Search This Blog

Friday, 15 May 2020

Frozen Closes on Broadway – What Next for Disney Theatrical?

The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused the worlds of film and theatre to grind to a near-total standstill. Of the various fairy-tale related entertainments mentioned in the Fairy Tale Fanboy 2020 preview, several have been delayed to later in the year (the live-action Mulan) moved to 2021 (Raya and The Last Dragon) or cancelled entirely (The UK Premiere of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella in Manchester). Out of all the sectors of the arts and entertainment, theatre is probably the worst affected by the COVID-19 Crisis for a variety of reasons. Major theatres have a reputation for being cramped and crowded, the high running costs of plays and musicals mean it is financially impossible to perform to a reduced capacity, and actors are arguably in even greater danger of contracting the disease than audience members. With Broadway theatres left closed for months as a result, several major productions were bound to shut down permanently and yesterday, Disney Theatrical head producer Thomas Schumacher announced that the Broadway production of Frozen would not return when Broadway reopened. The production, based on Disney’s 2013 hit of the same name, had been playing at the St James Theatre for two years, completing 825 performances and 26 previews by the time it closed. Frozen adapted the story of Anna and Elsa for the stage, with the classic songs from the film (Including 'For The First Time In Forever' and 'Let It Go') joined by new songs such as 'Monster' and 'What Do You Know About Love?'. Though it was probably not Disney Theatrical’s strongest production, the news that Frozen was closing still feels like a devastating blow. It is the first major Broadway musical to close permanently because of the COVID-19 pandemic (Beetlejuice was forced to shut three months earlier than planned, but its closure had been announced months before lockdown) highlighting how precarious the theatre industry truly is. With all theatre producers having to tighten their belts, Schumacher has decided to focus on preserving the long-running Broadway adaptations of The Lion King and Aladdin, ensuring that those two will be able to survive months (and possibly years) of instability for New York’s major theatres.

From a financial perspective, the decision to close Frozen is probably the correct one. To tell the truth, Frozen would have probably announced its closure by the end of the year, even if Broadway was operating normally. Of the three Disney productions on Broadway, it was the lowest earner by some distance, and its long-term prospects were looking fragile for months. Despite being a big hit in its first year, the mixed reviews and underwhelming performance during the 2018 awards season (it only received three Tony nominations in a very weak year) took their toll on Frozen, and it was falling to earnings as low as $800,000 – a huge problem for a family blockbuster based on a relatively recent hit movie. The production recently made several updates (including more colourful staging and a new song called “I Can’t Lose You”) to bring it in line with the better-received touring adaptation, but it is unlikely those would have raised interest enough to draw casual audiences. The musical relied heavily on the summer tourism to generate most of its profits, but the recent confirmation that Broadway theatres would be closed until at least September (and probably later) meant that this major period was lost. Ultimately, Broadway is a business, and decisions are governed by what will make the most money and lose the least. In this context, it is no surprise that Schumacher chose to cancel Frozen, which was unlikely to recover from the losses caused by lockdown.

However, it still feels crushingly unfair. The new cast (including Ciara Renee as Elsa and McKenzie Kurtz as Anna) had been in their roles for only three weeks when lockdown begun, and they have been told that they are unable to return to their roles because of a disaster entirely outside their control. Ryan McCarthan, who had just taken over in the thankless role of Prince Hans, recently hosted the online screening of last year’s Disney On Broadway concert, and dismissing him after his hard work there feels like an extra cruel insult. In addition, Frozen’s status as the only female-led Disney adaptation on Broadway (in contrast to the very masculine worlds of The Lion King and Aladdin) means that cutting it so quickly feels a little regressive in an age where theatre is striving for greater diversity and representation. The closure also feels insulting for the Frozen fandom, which is famously passionate and loyal. Elsa and Anna are icons for many (such as those struggling with mental health issues) and these fans deserve respect and recognition. It would be good if Disney Theatrical and the Frozen Broadway team provided these fans with a parting gift, such as a reunion concert for the lost cast or a filmed version of the production for streaming.

Cancelling its run on Broadway does not mean the end for Frozen on stage.  The touring production may be currently suspended, but it will certainly resume when things get better for theatres. No longer having to compete with the Broadway version gives the touring production to enjoy the advantage of being the “definitive” version of the Frozen musical, and we should not rule out the possibility that the newer Frozen Broadway cast members will join it on future stops. International productions in Germany, Australia and Japan are opening in the next year, but the main attraction for Frozen fans will probably be the West End production, which will open in the prestigious Theatre Royal Drury Lane. In fact, it is likely that Schumacher closed Frozen on Broadway in order to focus on these productions, as he announced that the early closure would allow the sets and costumes to be used elsewhere. In the longer term, the closure of Frozen means that it could be opened up for regional and amateur productions, joining the abridged versions Frozen Jr and Frozen Kids in the MTI Shows stable. The Little Mermaid and Tarzan were even less successful than Frozen but have proven popular in licensing. Combined, the touring, international and licensed versions of Frozen will make more money for Disney Theatrical than the Broadway production ever could.

With Frozen’s run on Broadway now over, discussions will turn to which productions come next for Disney. The St James Theatre is not owned by Disney, so the owners will not necessarily replace Frozen with a Disney production. However, Schumacher has revealed that several other Disney Theatrical projects are in the pipeline. At the moment, we aren’t sure which of these (If any) will make it all the way to New York, but they will certainly provide more entertainment for Disney fans.


During summer 2019, Disney teamed up with Public Works NY to stage an adaptation of their 1997 animated film Hercules at the open-air Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. The production blended Disney pizazz with community theatre charm, with several Broadway big names in the lead roles (Jelani Aladdin as Hercules, Roger Bart as Hades, James Monroe Iglehart as Phil) and dozens of ordinary New Yorkers in the supporting cast. The production proved a huge success and was one of Disney Theatrical’s most acclaimed musicals in years. It is therefore no surprise that Disney Theatrical have confirmed plans for an expanded two-act version.

