Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Goldilocks and the Three Bears – not too daft, not too straight, but just the right mix of glam and fun (Grand Opera House until 9 January)

After a few pre-pandemic festive morsels that were on the stale side, the Grand Opera House’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears is an all singing, all dancing spectacular that feels familiar, yet modern and fresh.

Paddy and Dame May McFetty’s circus is in facing financial ruin if they can’t find a new star for the show. Joey the bumbling clown thinks he is the answer to their problems, and their daughter Goldilocks future happiness. Meanwhile, the evil Countess Von Vinklebottom runs a rival circus and has designs on the family of talking bears. Throw in a juggler, a tightrope walk, eight dancers, a very glitzy set, and the rampant Belfastisation of Alan McHugh’s script and you have quite a show.

There’s absolutely no let-up in the pace from the opening medley of childhood tunes, the introduction of the baddie (the audience don’t even have to be told to boo), and the boundless energy and chutzpah of Adam C Booth’s Joey ... you’d think Red Bull were sponsoring the theatre’s wings!

There’s nothing novel about the format – it’s a classic Qdos Crossroads Pantomime structure – but it’s incredibly well polished delivered. Ian Westbrook’s set with ever decreasing arches is emblazoned with hundreds of lights that set the mood of every scene. The circus theme is a good excuse to allow Alfio Macaggi to throw his balls and hats into the ring before returning to demonstrate his incredible upper body strength with a routine that will thrill any polercise aficionados in the audience.

May McFettridge (aka John Linehan) is in better form with a much less caustic audience repartee than I recall in 2019. Sidekick Paddy Jenkins fills a somewhat expanded role this year while newcomer Kia-Paris Walcott ably belts out her numbers as Goldilocks.

Norn Iron accents are to the fore when Mummy and Daddy Bear step on stage. While local legends Jo Donnelly and Marty Maguire are somewhat underused, one hopes that their connection with the panto and role within it will be long term and grow over time. Kira McPherson completes the furry family.

There’s a lot of glitter, just enough tame vulgarity to make the adults smirk over the heads of their youngsters, and pyrotechnics galore (a lovely shooting star effect at one point). There’s a noticeable reduction in the number of cast members on stage this year, but the simpler line-up improves the overall flow of the show. Aside from the human performers, a lot of effort goes into effects that are somewhat casually rendered as part of the show: a huge animatronic gorilla dominates the back of the stage in one scene and really deserves more credit. And Joey’s tightrope walk probably deserves a bit more drama.

If you’re looking for a traditional panto – not too daft, not too straight, but just the right mix of glam and fun – then Goldilocks and the Three Bears might be for you. Performances continue in the Grand Opera House until 9 January.

Photo credit: Brian Thompson.


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