thu 09/02/2023

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome review - Jason Donovan makes his panto debut | reviews, news & interviews

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome review - Jason Donovan makes his panto debut

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome review - Jason Donovan makes his panto debut

Australian soap veteran plays against type as the baddie

Old panto hand Matt Slack (left) and debutant Jason Donovan

There was a time when UK pantomime was heavily populated by Australian soap stars; rather late in the day Jason Donovan – formerly known as Scott from Neighbours – makes his panto debut, as Count (careful how you pronounce that, Jason) Ramsay of Erinsborough.

Playing against type in a baddie role, he acquits himself well in this thoroughly entertaining spectacle with several nods to vaudeville (including circus acts in the line-up), but his fans might wish he played a more substantial part in proceedings.

It’s well into the second act before he has much to do. In a paper-thin plot, Donovan's evil ringmaster swoops in to destroy the circus owned by the impoverished Dame Betty Barnum (Andrew Ryan, excellent in an increasingly wonderful range of outfits) and her daughter Goldilocks (Samantha Dorrance); the ringmaster is Ringo (Matt Slack). The Count tries to destroy their circus by kidnapping its star turn, the amazing dancing Baby Bear (Jessica Daugirda).

In Alan McHugh and Slack’s gag-heavy script, peppered with local references as well as knowing political gags (which sort of write themselves at the moment), it’s Slack – a huge local favourite appearing in his 21st panto – who gets most to do, and very good he is, but the pair make surprisingly little of the star in their midst. And as he’s playing against type in the baddie role, Donovan doesn’t even have a ballad to sing, which is a shame.

But he acquits himself well, and he’s a good sport as he takes part in bits of stage business and by enduring frequent cheeky references to his long-running role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, his pop career and his collaborations with Kylie Minogue.

There are turns by speciality acts including juggler Pierre Marchand, stunt motorcyclist Peter Pavlov, aerialists the Gemini Sisters and magician Phil Hitchcock. Doreen Tipton as the Lazy Lion Tamer, meanwhile, gives great value. Her shtick is that she's the first person in the world to be diagnosed with lazy cow syndrome, in a character she first developed on YouTube.

The high-values production, with set design by Ian Westbrook, lighting by Ben Cracknell and special effects The Twins FX, has some real "wow" moments, including a gorilla and a huge elephant head that comes out into the audience. It moves apace under Michael Harrison's direction and, for those who love both circus and panto, offers double the fun.

Donovan gets to swash his buckle – or rather, swish his frock coat – with aplomb


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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