Alan Menken and David Zippel are returning to write for this production – having added five extra songs for the Delacorte Theatre production, they could expand the soundtrack further and make it even stronger. Robert Horn, who wrote the Tony-Award winning book to the musical Tootsie, has been added to the writing team. This is a good appointment – Horn’s witty script was one of the most acclaimed aspects of Tootsie (“I live in an apartment so small I count the litter box as a guest bathroom. My phone no longer recognizes my face ID unless I’m crying.”) and he is perfectly suited to the task of bringing one of Disney’s most comedic films to a wider audience. Lear DeBessonet, who directed the original production, will return to direct the new one, hopefully allowing Disney to maintain the balance between professional spectacle and amateur charm which made the Delacorte Theatre run so successful.

Beauty and the Beast

Opening on Broadway in 1994, Beauty and the Beast was the first Disney Theatrical production and ran for an impressive 13 years. The 2017 live-action adaptation renewed interest in the story, and it will now become the second Disney Theatrical musical (after Mary Poppins) to enjoy a major revival production. The original creative team (screenwriter Linda Woolverton, composers Alan Menken and Tim Rice) will return, but we don’t know whether they will make any changes. Will they stick to the romantic approach of the original Broadway production, adopt the more lavish style of the live-action version, or do something different with the “Tale as old as Time”?. The production will premiere at a major “overseas” venue before returning to America, and it could demonstrate that the stage version of Beauty and the Beast can be considered an iconic musical in its own right.


Something of a cult favourite, Aida is the only major Disney theatrical musical not based on a pre-existing Disney film. Adapted from the Verdi opera of the same name, it allowed Disney Theatrical to take a darker and more dramatic approach, winning four Tony Awards and running for a solid four years. After several touring and regional productions, it is no surprise that Disney Theatrical want to create a major new take on Aida. David Henry Hwang, who co-wrote the original book, has revised the script to consider new research about the lives of ancient Egyptian rulers. The original plan was that this version would premiere in New Jersey’s Paper Mill Theatre in January 2021 and tour the USA, but Disney Theatrical have postponed it, and are instead planning to stage the production in Germany.

The Princess Bride

An adaptation of this classic 1987 film has been in development for a while, but it is closer to Broadway than ever, with David Yazbeck (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Tootsie) writing the songs and Bob Martin (The Prom) co-writing the script. A workshop for The Princess Bride was due to take place this spring but has presumably been delayed. However, we can still expect it to reach the stage soon – iconic characters like Princess Buttercup, Inigo Montoya and Vizzini are perfectly suited to the world of theatre…

The Jungle Book

Given the enduring popularity of the 1967 animated film and the Rudyard Kipling novel it is based on, it is no surprise Disney are interested in bringing The Jungle Book to the stage. They sponsored a 2013 stage adaptation in Chicago, directed by Mary Zimmerman and choreographed by Christopher Gatelli (Newsies)  With Hadestown legend Andre De Shields in the cast, the production was well-received and played in Boston, but did not go any further. However, after the 2016 live-action adaptation proved a success, Disney are going to take a second shot at bringing The Jungle Book to the stage. Gatelli is returning to direct this new version, with Rajiv Joseph writing the script. The iconic Sherman Brothers songs (Including “The Bear Necessities”) will remain, with Richard Sherman adding new ones.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Disney's 1971 film Bedknobs and Broomsticks followed the same winning formula as Mary Poppins seven years earlier (right down to the Sherman Brothers songs and featuring David Tomlinson as one of the main protagonists) but has a family-friendly charm of its own and deserves to find a wider audience. Blending magic, fantasy and wartime adventure, it can easily be updated for modern sensibilities without losing its classic feel.  A musical adaptation of Bedknobs and Broomsticks was meant to premiere in Chicago in 2019, but the production was cancelled after director Rachel Rockwell suddenly died. However, the project will now premiere in Britain, with Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison directing it.

Night At The Museum

Acquired by Disney in their purchase of 20th Century Fox, 2006 family film Night At The Museum is an odd choice for a theatrical production, but could work pretty well. With an all-star cast headed by Ben Stiller, Night At The Museum did not quite live up to the promise of its fascinating concept (Items in a museum come to life when the doors are closed) but it spawned two sequels and retains a fanbase. Disney legend Alan Menken (also working on Beauty and the Beast, Hercules and the live-action The Little Mermaid) announced this project a few months ago, but no other members of the creative team have been revealed. This project is still pretty far away, but the idea of bringing a museum to life on stage is full of promise, and it would be great if Disney Theatrical go through with this adaptation.

Monday, 6 January 2020

2020 Fairy Tales - A Preview (Part Two)

(Read Part One Of This Article Here)

As 2020 starts, it's time to look at the culture and entertainment ahead of us in the next 52 weeks, and a lot of this will be from or inspired by classic fairy tales, myths and legends, and children's stories. There are so many interesting things for fairytale fans to enjoy this year that this article is being split into two parts. The first part focused on movies and TV. The second part of this article will focus on theatre, literature and the arts. YA books, musicals and even art exhibitions are among the attractions which will entertain fairy tale fans in 2020…

Art and Literature

All The Stars and Teeth (published February 4th)

Every year, authors and publishers provide plenty of fantasy epics aimed at the Young Adult audiences. With their grand worlds and distinctive characters, they are incredibly popular with their fandoms, and several go on to become major franchsies. One which could enjoy major success in 2020 is All The Stars and Teeth, by newcomer Adalyn Grace. She began her writing career working in the story team for the epic animated series The Legend of Korra, and the lessons she learned there are in full evidence in All The Stars And Teeth. The novel tells the story of a princess named Amora Montara, who needs to master an especially dangerous form of “soul magic” if she wants to become heir to the throne of her kingdom. When she loses control of this magic, she has to go on an epic sea quest with a pirate in order to prove she is worthy of being a future ruler. Amora has to deal with a variety of obstacles, including a stowaway, scary and vengeful mermaids and a mysterious Dark Magic which is endangering her kingdom.  All The Stars and Teeth is one of the most anticipated YA books of 2020, as it has received endorsements from popular YA fantasy icons like Tomi Adeyemi (the woman behind the Children of Blood and Bone series) and Hafsah Faizal. Grace is apparently starting work on a sequel, and we can expect plenty of epic novels from her in the future. 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn (Published May 12th)

With her 2017 novel Girls of Snow and Glass, Melissa Bashardoust put an eerie and imaginative feminist spin on Snow White, which gained considerable attention from fairytale and YA fans. Second novels are always a challenge, but Bashardoust is using her second novel, Girl, Serpent, Thorn, to cement her position as a major new talent. The story is set in a Persian-inspired Kingdom, and concerns a princess named Soraya. Since birth, Soraya has been afflicted by a curse which renders her poisionous to the touch. As a result, she has been unable to leave her palace, but when her twin brother gets married, Soraya finds the lack of freedom unbearable, and seeks out a demon who could allow her to venture into the wider world. Needless to say, this decision generates a variety of problems for Soraya, who soon finds herself wrestling with the destructive consequences of her powers. The premise has echoes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story Rappaccini's Daughter and the Indian myths which inspired it, but promises to provide something original by telling the story from the perspective of the female lead, and making her attempts at coming to terms with the curse into the focal point of the story. It seems like Girl, Serpent, Thorn will further demonstrate that Bashardoust is one of the biggest  rising stars in the YA genre. 

Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema (Runs May 23rd – October 25th)

Ray Harryhausen was the special effects guru who worked on a variety of epic fantasy and adventure films between the late 1940s and early 1980s. He specialised in stop motion animation, using it to create a variety of memorable monsters in blockbusters like Jason & The Argonauts, The Adventures of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans. Harryhausen became a formidable influence on all the filmmakers who watched his movies as children, including Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. In order to mark 100 years since his birth, the National Galleries Scotland will be holding a retrospective of his work. The exhibition in Edinburgh's Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art will be dominated by Harryhausen’s creations, with impressive work from conservation teams keeping these rubber models in good condition decades after their creation. Harryhausen’s drawings and artwork will also be showcased prominently, demonstrating the extent of his talent and vision. In addition, Harryhausen’s collection of books and tools will be showcased, revealing the amount of research and effort which went into creating his creatures. The  National Galleries Scotland also promise to provide insights into Harryhausen’s life and the artists who inspired his unique approach. The artistic skills of special effects experts are often overlooked, so the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art exhibition makes a valuable case for recognising the creatives who bring fantasy worlds and characters to life on the big screen. 

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser (Runs June 27th – January 10th 2021)

In recent years, London's prestigious V&A Museum have provided exhibitions on major topics ranging from ranging from Opera and Winnie the Pooh to David Bowie and video games, but their examination of Alice In Wonderland promises to provide audiences with an entirely new and unique experience. Veteran stage designer Tom Piper is designing the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition, taking advantage of the underground exhibition space to really give audiences a trip down the rabbit hole into an exciting and mysterious immersive world. The exhibition will contain an incredible 300 items, showing how Lewis Caroll created Alice In Wonderland and exploring its impact on films, theatre, art and other aspects of popular culture. With illustrations for the original tale and costumes from theatrical versions sitting alongside paintings by the likes of Salvador Dali and Peter Blake, it promises to provide a fascinating insight into how Alice In Wonderland has inspired artists and creatives over the decades.

Cinderella Liberator & 3 New Fairytale Books (published in the UK in October) 

Last year, the feminist commentator Rebecca Solnit moved into children’s fiction with her feminist fairytale Cinderella Liberator. She created a modern update of the age-old Cinderella story, maintaining the theme of a girl escaping her miserable existence, but updating it for an audience sick and tired of traditional romantic clich├ęs. The story starts in the traditional way, with Cinderella going to the ball and losing her glass slipper, but instead of becoming a princess, Cinderella does something different and far more impressive with her life. Solnit honours the roots of her story by illustrating it with silhouettes created by the legendary fairy tale illustrator Arthur Rackham. This combination of old and new has unsurprisingly proved popular with fairy tale fans, so Cinderella Liberator is being published all over the world. However, to mark its arrival in Britain, publishers Vintage Books are providing a truly special treat. In addition to handling the UK publication of Cinderella Liberator, Vintage Books are publishing three more feminist spins on classic fairy tales, each written by an acclaimed British author. Kamila Shamsie is providing her own spin on The Ugly Duckling, and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit author Jeanette Winterson is adapting Hansel & Gretel Most excitingly, Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman, one of Britain’s best-loved writers, is creating a new take on Bluebeard. All three of these fairy tales are perfectly suited to feminist reinterpretations, and Shamsie, Winterson, and Blackman will all bring something unique and interesting to the table. Instead of providing one modern fairytale, Vintage Books will be providing four, and Cinderella Liberator and the three (currently unnamed) new books will really liven up autumn for British fairy tale fans. 


Formulae and Fairy Tales American Tour (performances begin February 5th)

Established in 2007, Invertigo Dance Company have become one of America’s most interesting dance companies, with their creative approach and focus on making dance accessible and modern. Their fascinating new production, Formulae and Fairy Tales, is going on tour in 2020 after an acclaimed world premiere in LA last year. The first performances of the tour will be at the Phillips Center in the University of Florida Performing Arts, and more will be announced soon. Formulae and Fairy Tales is based on the tragic story of the legendary code breaker Alan Turing, who was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal. After being imprisoned and forced into chemical castration, he committed with a poison apple, a method of death which fairy tale fans will instantly recognise from Snow White. The question of why a man whose life was based on codes and numbers would be so obsessed with the Snow White story is at the centre of this production, which highlights the contrast between Turing’s technical world and the fantastical, sinister world of fairy tales. Director Laura Karllin makes innovative use of projections to represent the AI and computer technology which Turing pioneered, and highlights the power of symbols in both technology and stories, with the forbidden apple unsurprisingly taking centre stage. Formulae and Fairy Tales represents proof that American ballet can tackle big ideas and topics in creative and original ways, and we can expect it to gain further accolades throughout 2020 – it wouldn’t be a surprise if the ballet also makes it beyond America…

The Prince of Egypt in the West End (Runs February 5th - September 12th)

