THIS IS the ninth Thameside pantomime that this reporter has reviewed.
Naturally, you go on with a critical eye but you are also willing it to be good.
This is the fourth panto by Polka Dot Productions and in our humble opinion, it was by far and away the best.
It actually started slowly as it established the scenes. Having said that, once Rob Stevens came on as Nurse Nelly and found his man in the audience (well done Steve), the show got going.
However, the early musical numbers showed that this was a class performance and the sheer quality of the singing and choreography was worth the price of the ticket alone.
But the panto came alive when Muddles (played by Rikki Stone with Lee Evans like energy) and Herman busted some shapes (danced). It was very funny and very dynamic.
But that was to lead into a comedy routine, that was one of the best we have seen in years. The 12 items for Queenie was pure comedy slapstick and was greatly added to by flying toilet rolls and a malfunctioning wig, that then allowed the trio of Muddles, Herman and Nurse to improvise wonderfully. It deservedly won a huge round of applause and you felt from then on they had the audience in the palm of their hand.
But this is always a production that works so hard for the paying public and is why people come far and wide to see it. It is there for the community and it is also performed with a smile on its face.
TV star Jeff Brazier breezes through the panto with style, grace and charm (bit like his days down the road with Grays Athletic). Jeff struck the right balance and developed the romance with Snow White, which melted the hearts of the audience.
There was a fascinating use of technology in the presentation of the seven dwarves. The impressions were outstanding and again it helped that they had a cracking script.
There was also a welcome use of technology as former favourite, Damian Williams made an appearance as well (Of course we remember Smarter Than a Ten Year Old!).
Credit must also be given to the ability of director Lorinda King to pace her production perfectly. Every scene seems to be the right length and every character fits.
Fairy Fortune, played by Vikki Lyons is charming as she narrates the show. The Wicked Queen played by Michelle Pentecost is wonderfully wicked and really seems to relish laying into the audience. Watch out for Michelle singing as well, as she is, simply a stunning singer. And Juliette Dean is so sweet as Snow White. Again, delicately playing the part, a lovely singer, great dancer and proving that this was a pantomime that was a true ensemble piece.
The panto had a lovely finale, full of warmth and energy and fun that encapsulated the whole production.
The success of the Thameside Theatre pantomime of 2014 is that it has the audience at its heart. It doesn’t "pantomime" at you or treat the audience like they are consumers.
And the audience loved it. They got involved, they clapped, they whooped and went home very happy.
And you also have to pay credit to the work the cast does out and about in Thurrock. This year, they have a great ambassador in Jeff Brazier.
Go see the Thameside pant. Click onto the banner on the front of our website.