Mother Goose

"Good old-fashioned entertainment done brilliantly well!"

For me, Pantomime is one of the most enjoyable art forms we have in this country and when I heard that Ian McKellen was bringing Mother Goose to the stage, I knew I had to see it and it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made! This show is pure perfection from start to finish….let me tell you why!

The most endearing thing about this Pantomime is the simplicity of the staging (Liz Ascroft).  There are no big LED displays, no flying carpets, or pyrotechnics, as simply put, the show is the star and does not need all the bells and whistles you may find on the current Panto circuit.  It feels fresh, but also in the same breath feels very traditional.  Written by Jonathan Harvey, the humour runs throughout and my face is still aching the following day as I’m writing!  There is a lot of very silly humour making the show perfect for adults and children alike.

We first see John Bishop on stage, out of costume, who comes on to give us a rundown of how the evening will unfold.  We are told a little Pantomime history about how the good fairy always enters on the left side of the stage (as you look at it) and the bad fairy always enters on the right side.  We are told when to shout out, who to boo and who to clap.  As a seasoned stand-up comic, John Bishop is a complete professional and instantly has the audience laughing.

The Pantomime starts and instantly draws you in with an incredible cast of animals, all looked after by Mother Goose (Ian McKellen) at the local vacant Debenhams store.  A particular stand out for me was Bat (Richard Leeming) whose comic timing was absolutely spot on.  Each animal had their own back story and bought wonderful energy throughout.  We also meet Jack, played magnificently by Oscar Conlon-Morrey.  Another performer with exquisite comic timing, Oscar shines off the stage playing the slightly dim Jack.  The rapport between McKellen & Bishop, as his on stage parents was fabulous with many moments where real laughs could be seen on their faces during their many routines together, especially the baking of a cake where hilarity was in full force.

We also meet Cilla Quack (Anna-Jane Casey) who ends up in the care of Mr & Mrs Goose and becoming their financial savour with her golden eggs.  Casey is a complete vision on stage, with a voice to match.  Her rendition of ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ is nothing short of perfection and also during the curtain call we hear further vocal brilliance during ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’.  The show is peppered with absolute musical treats, including the opening number of Apache Indian’s ‘Boom Shak-A-Lak’ which is so left field as an opener, it’s inspired! We are also entertained by some musical theatre classics such as ‘One’ from A Chorus Line.

Local Wolverhampton girl Simbi Akande joins the fun as Jill Bills, initially sent by ‘The Energy Company’ to throw the Goose’s and their menagerie of animals out of the Debenhams store due to non-payment of their bill, but later finding love with Jack (Oscar Conlon-Morrey).  As with all the cast members in this production, Akande provided a wonderful comical performance alongside Conlon-Morrey and her vocals stood out during ‘Born This Way’.

I must make mention of the good fairy Encanta (Sharon Ballard) and the bad fairy Malignia (Karen Mavundukure) and their incredible vocal talent. Ballard and Mavundukure provided some wonderful harmonies during ‘Enough is Enough’.  In fact, all the musical numbers in this show showcased the incredible cast under the musical direction of James Keay.  The songs chosen slotted in perfectly and some just came out of nowhere raising a smile with their level of delightful campness!

Now I must talk about Ian McKellen’s costumes.  He was a complete vision in each outfit.  There were multiple changes throughout the show, lavish, opulent and stylish was the order of the day with feathers, faux furs and headpieces that showcased the wonderful work by costumer designer Liz Ascroft. 

I don’t often use the word legend, however where Ian McKellen is concerned it is the perfect word.  He is on stage around 80% of the time getting involved in dance numbers, providing witty recourse to John Bishops character and even shoe horning in a Shakespearian snippet, showcasing why he is one of the country’s leading actors with an obvious passion for Pantomime.

There are so many wonderful moments during this show that I really urge you to visit if you can.  You will come out smiling from ear to ear, which is always a successful night at the theatre for me!  Good old-fashioned entertainment done brilliantly well!

This show was reviewed on the 22nd February 2023.  The show runs at the Wolverhampton Grand until the 26th February 2023. Tickets available here: https://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/mother-goose/

Full tour details for Mother Goose can be found here: https://mothergooseshow.co.uk/

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