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Review: Red Riding Hood, by Peter Rowe, New Wolsey Theatre, until January 27 2018.

PUBLISHED: 22:54 29 November 2017

Rob Falconer as The Wolf and Lucy Wells as Red Riding Hood. Red Riding Hood at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo Mike Kwasniak

Rob Falconer as The Wolf and Lucy Wells as Red Riding Hood. Red Riding Hood at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo Mike Kwasniak

Mike Kwasniak Photography, 2017 - www.mikekwasniak.co.uk

The New Wolsey’s rock’n’roll panto is the joyous annual treat that tells us that Christmas is just around the corner. It’s a unique mixture of silliness, saucy humour and the most amazing collection of rock and pop anthems performed live on stage by a collection of seriously talented actor-musicians.

Max Runham as Prince Florizel Fortunate and James Haggie as Ruffles. Red Riding Hood at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo Mike KwasniakMax Runham as Prince Florizel Fortunate and James Haggie as Ruffles. Red Riding Hood at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo Mike Kwasniak

Each year you come away thinking: “How on earth are they going to top that?” and every year writer-director Pete Rowe and musical director Ben Goddard do just that. This year is no exception and they put a lively rock’n’roll twist on the tale of Red Riding Hood and lace the story with a juicy dollop of suggestive innuendo, which I’m sure went over the heads of the kids, but, as the roars of laughter from the adults proved, found a welcome home with the Mums and Dads – along with the parties of grown-ups who make the New Wolsey’s Christmas show part of their festive season.

The strength of the rock’n’roll panto is that it works equally well for young and old. Although, it increasingly feels more like a musical than a traditional pantomime – the plot is usually just a device to string together some wonderfully dodgy jokes and some seriously impressive musical numbers – there is always a sense of fun which envelopes the entire auditorium.

Standout songs this year include a raucous Since You’ve Been Gone, Rolling In The Deep, Sweet Caroline, Heatwave, The Edge of Glory and, of course, Hungry Like The Wolf.

Rob Falconer as The Wolf. Red Riding Hood at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo Mike KwasniakRob Falconer as The Wolf. Red Riding Hood at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo Mike Kwasniak

The cast is full of familiar faces and they are uniformly superb. Of the returnees Rob Falconer is clearly enjoying his role as the dastardly Sir Jasper de Ville, Lucy Wells is back again this year and makes Red Riding Hood a feisty possible contender for the Great British Bake Off while James Haggie, wrings every last comedy moment out of his performance as the court underling Ruffles, and shows off his fantastic singing and guitar playing abilities.

Of the new faces Max Runham, last seen in Tommy, makes a suitably gauche Prince/Wally the Woodsman and Simon Nock is the sauciest Dame we’ve seen at the New Wolsey for some years.

It’s a dazzling, hugely entertaining evening and I would gladly go back and see it again. There’s not many pantos I would say that about.

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