Regal Entertainment's pantomimes always go down well with families in St Helens, combining the traditional pantomime format with catchy songs, a few familiar faces, some cultural references and a sprinkling of fairy tale magic.
Its Easter offering for 2019, The Wizard of Oz which opened today at St Helens' Theatre Royal, certainly won't disappoint. It's filled with all the excitement we've come to expect, as well as the chance to sing along with some popular chart hits and laugh along with some comedy characters.
The Wizard of Oz is one of my favourite tales, but I have never seen it brought to the stage in pantomime format, and was looking forward to seeing this adaptation. I brought along my 11, 9 and 5 year old, and it's fair to say there was something in the show for all ages, with lots of comedy (both scripted and unscripted), naughty jokes for the adults and some great songs brought to life, including Wicked's One Short Day.
Dorothy and the Scarecrow - credit David Munn Photography
Emmerdale and Brookside's Linda Lusardi starred as the delightfully evil Wicked Witch whilst BBC The Voice's Lucy Kane played good witch Glinda, ensuring a happy ending for Dorothy and all of those in Oz.
Mia Molloy made an impressive debut at the theatre as Dorothy, delivering a fabulous performance. Her voice was stunning and it was truly magical listening to her rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Youngsters will enjoy seeing her partner-in-crime Toto, being played by a real dog that goes by the name of Buddy, who loyally trots at her heels throughout the show. At the end, there's a chance to get a photo with Dorothy and Toto, which my 5 year old was desperate to do...so how could I say no?
It's fair to say that Reece Sibbald, newcomer to the Theatre Royal, stole the show and the hearts of my children as the brainless but loveable scarecrow. Delightfully unpredictable, Reece had the whole audience in stitches, whether he was delivering his scripted comic lines, or heading decidedly off-script when things went awry.
Linda Lusardi as The Wicked Witch of the West -credit David Munn Photography
James Lusted returned to the theatre, playing the Great and Powerful Oz, teaching the characters that they already possessed what they had been searching for. Harry Moore as the Tinman and Steve Arnott as the Cowardly Lion made a great team, and the whole audience enjoyed singing along with their familiar tunes from the original film.
The costumes in The Wizard of Oz were delightful, with my favourite being the opening scene with the munchkins on Munchkinland. The Tinman, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion all looked superb as if they had just stepped out of the movie.
It was exciting to see the main characters captured on the big screen as Dorothy heads back to Kansas, and I was pleased that the pantomime finished with a good boogie with the cast at the end, leaving everyone on a high as they exited the theatre.
Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Cowardly Lion -credit David Munn Photography
When I bring the kids along to see a show, there's no hiding whether or not they have enjoyed it; it's written on their faces Tonight I came out with all three children bursting to tell me everything about their favourite moments; laughing at memories of scarecrows, flying monkeys and the magical world of Oz.
Although my eldest two have been to lots of pantomimes, this was the first pantomime I have taken my five year old to. It's fair to say that it certainly won't be the last. She was totally enthralled in the magic from beginning to end and is already begging to watch it all over again.
If you haven't visited the Theatre Royal before, it's well worth a visit. It's a lovely intimate theatre for younger children and is easy to get to, with plenty of on-street parking and car parks close by. The Circle Bar on the top floor is ideal for interval drinks and unlike some theatres, I didn't find it too busy and managed to get a drink quickly.
So if you're after an Easter treat for the kids, I can definitely recommend a trip to see The Wizard of Oz at the Theatre Royal where they can join Dorothy as she journeys down the yellow brick road and meets some quite remarkable friends.
The Wizard of Oz is showing at St Helens' Theatre Royal now and is on until Monday 22nd April 2019. Tickets are priced from £12 and can be booked online at www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com or by calling the box office on 01744 756 000