A feast of family fun with the Lyric's Christmas box of dramatic delights
IF WE all need a tonic, and boy, do we need one just now, panto does the trick. Happily for all the boys and girls, not to mention their parents, grandparents and aunties, help is at hand via The Lyric Theatre's cheering online Christmas entertainments.
:: LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE BIG BAD WOLF
I started with Cahoots NI's brilliant account of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, partly because I learnt the French version at school. So Ms Show off Reviewer tuned in to this Freudian fable, the tale of the little girl in jeopardy in the dark forest, in the dining room. Frankly, I loved every post-modern minute.
Of course, the original story is very old, very moral and in Charles Perrault's version dished up for Louis IV's court, the message is abundantly clear. Young, pretty girls should never stray from the straight and narrow path en route to Granny's.
Derek O'Connor's version began with our Big Bad Wolf singing a song about being a 'good, good wolf'. In other words, he can't resist his instinct - Kyron Bourke pretty much defines louche via his attractive gravelly vocals.
The first narrative is framed by the story of the Maestro circus family. Frankie McCafferty's put upon dad and MC is a delight. His wife, played con brio by Christina Nelson is camp as, well, Christmas. Their twin daughters, selfish but supposedly good Rachel (Roisin Gallagher) and drudge Rosie (Charlotte McCurry) also deliver prime panto material filtered through a kind of European sensibility. Except when it comes to granny's uber-Northern Irish hamper, full of loads of things, but mainly scones.
The gobblings up by our Wolf, initially played by McCafferty, are behind a sheet and followed by satisfactory theatrical burps under Paul Bosco McEneaney's skilful direction. I don't want to spoil anything, but for the next two thirds of a pacey performance, we're into dream or nightmare territory with characters finding themselves, losing and finding a moral compass, illustrating M Perrault's point, and singing their hearts out. Vocally, the cast is spot on, giving oomph to numbers that occasionally nod towards Kurt Weill.
What's clever about all three Lyric entertainments is that they have magic, storytelling and adult appeal. The other two shows, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, both musicals share this crossover quality.
:: PETER PAN - Reviewed by Coco Bennett (10)
I'D GIVE this Peter Pan 8 out of 10. I loved the actors who played the roles in this production, especially Wendy. Rhiannon Chesterman was very good and when she sang, she was brilliant.
Having said that, one drawback was that Peter (Michael Mahony) looked very different from how I imagined him to be. I've read the story and I thought he had reddish hair but here he had dark brown hair. Yet his acting was good.
I must tell you about Captain Hook, the stand-out character. The girl who played him, and I was surprised it was a girl, totally captured the character. Allison Harding was amazing. But I particularly liked the scene where Peter was mad at Wendy because she wanted to go back home. I guess he had his own journey. It's about growing old and dying but I don't remember if they used that phrase on death, 'an awfully big adventure'.
I very much liked the multiple layer sets by Stuart Marshall, especially the one down below where Peter Pan lived.
Written and directed by Peter Boyd, is Peter Pan a good choice for a Christmas show? Not sure, to be honest - I'd prefer A Winter's Tale.
I asked a young family reviewer, Flora Williams (4), for her critical opinion of the Lyric's Christmas shows. She told me: "I like the first Little Red Riding Hood and the songs. And when the Wolf gobbled Granny and Red up, going Munch, munch! It was funny."
Filmed pre-Covid when audiences could "boo!" in the theatre, this package is a bargain at £15 and transports you from the sitting room stalls to the real thing. Above all, they're fun and if you want confectionery (and who doesn't?) there's also a charming Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory hamper available to order.
:: Each show costs £8 to view online at Lyrictheatre.co.uk until January 3 2021, or view all three for £15.