Released in 1998, The Prince of Egypt is one of the finest Dreamwork's animated films. A take on the legendary Biblical story of Moses, it highlighted the epic nature of the story whilst developing the individuals who are at the centre of the events. With incredible images, fully formed characters and a strong soundtrack (including the Oscar-winning “When You Believe”), it proved that Disney were not the only studio who could create great animated musicals. Given the success of Disney’s theatrical musicals, it is not a surprise that Dreamworks are trying to break into the same market, and The Prince of Egypt is their second stage production after Shrek: The Musical. The Prince of Egypt shows how Moses, a Jewish child raised in the Pharaoh’s palace, must go up against his adoptive brother Rameses in order to rescue the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. The musical premiered in California in 2017, and has enjoyed two productions at Denmark, but the London production (taking place at the massive Dominion Theatre) will be the biggest outing yet for the musical. There will be new sets and costumes, and iconic composer Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) has added ten extra songs, including one for Moses called “Footprints in the Sand”, which is making its debut in this production. The Prince of Egypt is only having a limited 32-week run, so fans need to book tickets quickly if they want to see it in London. However, if it does well, we can expect further major productions all over the world, plus touring and amateur licensing, which could make The Prince of Egypt into a major money-spinner for Dreamworks…

A Monster Calls and The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe tour the UK (At various UK theatres throughout 2020)

With her acclaimed versions of stories like Jane Eyre and Peter Pan, Sally Cookson established herself as an expert in adapting classic literature and children’s stories for British theatre, and her status has grown even more in recent years. In 2018, her adaptation of Patrick Ness’ heartbreaking novel A Monster Calls premiered at the Old Vic, receiving critical acclaim and winning an Olivier Award. Cookson applied a minimalistic and imaginative approach to the tearjerking story of a troubled boy visited by a mysterious monster, and it will be great to see her production gain a second life. The tour starts at Chichester's Festival Theatre on February 6th, and will take the production across the UK, concluding on June 13th at the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Cookson is famous for her collaborative approach, so we can expect the new cast and crew to edit the production whilst also staying true to the powerful messages about how stories help us deal with grief, fear, and the uncertainties and contradictions of life. A Monster Calls won’t be the only Sally Cookson play travelling through Britain in 2020. In November, her adaption of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (currently playing at the Bridge Theatre in London) will also begin a four-month tour at Aylsebury's Waterside Theatre on November 20th, with a high-profile stop in Manchester's Lowry Theatre across the Christmas period. Both tours will provide plenty of entertainment for theatregoers whilst we wait for Cookson’s next innovative productions.

Once Upon A One More Time premieres in Chicago (Runs April 14th – May 17th)

Once Upon A One More Time is a jukebox musical dedicated to millennial guilty pleasure Britney Spears, using the songs of the pop princess to tell a unique story about fairy tale Princesses. It centres on a group of classic fairy tale princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, etc) who are becoming fed up with their lives and a book club where they are only able to read Brothers Grimm fairytales. However, when a fairy godmother introduces our heroines to the classic feminist text The Feminine Mystique, our leads are inspired to shake up their conventional fairytale world. The musical is premiering in April at Chicago’s Nederlander Theatre, which has often hosted trial runs for future Broadway productions. It was meant to premiere there in October 2019 but was delayed for unknown reasons. A possible factor may be the recent opening of the similar West End musical & Juliet, which pays tribute to Britney's regular songwriter/producer Max Martin and features five of her biggest hits on the soundtrack. However, Once Upon A One More Time will probably do something different with the likes of 'Baby One More Time' and 'Stronger' and will also feature eighteen other Britney anthems, ranging from hits such as 'Toxic', 'Lucky' and 'Sometimes' to more obscure songs. Ultimately, this musical will be judged on its own terms, separate from its rival across the Atlantic, although it should successfully tap into the same demand for trashy and colourful, yet strongly progressive, escapism. Once Upon A One More Time does well in its Chicago run, it could make it to Broadway, and provide some feminist fairytale fun for Britney’s fanbase.

Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella has its UK premiere (Runs May 9th – June 6th)

In 1957, a take on Cinderella from the legendary Broadway songwriters Rogers & Hammerstein’s premiered on TV. With a young Julie Andrews in the lead role, and wonderfully romantic songs such as “Ten Minutes Ago”, it proved a major hit, and has been adapted for stage and TV several times since - one notable 1997 TV adaptation featuring Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother. The musical was reworked for Broadway in 2013, with Douglas Carter Beane incorporating other Rogers & Hammerstein songs (such as “The Time is Now”), and appealing to modern progressive values by adding a subplot where Cinderella inspires her Prince to bring democracy to their kingdom. This new version received eight Tony Nominations (winning an award for Best Costume Design) and ran on Broadway for almost two years. Last year, a semi-staged version was performed at West London's Cadogan Hall, with Christine Allado, Diane Pilkington and Jac Yarrow in the leading roles. As a result of this increased publicity, the 2013 version of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is finally making its full stage debut in May, as it will be performed for four weeks at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre, which has become one of Manchester’s most notable independent theatres since it opened in 2015. It's unlikely that any big names will appear in this smaller production, but it will certainly increase the popularity of this musical with UK audiences, and open the door for further adaptations in the future.

What Else Can We Look Forward To?

There are plenty of fairy tale films, TV shows and other that we will learn more about later in the year. Disney’s new streaming service, Disney Plus will provide more fairy tale adventures for Disney fans, including Secret Society of Second Born Royals, which could be fun if it acknowledges the ludicrous nature of its premise (What if the second born children of royals had superpowers?) Other channels are also providing their own spins on the fairy tale genre. Adult Swim, the channel behind anarchic, provocative adult animations such as Rick and Morty and Robot Chicken, are applying their signature approach to fairy tales in a new animated series created by J.J. Villard. Fairy Tales promises to provide plenty of “gross weirdness”, whilst also retaining the “charm and cuteness” of the original fairy tales – can it do both? Meanwhile, British theatres are beginning to announce their plays and pantos for Christmas 2020. Things are still subject to change, but the Lyric Hammersmith will be retelling Aladdin, New Wimbledon Theatre will be adapting Dick Whittington, and Theatre Stratford East will be providing a less conventional choice with a Little Red Riding Hood panto. There are also plenty of treats for fairytale fans outside of the UK and US. In February, Sweden’s Millesgarden museum will open an exhibition about artist Gustaf Tenggren and his work with Disney. Finally, it is necessary to mention Tell A Fairy Tale Day on 26th February, where we are all able to create our own fairy tales and share them with the world. Overall, 2020 promises to be an excellent year for fans of fairy tales, with plenty to inspire and excite them.

