Goldilocks and the Three Bears – 23 January 2020, Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield
Review by Callam Fellows
“Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a classic fairy tale, but its circus themed panto plot has scarcely been seen on theatre stages for years. This was until the recent popularity of The Greatest Showman which reintroduced circus back into the mainstream and revived Goldilocks as a pantomime. In fact, with the huge success of The Greatest Showman and this panto’s circus storyline, I was surprised and frankly relieved that no songs from the musical were used and instead this show opted for a selection of songs from better musicals.
The script by Tom Whalley is especially strong and is crammed full of humour. There’s some wonderfully awful dad-jokes, with more puns than I can bear. There’s plenty of naughty innuendos for the grown ups to enjoy, (well done to the parents sat next to me who during the interval had to try and explain to their kid what the Dame meant when she said certain sleeping arrangement were more acceptable in Barnsley). I also really enjoyed how meta it was for a pantomime, even taking moments to be self-critical (breaking the fourth wall in a show where characters and audience members already interact is quite a feat). This show does not shy away from asking the big questions, like “How can porridge from the same pot come out in three distinctly different temperatures?” “Is Billy and Gertie’s bed sharing situation a tad unorthodox?” and “Why don’t we see baby pigeons?”
This panto was directed Matthew Walker, who also plays Dame Gertie Dollop. Before Gertie can even utter her first line she received a whoop of excitement from the audience. Walker has mastered the art of the Dame. He has great comedic delivery, knows how to work an audience and keep them in hysterics. Some of their best moments came from them teasing their fellow cast mates and mocking the musicians.
The stars of the circus are the three bears, who are also the stars of this show. Daddy Bear and Mummy Bear are played by real life couple Andrew and Alison Stansall and together they are joined by Alice Mackenzie in her first principle panto role as Baby Bear. Andrew, Alison and Alice are a terrific trio made in pantomime Heaven. All of them are just delightful and instantly loveable. Their dance ability is not only entertaining but also impressive in such cumbersome costumes.
Speaking of which, the costumes in this show were incredible. The costumes, by Molly Limpets Theatrical Emporium and Imagine Theatres, bring so much colour to the stage and add a fun clownishness to all the characters. As well as the three bears’ outfits, I also loved Dame Gertie’s increasingly ridiculous collection of costumes and was always excited to see what she’d come out in next.
With such impressive costumes, the sets look a little lacklustre. The frequently used front cloth does not display the panto’s title but instead advertises “Gertie Gemmels Circus” which is more distracting than it is welcoming. Not only is it missing an apostrophe but Gertie’s last name isn’t Gemmel, it’s Dollop. Heinkel’s Circus of Horrors, with colourful curtains, looks more inviting than Dame Gertie’s circus, which features some rather creepy clown illustrations. With that said I do like the use of lights and bunting the stretch out into the audience.
Joseph Walker as Silly Billy and Bev Walker as Workie Ticket keep the kids entertained with their over the top actions and overall silliness. Luke Harriott’s Heinkel the Ringmaster is sensationally sinister and oozes evil from each syllable he utters. Sara Hibberd provides a fun take on the principle girl as the titular Goldilocks. Though the Baron, played Robert Taylor, is meant to be a stingy character, the audience can’t help but warm to him. And as if I wasn’t already surprised enough to discover this was Alice Mackenzie’s first role in panto, I then find out that is Jessica Rose Curr’s first panto ever. As a fairy-type character, a medium called Mystic Sharon, she brings plenty of magic and comedy to this show and demonstrates a clear understanding of what pantomime is about. I hope she sees plenty more pantomimes in her future.
Whilst I appreciate the actors’ attempts at keeping it tight and making sure the show didn’t overrun, it did feel like the audience weren’t given much chance to react and respond. However, because this was opening night and the first run in front of an audience, this may just be because they were not yet familiar with how the audience may react. It definitely picked up as the show went on, especially with Dame Gertie explaining to an over-excited kid that they’re aware there’s a ghost behind them. (Quick special mention to Chris for doing a great job and a warning to any dads thinking of sitting on the front row).
The best part of the show was the sheer happiness in the theatre. It’s so refreshing to see an ensemble and kids dance teams with such big smiles on their faces. The joy from the cast transcends into the audience. Sat in front of me was a family and, both young and old, clearly loved shouting and clapping along and sharing this experience together.
There are two words that best sum up this panto – “Just right”.”
Goldilocks and the Three Bears will be performed by Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company at the Montgomery Theatre until Sunday 26 January. To book visit https://themontgomery.org.uk
Formed in 2002 from the merger of Handsworth Amateur Operatic Society and Sheffield Hallam Operatic Society, HHTC aim to be the leading family amateur theatre group in Sheffield, providing good quality musical theatre by putting on two shows a year, a pantomime and a musical. For further information visit www.hhtcsheffield.co.uk.