Posts Tagged ‘Simon Gross’

Review – Snow White and the Seven Poofs – Simon Gross at the Karma Sanctum Hotel

December 20, 2017

It’s been some years since I last saw this adult version of the classic Snow White, in an evening that broke my brain so hard I actually went back a second time. In fact, this show is the reason why I am now a connoisseur of adult pantos. Yeah, sure, Above the Stag may have all of the hunky boys in theirs, but Simon Gross has the bitchy drag queens and the jokes that leave me crying, with bonus audience hassling and great music. By the end of the night EVERYBODY was dancing along, and it doesn’t get better than that at a panto.

The new venue left something to be desired – while the Karma Sanctum Hotel is a sweet little joint, £12 cocktails are OW when you’re a reviewer on a budget and the downstairs room where the show was held had a completely flat floor that meant sight lines were not the best. But I sat in the front row, so I didn’t care, and to be honest with a sold out house that was probably soused when they got in the door, I doubt most of the other customers cared that much either.

The costumes are cheap and the cast is quirky (although Vicki Vivacious is not just lively as Snow White but proves quick with insults and banter – two customers who popped to the loos during a scene were rewarded with her appearing from behind the curtains to render judgement on their “qualifications”), and there’s no doubt in my eyes people who are looking for a trad panto will find much to complain about. But what did I get for my £20? Great jokes from “Queen Showbiz” (Simon Gross as a very unattractive stepmother); truly funny dance numbers done by a talented cast (the YMCA one introducing the dwarves, including Sub, Dom, and Muscle Mary was right on the money); piles of improv (sometimes as people forgot their lines but whatevs); and GOOD music we were encouraged to sing and dance to.

YMCA as danced by Snow White’s Dwarves. Poofs.

And you know what? The audience was in to it. They were dancing, they were laughing at the jokes (even when they were being made fun of), they were clapping and roaring with laughter. Compared to the rather stiff show I saw at the Hackney last week, this was miles ahead if fun is what matters to you. It feels rough and sometimes tattered, but to me this has more of the true feeling of the British music hall tradition and the true sense of panto than any show with a million pounds to spend on costumes and top notch professionals combing through their scripts to make sure every little joke is guaranteed to offend nobody. I’m glad I went back and I’ll be looking for Gross’s panto next year; this is the perfect remedy for the Christmas blues. For me, it was the bubbles in my champagne – or, let’s be honest, cava, because we’re not that high class. Be sure to drink heavily before your arrival and DON’T sit in the front row.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, December 19th, 2017. It continues through January 7th. It’s apparently selling out so if you want to go get your tickets now, the venue is SMALL.)

Review – A Lad in Tights – Prince of Wales Pub, Covent Garden

December 3, 2014

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.)

Review – Snow White and the Seven Poofs – Green Carnation Cabaret

April 2, 2013

Easter is certainly not panto time, but with the downer of cancelling my holiday plans due to illness casting a gloom over everything, the idea of going to see a raunchy retake on a children’s classic seemed like just the thing to cheer me up. A posse of drag queens doing Snow White in a gay bar the day before Easter (and for £18.50 top price)? Sign me up!

I’m pleased to say that before the first act was over I’d 1) seen the crassest costume ever to “grace” a London stage (the prince’s, not Horrible Hilda’s, if you were wondering) 2) been amazed by the rudeness of the front row drunk girls (and the manly attempts of the cast to keep them in check) and 3) heard a song so shamefully inappropriate for children that it had somehow entirely failed to get a reworking in a single one of the standard pantos I’d seen during the Christmas season (“Whips and Chains,” which I’d actually never heard at all before thanks to quitting the gym a year back). Not a bad start, eh?

The story was, of course, fairly standard, but the subtext was front and center (the huntsman – Horrible Hilda, I mean – had an orgy with Snow White and two well-endowed squirrels rather than just leaving her to her doom) – and if we were short of subtext, then that meant it was probably time to pull a dildo from the box (AHEM the prop box!). There was also lots of profanity (the Magic Mirror’s greeting was “Fuck off, mirror,” which isn’t quite standard if you’re familiar with the tropes of panto) and general vulgarity. And just in case you thought you were safe, the cast came out and mocked you where you sat, one by one through about the fourth row (I got it before the show started, with some wrinkled geezer giving me shit for not knowing the dance to the Birdie Song).

Of course, it’s the drag queens that made this show fabulous, and who wouldn’t want not one but THREE egotistical, bitchy “dames” giving you all of the sassy ad-lib you could ever hope for. Well, actually, Snow White (Tanya Hyde, far more personable than the person they hired to do this role in Wimbledon) herself didn’t entirely go for it the way that the Evil Queen (“Mrs Moore”) and Horrible Hilda (Simon Gross) did (not that she didn’t offer to beat the drunk girls with her shoe), but two dames is more than most shows get, and Queenie and Hilda weren’t just over the top, they jumped the shark. Not only did we get double entendre, we got single entendre; and then of course there was Hilda’s quite literally minging costume not to mention the way Queenie felt herself up every time she got booed (another break from the usual panto tropes).

But you’re asking yourself, I’m sure, what about the dwarves? The whole key to Snow White (and only saving grace of the Wimbledon production) was the seven people of lesser stature they got to entertain us while Snowie was chirping about in the woods. And looking at this tiny cast, I was wondering: just where the heck were they going to find seven people period? As the various “poof” characters marched onto stage (including the confused Prince), we got up to six … and then, charging from the back of the house, the light board operator came on in full lumberjack regalia to round out the set with … a lesbian. The crew was basically like an expanded version of the Village People, with the addition of characters like “Subby” and “Fag Hag” – and rather than a cute little version of “Our House,” they did some kind of song that seemed like something from Benny Hill with absolutely filthy limericks. It was the total opposite of “normal” panto but then was as utterly, perfectly British as a raunchy seaside postcard … I was almost in tears.

While I missed the chances the show might have taken with political asides (like the deliciously topical Above the Stag’s “Get Aladdin”), the fun it did have with panto traditions (the visit of the Dick Whittington asking if anyone had seen a pussy was rich) and the genuine talent of the cast, both at singing (nice pipes, Snowy!) and at flinging the saucy ad libs made for a roaring night out. And me? I may have suggested that what the evil queen really needed was a serious makeover, but I was stone cold sober.

(This review is for a performance that was seen on March 30th, 2013. It continues through April 7th.)