Friday, 3 January 2020

2020 Fairy Tales - A Preview (Part One)

As 2020 starts, it's time to look at the culture and entertainment ahead of us in the next 52 weeks, and a lot of this will be adapted from or inspired by classic fairy tales, myths and legends, and children's stories. There are so many interesting things for fairytale fans to enjoy this year that this article is being split into two parts. The first part will feature Disney's biggest 2020 projects, and several films and TV shows from rival studios. The second part of this article will focus on theatre, literature and the arts.


Rapunzels Tangled Adventure/Tangled:The Series concludes (Sundays from January 12th-March 1st)

Since it premiered in March 2017, Rapunzels Tangled Adventure (Formerly known as Tangled: The Series) - the followup to Disney's 2010 smash Tangled - has established itself as one of the most interesting TV spinoffs of a Disney film. The show has expanded the world of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider Eugene Fitzherbert, giving them several new friends and enemies and a variety of exciting and unusual adventures. Though its additions to the Tangled universe have sometimes been hit and miss, Rapunzels Tangled Adventure has generally been a real treat for Tangled fans. The animation is brilliant, there are plenty of interesting and mature themes, and Alan Menken and Glenn Slater's songs are often superior to the ones featured in the original film. Despite gaining substantial online popularity, Rapunzels Tangled Adventure has often been treated terribly by the Disney Channel, who needlesssly changed the name of the show, put it on long hiatuses several times, and made various schedule changes which often left it stuck in inhospitable time slots.  Rapunzels Tangled Adventure is now nearing the end of its three-season run, with Rapunzel investigating the mysterious black rocks and trying to stop her former friend Cassandra from using the power of the moonstone to devastate the kingdom of Corona. The last set of episodes begin airing in January, resolving the grand arc whilst providing plenty of comedic adventures to lighten the tone. The show will conclude on March 1st with a three-part episode called "Plus Est En Vous" (French for "There's More In You", - a phrase featured in Rapunzel's diaries) and it will hopefully allow Rapunzels Tangled Adventure to gain the incredible finish it deserves.

Onward (Released March 6th) 

A major reason for Pixar’s rise to fame in the late 1990s was their decision to create a unique formula entirely separate from the Disney musicals of the era and their many imitators. Even with the lines between the two studios blurring later on in the Lasseter era, this distinction has generally been maintained, but Pixar dipped their toes into Disney-style classic fantasy with their 2012 film Brave, and Onward represents a far different take on the same subgenre. It is set in an alternate universe where mythical creatures live a mundane suburban life like our own, with unicorns prowling through gardens like foxes, and centaurs and fauns working in the police force. A pair of teenage elf brothers (voiced by the ever-popular Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) are given a magical staff which belonged to their father and contains some of the last magic in the world. They attempt to bring their deceased father back for one last day, but are only able to resurrect his bottom half, and have to go on a quest to find a way of restoring their father for real. The trailers have promised a wacky and comedic tone, but also given hinted that the film will do justice to the poignancy inherent in the premise. The first of two original Pixar films coming out in 2020, Onward promises to cement Pixar’s new direction under Pete Docter, maintaining the humour, heart and creativity of classic Pixar films whilst ensuring that there are enough changes to keep the studio feeling fresh and exciting.

Mulan (Released March 27th) 

Last year, Disney's live-action division broke records as their focus on remaking classic Disney animations resulted in billion-dollar grosses for their takes on Aladdin and The Lion King. However, the excessively faithful approach of these films annoyed many fans and critics, so Disney’s remake of their 1998 animated hit Mulan will represent a change in approach. Director Nikki Caro and screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver are creating a remake which will adopt a new tone and style whilst sticking to the same basic outline. Liu Yifei will play the titular heroine, who disguises herself as a man in order to fight in the Chinese army. The new version of Mulan is primarily targeted at Chinese audiences, so is making a variety of alterations which will make it closer to Chinese Martial Arts epics than traditional Disney musicals. Wisecracking sidekick Mushu has been replaced by a mute Phoenix, the villain will be working with a sinister shapeshifting witch (played by the prolific Gong Li) and there will be a lot less singing. A group of hardcore fans have been dismayed by these changes, and Caro will need to find ways of satisfying them without compromising her vision. There have also been concerns about how the project legitimises the authoritarian Chinese government (Not helped by Yifei's support of the Chinese-backed authorities in the Hong Kong riots). However, the trailers have generally been very well-received, and Mulan’s new approach could allow it to dodge comparisons with the original film. With many of Disney’s biggest hits already adapted by the live-action division, they will need to adopt a new and more innovative approach, and Mulan could lead the way in this regard.

Frozen arrives in the West End (Performances begin October 2020)

With Frozen 2 emulating the success of the first film and generally reviving interest in Anna and Elsa's world, it's a pretty good time to bring the 2018 Broadway adaptation of the original Frozen to the West End. Princess Anna's epic journey to find her older sister Elsa has been expanded into a 2 hour-plus spectacular for the stage, and this production will be reopening London’s massive Theatre Royal Drury Lane after 18 months of renovations. The inescapable songs from the original (including "Let It Go" and "Do You Want to Build A Snowman?") are joined by several new numbers including "Monster" and "What Do You Know About Love?". However, despite the popularity of the Frozen franchaise, this production still has a lot to prove. Whilst it has earned more than enough money to justify its international rollout, it hasn't emulated the success of The Lion King and did badly at the Tony Awards, only receiving three nominations in a very weak year. The new touring version of Frozen premiered in LA last month and made improvements (including brighter lighting and more colourful set designs) which will hopefully be incorporated into the West End version. Director Michael Grandage has promised that the Brits will get their own “bespoke” version, and has acquired an impressively big name to play Elsa, with Les Miserables fan favourite Samantha Barks headlining the cast as the powerful but vulnerable Ice Queen (We will find out who will play Anna in a few weeks, with the rest of the actors being announced later in the year). Grandage has been a West End icon since the late 1990s, so he will hopefully be putting extra effort into giving his home territory a truly special production of Frozen.

