The Young Portonians laughed in the face of age old panto tradition and still managed to pull off a fun packed performance at Grangemouth Town Hall last night.
In a year that the biggest potential pantomime villain of them all, Donald Trump, was elected president of the USA, the Young Portonians turned one of the guiding principles of panto on its head and cast a female in the dame role for its production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
A brave decision, but one that paid off thanks to a supervampy performance from Kirsty Mather, who wore all the outrageous outfits and Mollie Sugden wigs that your regular run-of-the-mill male dame would, but for some reason – I’m no scientist – brought a certain “oomph” and “va-va-voom” to the part.
Whether she was emerging from a cake like a sparkling blue firecracker or harassing Prince Karl’s right hand man Franz, played with admirable restraint by Alison McCreadie – yes a girl (imagine trying to explain the confusing world of panto to the aforementioned President Trump) – or giving it some laldy on the Def Leppard classic Pour Some Sugar On Me, she managed the rare feat of being simultaneously alluring and terrifying.
Kirsty’s Dame Rosie was just the tip of a talent heavy thespian iceberg of singers, dancers and musicians.
Leah Strathie was the perfect leading lady as Snow White – beautiful, courageous and a character the audience could care about as her evil stepmother the Queen, a scary turn from Shannon Henderson in Maleficent horny headgear, attempted to do away with her.
Mark Kemp strode onto the stage like a young Michael Caine as Prince Karl and there was certainly a bit of the Alfie about him when he had to put the moves on to revive a fallen Snow White.
Looking like Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn without the pigtails and baseball bat, Filip Rybarczyk’s Charlie the Jester was the kind heart of the show and his gawky, well-meaning but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to be heroic went down well with the town hall faithful.
Although they did not make an appearance until the second act, the magnificent seven dwarfs were probably the best example of perfect ensemble casting since Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.
Brooke Morrison never broke character once as the ultra grumpy Humphy, even when everyone was gayly singing along in the joyous finale, she still had a face like a wet weekend in Wemyss Bay.
Red nosed Karina Pannu’s first language was Flemish as the hankie destroying Tissue and, from sinus to shyness, Keira Strathie was all “well gee” coyness as crimson cheeked Blusher.
Shannon Ure donned a beard ZZ Top would have been proud to sport as the top dwarf Prof, while Ava Maxwell got to mess up her lines on purpose as Silly and Paige McGinlay channelled her inner happiness and the mirth of the audience as Merry.
A true dream role for any aspiring teenager, Blaine Clark was a right lazy Lebowski as Snoozy – who was not averse to using the side of the stage to lean on for his power naps.
Emily Annie Davidson was all Green Arrow vigilante cool as the hood flipping Huntsman, while Ellie Johnston remained upbeat as the Maid in the face of the Queen’s many strops.
Down on all fours for most of the show, Darren Wilson came into his own as Berger the dog when he rose up to full height, complete with gold collar, and had a good old boogie during the big finale.
Dancing and singing up a storm, the chorus, including Mia Abdi, Lucy Gray, Ellie Lochrie, Taylor Lewandowski, Aimee Malloy, Eva Nicholson and Olivia Stewart had it large during some real showstopping numbers, including an awesome performance of Uptown Funk – great choreography from Laura Bates and Abby Connor.
The scenery and effects were spot on, with The Mirror, played with a spooky lack of emotion by Alisia Fox, scaring my wee boy, as did the ghosts in the now traditional luminous graveyard chase scene.
For the last few years the Young Portonians’ secret weapon has been their “rocking crew” house band, Shaun Johnstone (keyboards/musical director), Jamie Greenaway (guitar), Joe Evans (bass guitar) and Mark Adams (drums), which provides the booster rocket to propel the cast’s performances into orbit.
There cannot be many pantomime productions that have a group of musicians who can fire out driving versions of Fleetwood Mac’s You Can Go Your Own Way and Huey Lewis and News’ Power of Love, recreate magical anthems like Paul McCartney’s Hey Jude and also serve up the Dwarf’s Hi Ho work song.
They even pinched the theme from Jaws to accompany the evil Queen as she tried to give Snow White the poisoned apple.
The old Scougall magic was on display again with humour and semi-bad-but-still-funny jokes running throughout – the playful spirits of Spike Milligan and Eric Morecambe would have loved the “I knew I was ill” gravestone inscription.
And Vic Reeves himself and any of the Monty Python team would have appreciated the surreal moment Snow White was lying down, apparently dead to the world, only for the dwarfs to start singing Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely.
There were also local references aplenty with Asda getting a free plug and, as always, a bit of good natured Bo’ness bashing.
One of the biggest laughs came when Charlie and Snow White tried to do some ironing and the board, which was obviously going for the best non-supporting actor award, refused to co-operate. That’s when you see the cast are having as good a time as the audience.
The panto runs tonight at 7.30pm and finishes with a matinee performance on Saturday at 2pm and a nighttime show at 7.30pm.
If you want to enjoy some good old fashioned live entertainment which will warm your heart then get along to Grangemouth Town Hall to see these marvellous Young Portonians in action.