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Goldilocks and the Three Bears

by on 8 December 2022

Circo-Pantus

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

by Alan McHugh, additional material by Phil Walker

Crossroads Pantomimes at Richmond Theatre until 31st December

Review by Thea Diamond

Richmond Theatre is one of the most atmospheric venues for the annual outing to the pantomime – one of the oldest surviving Frank Matcham theatres, set on Richmond Green with surrounding Duke Street and Parkside beautifully adorned with twinkling seasonal lights.  All that was needed to complete this magical Christmas card scene was a sprinkling of frost and carol singers on the steps (both of which we were lucky enough to be treated to on this rather freezing cold evening). 

However, this is where tradition ends.  If this is your first visit to the pantomime, let me tell you, this Goldilocks and the Three Bears is not your typical panto – there’s no fairy tale plot, no audience sing-along action songs nor an invitation for youngsters to join the fun on stage.  This is a variety show extravaganza, with spectacular circus acts to completely blow you away with the sheer talent on display.  What it lacks in well-known song adaptations and smutty topical innuendoes, it more than makes up for in the scale and quality of the production. 

This is a production from the acclaimed Crossroads Pantomimes who are producing 24 shows up and down the country this year, including one at the big budget London Palladium venue.  Indeed, Goldilocks was produced there in 2019 including Matt Baker (well known for presenting Countryfile and previously Blue Peter and The One Show) who was then overshadowed by a star-studded big-name cast.  This time at Richmond his name leads on the cast list, and he revives his character of the likeable, good-natured and hugely genuine Joey the Clown.  Although somewhat let down by his red, white and yellow Ronald MacDonald-resembling costume, Matt does not disappoint with his boundless energy, showcasing his multi talents, warmly delivering laugh-after-laugh, along with gymnastic balance and physicality, and dance moves presumably learnt from his time on Strictly

Although he’s the only well-known household name, we in the audience soon realise we’re in for a treat with the pedigree of stage and panto talent involved in this production.  The show is directed by panto legend Matt Slack and the cast includes seasoned panto aficionado Nigel Ellacott as Dame Betty Barnum, amazingly achieving his 48th year in panto (either he caught the stage bug young, or I want the name of his surgeon), whose experience is highly evident, as he’s clearly natural and relaxed in the role.  He showcases absolutely magnificent costumes, which we learn in the programme he designs himself and have been displayed at the V&A, complete with ostrich feather adorned wigs and slinky sparkly gowns. 

We’re also treated to hilarious comedy act Phil Walker (Ringo the Ring Master) who, along with the Dame, provides a few risqué punchlines, but blink and you’ll miss ‘em.  His facial expressions are priceless, reminiscent of a younger version of Benny Hill.  Experienced West End performers Jessica Martin (who revels in her wonderfully wicked whip-cracking Countess Von Winklebottom), James Patterson (Daddy Bear) and Nova Skipp (Mummy Bear) welcome relative newcomers to the stage, Lucy Conley (cute and cuddly Baby Bear) and Tamara Morgan (sweet-as-candy Goldilocks). 

We soon learn that our main protagonist Goldilocks and her mother Dame Betty’s circus is under threat by their villainous rival, the Countess.  Goldilocks needs a new act to draw in the crowds (you guessed it, the talking and dancing three bears) but the gang must save our lovable cuddly friends from being cruelly locked away by the Countess.  For parental guidance – the story line is easy to follow, and although the baddie deserves a large amount of boo-ing from the audience, she isn’t a nightmare inducing Cruella or Millicent Clyde. 

We’re treated to a brilliant array of pyrotechnics as the circus scene is set by the high kicking, sequin and feather adorned ensemble (awesomely choreographed by Gerry Zuccarello).  Although it appears they are lip syncing their musical numbers, their dancing doesn’t fail to impress, along with their increasingly more ornate and glittery costumes which cumulate in circus tent style skirts in the final scene. 

The scenes with our panto pals and the ensemble are interspersed by breath-taking acts which completely wow the audience, begging the question why-oh-why is Goldilocks still on the lookout for a more crowd-pleasing act.  Illusionist and magician Phil Hitchcock’s repertoire (The Magical Mysterioso) is faultless, including a mysterious floating fireball, scarves, fire and doves appearing and disappearing from thin air, his scenes literally leaving the audience in complete awe.  Mexican juggler, Gordon Marquez (El Mariachi Marquez) draws on his Latin roots with Latin-American rock, accompanying his display of juggling clubs, hats, illuminated balls, and what looked like ping-pong balls but were a little small to see against the dark background of the big top. 

All-in-all this scaled down production of the 2019 version is well worth a visit.  The staging and set feels suitably authentic in the Victorian surrounds of the proscenium arch, and the special effects and pyrotechnics become increasingly more lavish, as do the props.  Look out for the huge soft toy circus animals and animatronics that fill the stage. 

When is a panto not a panto? When it’s a circus!  Although the tag line for this production ‘The Greatest Panto on Earth’ could be questioned by hard-line panto-purists for missing out major panto features, it’s certainly a great spectacle with a great cast and visuals to remember. 

Thea Diamond, December 2022

Photography by Craig Sugden

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