spargo is a talented replacement. He even impersonated Marlon Brando at one point in a joke better appreciated by the parents than the children.
Greenwich is our favourite panto of the season and we’re seeing at least two others this Christmas (Dick Whittington at the Palladium starring Julian Clary and Snow White And The Seven Dwarves in Southampton starring Craig Revel-Horwood).
We wouldn’t be surprised if Greenwich doesn’t retain its crown as the country’s best panto by season’s end.