It takes a brave panto producer to take a much-loved fairytale – the very same one, no less, that CBeebies used for their own televised Christmas stage show last year – and mess about with it quite as much as the Everyman has for this year’s festive rock ‘n’ roll offering.

Anyone who has ever met a small child will know they can have specific and unyielding views on how a favourite story should go, and this one – subtitled Chilling me Softly – bore something between little and no resemblance to the Hans Christian Andersen classic. Brave, also, to offer up a musical pantomime that pandered so minimally to a young viewer’s pop repertoire. Katy Perry’s Firework and an encore featuring Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love were about the only concessions to tunes that the smallest audience members were likely to know well. Otherwise it was Kenny Loggins, Katrina and the Waves and even a bit of Andrea Bocelli, plus a pleasing pun on Queen’s Bicycle Race that involved the line, “I want to fight with icicles”.

But then the Everyman panto has never been only about the small people. That is one of its great charms. The matinee audience around us consisted of a Brownie pack and at least one OAP group outing as well as the usual mix of families, and everyone seemed to be having a raucously good time. Certainly, the barrage of innuendo deployed by Everyman perennials Adam Keast and Francis Tucker was not meant for innocent ears. That of course made it doubly funny. While the kids were in hysterics at Tucker’s myriad lunatic drag outfits, the adults could chuckle at him hoping that he didn’t “land on a cockatoo” and so on. Sophisticated it isn’t, but enormously entertaining it all was.

Writers Sarah A. Nixon and Mark Chatterton might have messed with the Snow Queen’s narrative, but they stuck faithfully to the Everyman panto format of high energy, uncynical silliness. Lucy Thatcher’s frozen tyrant had the requisite amount of sparkle and evil cackle, while Nicola Martinus-Smith kept the show barrelling along as the super-smiley fairy Snowdrop. With just ten cast members to deliver all the acting, singing and live, on-stage music, there was bound to be the odd bum note, but for the most part it was all remarkably sharp. Not that anybody actually cared too much. There is an enormous amount of goodwill behind this production, which returns year after year and delivers exactly what the people of Liverpool expect of it. With a running time of two and a half hours, and a plot involving the magical ‘stargate stone’ that was at times incomprehensible even to some of the watching adults, there should by rights have been a lot of twitchy children in the house by the time the Snow Queen melted her last. Instead there was dancing in the seats. 

By Fran Yeoman

Photos by Robert Day

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The Snow Queen runs at the Everyman Liverpool until January 19, 2019. For more information, click here.