Raya and the Last Dragon (Released November 25th)

After two messy but enjoyable sequels in the form of Ralph Breaks the Internet and Frozen 2, Raya and the Last Dragon will be Disney Animation's first original animated movie in four years. Anticipation has been high since it was formally unveiled at the D23 Expo 2019, as it will pay tribute to the culture of East Asian nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines. The film has been written by Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim, who is working with a team of Disney veterans, including storyboard artist and animator Paul Briggs (making his directorial debut) and Moana producer Osnat Shurer. The film is set in a fantasy realm called Kumandra, and centres on a girl searching for a mysterious dragon who has taken on human form, The titular heroine Raya is voiced by half-Filipino, half-Canadian actress Cassie Steele, whilst Crazy Rich Asians breakout star Awkwafina will be voicing Sisu the dragon, who may be able to protect Raya and her kingdom from a mysterious dark force. Raya and the Last Dragon seems like it will be providing an East Asian spin on the formula established by Moana and Frozen 2, but with enough changes to provide it with its own identity. There seem to be no songs, and the tone seems to be inspired by Asian fantasy epics as much as fairy tale classics. If Raya and The Last Dragon sticks to its vision, it could allow Disney Animation’s recent revival to continue into the new decade.

Non-Disney films and TV

Gretel and Hansel (Released 31st January) 

Oz Perkins - The son of horror icon Anthony Perkins (famed for his role in the Hitchcock horror classic Psycho) - has made his name by writing and directing eerie gothic horrors such as The Blackcoats Daughter and I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In the House, and this take on the age-old story of Hansel and Gretel is his biggest project yet. Whilst other adult-orientated variations on the Brothers Grimm classic have often been lurid and trashy (such as 2013's Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), Gretel and Hansel promises a more restrained approach, whilst remaining scary and sinister. The creepiness implicit in the Brothers Grimm source material is brought to the forefront, with sinister houses, trees covered with children’s shoes, and a gross moment where the Witch pulls a long thread of hair out of her mouth. As the switching of names in the title implies, Gretel’s status as a strong and fearless female lead will also be emphasised, as she is now a teenager looking after her much younger brother – IT star Sophia Lillis will play Gretel, and her performance could mark her out as an actress to watch in the future. January releases are generally not known for their high quality, but Oz Perkins’ distinctive vision could make Gretel and Hansel into a pleasingly creepy standout.

Come Away and Wendy (Screening at the Sundance Film Festival 24th January-2nd Febuary)

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the first major events of the cinematic year, as a variety of independent films make their big screen debuts. This year, audiences will be treated to two unique takes on Peter Pan. One of the biggest films at the festival this year is Come Away, the live-action debut of animation icon Brenda Chapman, who has worked on films ranging from The Lion King to The Prince of Egypt. Come Away is about two children, Alice and Peter (played by Keira Chansa and Jordan Nash), who end up in a fantasy world as they try to deal with a death in the family and find themselves having to choose whether to stay in the real world or go into their imaginary landscape. A prequel to both Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, Come Away will explore the classic worlds these two protagonists will go on to inhabit, and the way they impact on their bond. Chapman has gathered a top-notch cast, with Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo playing the parents, and Michael Caine, Derek Jacobi and Clarke Peters also featuring prominently. Chapman’s first film after being controversially fired from Pixar’s Brave, Come Away could allow Chapman to fully showcase her ability at creating fairytale magic.

In contrast, Wendy is a much smaller production, but one which embodies the Sundance spirit perfectly. It is directed by Benh Zeitlin, whose drama Beasts of the Southern Wild was one of the breakthrough films at the 2012 Sundance Festival. Here, Wendy is a girl from modern America, who lives with her family in a diner. The unusual Peter takes Wendy and her brothers to a Neverland suspended in time by a mysterious pollen, but a series of threats to this world means that Wendy needs to take responsibility and save all the children on the island.  Zetlin announced the project in 2013, just after Beasts of the Southern Wild became an unlikely Oscars contender, but it has taken over six years to bring his idea to life  The winning formula of Beasts of the Southern Wild is being maintained for Wendy, with a cast of newcomers (including Devin France as Wendy and Yashua Mack as Peter) a mysterious and oddly magical tone, and a depiction of a wonderful but endangered natural world. Amusingly, Wendy has been produced by the Disney-owned Fox Searchlight, but it could not be more different from the action-packed approach of Disney blockbusters, making it a great alternative to more mainstream fairytales. Come Away does not have a confirmed release date, but it should come out at some point later in the year. Meanwhile, Wendy will be released in America on 28th Febuary. We can expect both productions to entertain and enchant fairytale fans all over the world during 2020.

The Secret Garden (Released 17th April in UK) 

Since it was first published in 1911, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden has become a staple for many children, Over a century after the first known film adaptation, audiences are getting a new version which will introduce a new generation to this story. The Secret Garden tells the story of Mary, a girl who is sent from India to live in the house where her late aunt lived. Mary initially hates life in Misselthwaite Manor but meeting two other children and discovering an incredible hidden garden allows her to change the lives of the people around her, and become a better person herself. Dixie Egerickx will play Mary, Colin Firth (who had an early role in the 1987 Hallmark version of this tale) plays guardian Archibald Craven, whilst Julie Walters is the authoritarian housekeeper Mrs. Medlock. Screenwriter Jack Thorne was recently behind the TV adaptation of His Dark Materials, so he knows a thing or two about adapting classic children’s stories. This new version has two big changes. Firstly, it will be set in 1947, meaning that the partition of India and the aftermath of World War Two will be major influences on the lives of our characters. Second, it will take advantage of the rise of CGI to bring the titular Garden to life in a new and impressive way. This will not be the only version of The Secret Garden in the UK this Spring. A semi-staged concert version of the 1991 stage musical adaptation will be staged at the London Palladium on April 4th, with Ramin Karmaloo, Lucie Jones and Jac Yarrow amongst the performers. Both the film and the concert will succeed in demonstrating the continued appeal of the timeless source material.

