It’s been nearly three years since SG Productions burned their way into my brain with their off season revival of Snow White and the Seven Poofs. Something about the combination of ultra crass jokes (somehow I’d never thought much about the precise relationship of Snow White to the dwarves) and of exteremely harsh drag queens engaging in withering repartée with the audience really tickled my funny bone. Their next show, Cinderfella, had me laughing until I cried and got an unheard of three visits. So I was ready and eager for this year’s A Lad in Tights, and rushed to see it on opening night, utterly missing the change in location and new start time – nine PM! Plenty of time to get soused beforehand, right? But, wow, not ideal on a Tuesday night. (NOTE: start times vary, please check TicketWeb.) And if you’re wondering, no, they don’t keep it slim so you can head out at 10:30 – I was only released into the wild at 11:35 PM. Consider yourself warned: this is full length panto starting at 9 PM and unless you feel like ducking out at the interval (which is around 10:40) you will not be getting home at a reasonable hour. So let us not take the path of Princess Nymphomaniac (Simon Gross) and whine endlessly about missing the last train home: we shall instead follow the advice of Widow Wankey (er, Twankey – Joe Meloy) and remember that adults just take the night bus and get on with it, unlike theater critics who have more brains than sense and can’t actually remember a damn thing on a publicity email shot that had been sitting around for two months unloved except for the reminder on the calendar. (The fact it was still showing on the Green Carnation’s website as being there and being at 7:30 did add to my confusion.)
Rah! So, we start off with a little raffle, led by our beautiful leading boy, Aladdin (Stephanie Von Clitz, really a very traditional leading boy in many ways, most especially re: long legs and very short outfits but also re: being just very warm as a performer), then plunged into the real reason why I come to these pantos: not to watch our villain Abenazar (Iain Dootson) glower and grimace and rhyme (only to be ultimately defeated by the combined forces of Good) – no, I come to watch our two very dragged up dames get into it with the audience. Gross and Meloy were really on fine form, not just hideously ugly (the Princess’ false teeth fell out and were laying on the stage for a lot of Twankey’s first scene, which had me about peeing myself) but really scathing and just a bit mean. Sadly, they recognized me and passed me by (unless I was being really gobby – I did get some action later in the show), but the pink jacketed blonde American in the front row really just got it in spades. Jokes about Americans being stupid or not getting panto were really just a bit boring for me (as I am American and very much get panto, even if I can’t do the Chicken Dance), but the woman got up FROM THE FRONT ROW to go to the bathroom (twice) and to the bar, and was actually blocked by Twankey during one of her attempted exits. Then the woman ATTEMPTED TO TAKE A FUCKING PHOTO DURING THE SHOW. Jesus Christ. I mean, we’re in a pub and all but it’s JUST NOT FUCKING ON and she was SITTING IN THE FRONT ROW. This resulted in Twankey grabbing her phone and dropping it in her laundry basket and giving a stern talking to. Which begs the question: can I get Meloy and Gross to come to other shows with me, because I am sick and tired of rude audience people thinking that the theater is a USE YOUR PHONE AS YOU WILL zone. There’s American and then there’s rude and Pink Jacket crossed a line.
Ah, yes, and the rest of the show! As ever, A Lad in Tights provided lots of singalongas – almost every song was participatory (Material Girl and YMCA were personal favorites, sadly I can’t keep up with that modern stuff like Rollercoaster and even I Need a Hero is a bit much for me) – and both of the supernumaries (Natalie Anson as the slave of the ring and Tom Willis as whatever needed doing) were extremely toned and prone to dancing around in things that were both transparent and very short (phoar!). Then quite late in the show the actual genie showed up and man! Nathan Powell rocked in his rock-solid presence – never have I seen a genie who looked so much like one out of a fairy tale! Of course, he did have a pretty foul mouth, but there’s not really a character in these shows that’s allowed to keep it clean. And that’s what I want: rude jokes that have the tears running down my face, songs that get me up and dancing, a cast that’s having fun and going a bit wild with the ad lib (even though I’d probably trim 20 minutes from the second act just to keep the tension tighter). As a panto, A Lad in Tights really delivers a f**king good time, and it’s even better this year in a venue that doesn’t have screwed up sight lines. Extra bonus: the Prince Charles (nearly called it the Prince Charming) has better drink prices so you can really whoop it up. And I won the raffle but I can’t say what I won because this is a family friendly blog (sort of). Anyway, if you think you’re going to like this kind of thing, this show is just as much fun as it has been before, which all goes to show you that once you find a good panto team you need to stick with them.
(This review is for the opening night performance, which took place on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014. Start times vary widely depending on the day, but you can be sure the levels of rudeness should be stable throughout the run.)