At The Alhambra, Bradford
SIAN Reeves transfixed Emmerdale audiences with her spectacular portrayal of psychotic sadist Sally Spode, taunting then torturing gullible country vicar Ashley.
On stage at the Alhambra, Bradford in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs she reprises the character, but works in sexiness and comedy to taunt and amuse her young audience as the deliciously wicked Queen Lucretia – a credit to the Borgias!
Nothing lifts the spirits as much as the laughter of children –and there are oceans of it echoing around the wonderful theatre which modestly claims to be presenting the best panto in the north.
A lot of that laughter is in response to the antics of Mr Panto Billy Pearce, playing Muddles. He's a fixture now in panto in Bradford, and rightly so.
His portrayal of a frog attempting to negotiate flippers and a steep climb to perch on a rock was Chaplinesque and had the audience howling.
He is a knockabout comic, honed for panto. Risque jokes bounce around to keep the parents and grandparents amused, and in some cases abashed, while with his other comic skills he talks directly and hilariously to the children.
The Alhambra has abandoned the traditional principal boy and the panto Dame and instead has gone techy, with 3D special effects playing a large part in this year's entertainment.
The humming birds almost perched on the end of your nose are a delight, although my grandson , at just three years old, found the fangs, the insects and skulls a little harder to take. However, the older children screeched for more.
Peter Piper as Oddjob and the crazy dwarfs led by Michael Walter and Pete Bonner add relish to the jolly japes.
A respected theatre critic once told me to weigh any theatre review through the response of the audience. They will know what they are watching and their reaction will tell you how good it is.
Using that advice this panto scores 11 out of ten.
More than 26,000 tickets have already been sold for the show, and those treated to its 3D wonder already will still have a grin on their frozen faces hours after walking out of Francis Laidler's magical theatre .
This will be the 12th Alhambra panto for Billy. Last year he starred as Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk, which made more than 1 million and broke box office records for the theatre.
Throwing himself into the challenge, Billy has suffered several injuries – including a broken collar bone – in pantos over the years but every year looks forward to treading the boards again.
"Being in Bradford is like coming home, I'm always touched by how lovely the audiences are to me," he said. "Panto is great fun but hard work, and I always say to the cast 'go and look into the audience and see those children arriving in their seats with their mums, dads and grandparents'.
The only part of the night which is no joke are the ridiculous road alterations going on incessantly outside the Alhambra.
Muddles says the architect has an IQ of ten less than him and his is only 11!
Until Feb 6, The Alhambra, Morley Street, Bradford, 9 to 24.50, Mon, Tue, Wed and Thu 7.15pm, Fri, Sat and Sun 5pm, mats Mon, Tue, Weds, and Thu 2.30pm, Fri, Sat, and Sun 1pm until Jan 13.
Tel: 01274 432000. www.bradford-theatres.co.uk