Cursed (released in 2019)

Since Wicked premiered on Broadway, writers have got mileage out of classic fairy tales and legends by shifting their focus to the supporting cast, The Netflix series Cursed promises to refresh the tale of King Arthur by explaining the origins of the mysterious Lady of the Lake. Cursed is based on a recent novel of the same name created by an unlikely writing team: Thomas Wheeler, a screenwriter and producer who has worked on animated films such as Puss in Boots and The Lego Ninjango Movie, and Frank Miller, the legendary illustrator behind violent and gritty graphic novels such as 300, The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City. Both are executive producers on the Netflix adaptation, working with Silenn Thomas and Zetna Fuentes. Cursed tells the story of Nimue, a girl with mysterious powers who ends up in control of a mysterious sword after her family is murdered. She teams up with a mercenary named Arthur to return the sword to Merlin whilst fighting the soldiers responsible for the crime and the tyrannical ruler who enabled them. The cast will be headed by Katherine Longford, who came to prominence in the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, and she will be joined by rising star Devon Terrell as Arthur. Adaptations of Arthurian legends have flopped in recent years, but Cursed’s more epic approach and contemporary themes (about respecting nature and resisting tyranny) mean it could gain wider appeal. Netflix have recently put a lot of effort into fantasy series in recent years and Cursed could be an interesting companion to the likes of Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and The Witcher, whilst successfully winning over a different audience.

The Witches (Released October 9th)

Probably the most iconic children's author of the late 20th century, Roald Dahl provided unique stories which drew on classic fairytale tropes and combined the wondrous and the sinister. The influence of Norwegian mythology on his work was most evident in The Witches, one of his scariest stories. This Whitbread prize-winning tale of a boy who tries to stop the titular villains turning children into mice was adapted into a cult favourite film in 1990, but this new version promises to take a different direction. Although it will be closer to the source material than the earlier movie (Dahl famously hated the happier ending) it is relocating the action to 1960s Alabama, which should provide the opportunities to bring the fight for fight for Civil Rights into the story. Newcomer Jahzir Bruno will play the unnamed protagonist, with Octavia Spencer as his supportive, witch-hunting grandma. However, the main draw is Anne Hathaway, playing the monstrous Grand High Witch. The film is being produced by Guilermo Del Toro, king of adult fairy tale films, and Alfonso Cuaron, who came to prominence after successfully adapting A Little Princess and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Due to their busy schedules, they have given the directorial reins to Robert Zemeckis, (Although Del Toro had a hand in creating the screenplay). Although his status has waned over the last couple of decades, Zemeckis has directed some truly brilliant films in the past (Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump), and hopefully The Witches will be a deliciously creepy return to form for him.

Part Two is coming soon!

Friday, 13 December 2019

Dick Whittington and his Cat (Hackney Empire) - Review

Image result for hackney empire panto 2019

When Is It On?

This production of Dick Whittington and his Cat is running at the Hackney Empire until January 5th

Who Made It?

This production was written and directed by Susie McKenna, who has been behind every Hackney Empire pantomime since 1998. She is assisted by several regular collaborators, including songwriter Steven Edis, musical director Mark Dickman and designer Lotte Collett.

What’s it About?

In the aftermath of World War 2, the Empire Windrush arrives in London full of immigrants seeking a new life in the city. One of these is Dick Whittington (played by Tarinn Callender). He reunited with his mother, Dame Sarah (played by Clive Rowe) and finds a job in a shop ran by Alderman Firzwarren (played by Tony Whittle) and his feisty daughter Alice (played by Christina Tedders). Our hero is aided by the Fairy Bowbells (played by Sue Kelvin), who supports in in various ways, including turning his pet cat into an energetic half-human, half-feline called Uncle Vincent (played by Kat B).Unfortunately for Dick, he also attracts the unwanted attention of the villainous Queen Rat (played by Annette McLaughlin), who cooks up several schemes to ensure Dick won’t foil her plans to take over London.


(Note: This review contains spoilers. The formulaic nature of pantomimes (or pantos for short)  is part of their appeal, but the reveal of key comedy and action scenes could be seen as spoilerific for those who want to see these fresh)

Since 1998, the Hackney Empire pantomime has become a major Christmas event in London’s East End. The prolific writer/director Susie McKenna has consistently produced pantomimes which combine the traditional wacky formula of songs and slapstick with creative updates and strong messages. Her latest production is a new take on the classic British panto Dick Whittington, which turns the real life story of a medieval London mayor into a fairytale about a young man who finds fame, fortune and love in the city. McKenna puts a unique spin on the familiar story, following most of the traditional beats whilst keeping things fresh, engaging and comedic. The 2019 production of Dick Whittington and his Cat represents another excellent pantomime from McKenna and her team.

No-one goes to a panto for the story, but there is just enough to provide focus and coherence here. The big selling point of this production is the Post-War setting, with Dick being one of the Carribean immigrants who arrived in Britain on the Windrush after the war. According to the programs, this twist was inspired by the story of Sam King, a Windrush immigrant who eventually became Lord Mayor Of Southwark. However, anyone who wants a detailed exploration should expect disappointment, as the history of the era is handled in a simplistic fashion. The broad basics of Post-War life are acknowledged, such as the rationing, the racial prejudice against black and Irish people, and the need to rebuild after the war, but otherwise there is little for historians. That said, this is not the production for these people. Covering the history in too much detail would case the production to become a play rather than a pantomime, and where's the fun in that? There are also some amusing allusions to the real Whittington and even a reference to the hospital in Highgate named after him. No-one goes to a pantomime to learn, but if any children are inspired to examine the history of Hackney, Dick Whittington and the Windrush immigrants, that will always be a good thing.

However, pantos are always about style over substance, with music, comedy and action allowing the Hackney pantomime team to turn a 20 minute story into a 2 hours plus extravaganza. As usual, the panto is crammed with familiar songs (old and new) which are somewhat connected to the story. Dame Sarah belts out "And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going" and "Good as Hell", Fairy Bowbells sings classic Motown songs, whilst Queen Rat has a villain song which mashes up elements of "7 Rings" and "Bad Guy", and also covers "Sweet but Psycho". Some of the musical choices are genuinely inspired. An early song is based on "London Is The Place To Be", the calypso anthem featured in the Paddington films (another brightly coloured celebration of immigrants in Britain). Meanwhile, the use of "Rewrite the Stars" as Dick and Alice's love song highlights the parallels between their experience and Phillip and Anne's star-crossed romance in that film. These numbers provide a bit more depth and substance than you would expect in the pantomime genre, whilst keeping the basic sense of fun created by talented actors singing familiar songs.

The best thing about this production is the cast. All the lead stars have extensive stage experience, and it shows throughout. As Dick, Tarinn Callender is a likeable hero, and his recurring cover of "The Impossible Dream" brings heart to the human element of the story. The Irish-accented plays a feisty take on Alice Fitzwarren, a more active character who wants to see the world. Her voice is the weakest of the cast, but her cover of  "Higher Love" late in the first act proves strong. Annette McLaughlin chews the scenery as Queen Rat whilst Sue Kelvin is a pleasingly flamboyant Fairy Bowbells. Both have no trouble speaking their lines in Verse and are really enjoying themselves on stage. Meanwhile, Hackney panto regular Kat B is excellent as Uncle Vincent the Cat, even if the character is a lot less active in the story than cats should be in Dick Whittington retellings, he is a consistently lively and performer. His highlight is an impressive cover of the Disney classic "Everybody Wants to Be A Cat", where he replicates the jazzy growl of original singer Scatman Crothers whilst also providing something unique However, the one actor who truly makes the production worth seeing is resident Dame Clive Rowe, appearing in his 13th Hackney panto. It’s not hard to see why Rowe is one of Britain’s most iconic dames. Outside panto, Rowe often plays imposing characters (he played the sinister Papa Ge in the West End version of Once On This Island and McKenna's 2009 revival), so it’s a real treat to see him go “all buns glazing” into the role of uninhibited baker Dame Sarah, providing sweets to the audience and having a chat with a random theategoer in the stalls. The real test of a Panto is whether it can keep the audience engaged throughout, and the cast all succeed in keeping our attention.

The sets and visuals are strong throughout the production. The first act takes place in London and replicates the drab, bombed out colours of the era whilst keeping the set warm and inviting. For the second half of the show, things take a more fantastical turn as our five leads go under the sea and help a mermaid find an extremely valuable shell. This cause the Post-War theme to be dropped almost entirely (which is a shame), but has positive side effects. Mermaid Maia (played by Jemma Geanaus) is a lively and spirited princess, and a creative update of the Sultan who usually seeks Dick's help in the second half of Dick Whittington pantomimes. She combines a desire to look after her domain with an unlikely romance with Uncle Vincent. The underwater and tropical island imagery used in these scenes is lovely and surprisingly atmospheric.

The show also features some impressive special effects. The quick change used to turn an ordinary but large cat into Uncle Vincent is pretty impressive, and the shipwreck which ends act one adds enough danger to keep us invested in the story (there is never any genuine danger in pantomimes, but there should be just enough to leave audiences wondering how the show will get to its happy ending). The wire work used for Maia the Mermaid and Fairy Bowbells is effectively fluid, and there is a memorable action scene where a cute baby gorilla is turned into a giant monster for Dick and his friends to fight. However, the most memorable is a simple but impressive effect which opens wash act, as the screen turns translucent to reveal the characters behind it. It’s pretty simple, but communicates the fairytale tone with wonderful efficiency - it really creates the sense that this is a fantasy world. The costumes are pretty grand as well, with Dick and Alice getting pleasingly authentic 1940s fashions, whilst Vincent the Cat  has a fishy tie to accompany his cat tail and ears. To the surprise of no one, Dame Sarah has all the grandest costumes, shifting from giant yellow and green dresses to purple outfits, Carmen Miranda-inspired tropical headdresses and a grand wedding dress inspired by the pearly kings and queens of the East End. The fairy tale designs in panto are merely a coat hanger for all the music and comedy, but the are pretty effective in this regard, supporting the tone whilst providing the magic and wonder that could also work in a more serious production.

Despite the old fashioned setting, the humour is often very modern, with intentionally anachronistic jokes about Just Eat adverts, Primark and Fleabag. There is also a healthy streak of political humour, fitting given the fact the show premiered in the midst of the British general election campaign. Queen Rat has a henchman called Boris (played by Tom Lloyd), and this leads to several digs at notoriously self-serving Conservative British prime minister Boris Johnson (As Queen Rat tells him “If you lie often enough, some people will believe anything you say”). Johnson’s recent resounding win in this election will probably lead to this satire gaining a more vicious edge, but it still stays within the gentle and upbeat tone of the show. However, whilst the political jokes are amusing in their way, the most powerful messages come at the end, as the cast instructs the audience to “listen to the children” and improve the world by “speaking out wherever you go”. With its celebration of immigrants, and messages about challenging discrimination and looking after the natural world, Dick Whittington and his Cat communicates a strongly progressive set of politics, but it is never preachy, with things staying broad enough to please audiences regardless of political persuasion.

Aside from the story and messages, there is plenty of silly jokes and broad farce which can appeal to all ages. Sarah and Uncle Vincent throw cream pies at Alderman Fitzwarren, Alice tries disguising herself as a man in order to go sailing, and the characters always remain a few steps behind the audience. There are several lines which adults have heard a few times before, but are still funny (“I don’t mind dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens") We also her a few saucy innuendos around Dick’s name, but these are tame compared to the filth Julian Clary provides in the London Palladium pantos, and kids won't have a problem with them. As you may expect, plenty of jokes will cause more serious viewers to groan with embarrassment, but the sheer energy and enthusiasm makes this a pretty amusing production. 

In the grand panto tradition, the entertainment goes on for a bit beyond the inevitable happy ending. We are treated to an interactive cat song called "Cool Cat Chat", a sequence where Dame Sarah reads our birthday notices and thanks the band for their hard work, and a grand wedding for all three of the romantic couples. If things drag a bit at this point, the energetic concluding cover of Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" makes it all worthwhile. It is pointless to judge Panto by the standards of more traditional storytelling, but Dick Whittington and his Cat succeeds as pure entertainment. The lack of story can cause things to drag at times, but there are always impressive songs, amusing jokes and impressive effects just around the corner. It is certainly the escapist entertainment which the British public require right now. 


The Hackney Empire production of Dick Whittington and his Cat provides all the family friendly fun you would expect from a panto, with a charming and charismatic cast providing plenty of amusing comedy and catchy songs.  Even if the production could have done more with its Post-War setting, it still has interesting themes and ideas, and a magical atmosphere which make it satisfying for those who prefer more conventional forms of theatre. Dick Whittington and his Cat is definitely worth seeing, whether you are a keen pantomime geek or totally unfamiliar with the genre.