Sunday 20 October 2019

The Snow Queen, Gaiety Theatre, Dublin: 'Musical mashup of the Greatest Showman and Disney’s Frozen had everyone singing on their feet'

Louise Bowden as the Snow Queen, Nicholas Grennell as
Louise Bowden as the Snow Queen, Nicholas Grennell as "Jack Frost" and once again Joe Conlan as the Panto Dame. Also pictured are Ellie Mooney (11) playing Rosie and Charlie Gill (10) playing Robin. PIC: Arthur Carron
Fiona Ness

Fiona Ness

If, for you, 2018 will be remembered as the year of living cautiously, then you obviously haven’t been to the Panto.

Bold and bawdy, this year’s Gaiety pantomime is true to its genre’s disarmingly irreverent form as it struts its all-singing, all-dancing stuff across the Dublin theatre’s stage. Social stereotypes, vegans, gender-fluid Alicorns, Brexiteers, evil queens, people from Cork, mammies who can’t floss, and their grotty little offspring, all come in for a gentle ribbing (along with that bald man in the second row from the front). But, in keeping with the time-honoured tradition of anarchic comedy, it’s all done in the best possible taste.

The Gaiety’s Snow Queen opens with a show-stopping number through which the players outline their manifesto for a fun-filled “two-hour, live action, barely affordable show”. Here, they tell us, is a ‘spectacular spectacular’ worth powering down your phone for. And the message couldn’t be more prescient.

There’s a massive energy in the Gaiety’s ensemble cast, which features veteran panto dame Joe Conlon as Granny Hurdy Gurdy, and Ciara Lyons returning as leading lady Rosie. An expert, multi-jobbing chorus (complete with a sprinkling of embarrassingly talented Billy Barry kids) make the magic happen as Louise Bowden tantalises in the role of the eponymous Snow Queen.

The Snow Queen with Louise Bowden as the Snow Queen, Nicholas Grennell as Jack Frost and once again Joe Conlan as the Panto Dame. PIC: Arthur Carron
The Snow Queen with Louise Bowden as the Snow Queen, Nicholas Grennell as Jack Frost and once again Joe Conlan as the Panto Dame. PIC: Arthur Carron

On opening night, this musical mashup of the Greatest Showman and Disney’s Frozen had everyone singing on their feet as the snow came down in big soapy bubbles all around.

There is a flavour of feminist retelling in this, the loosest of loose interpretations of a fairy-tale classic. Independent woman Rosie (Lyons) sets out to save her bestie Robin from the clutches of the evil queen – but not before she’s told him to get with the programme. At this rate, Robin might well be better off captive in the Snow Queen’s frozen palace, his heart turning slowly to ice.

With the plotline skating on extremely thin ice, writer, director and choreographer Daryn Crosbie plays strongly to the Gaiety panto’s musical strengths. Madcap adventure unfurls through toe-tapping interludes with Grab-Bags - an archetypal Dublin hunzo with her bling-tastic girl squad, and the comedic timing of a pair of angry birds from the Real Capital who delight in crowing about Cork.

Back at the palace, Robin has been set the impossible task of mastering every Fortnite dance before the end of the panto, or he will succumb to the Snow Queen’s power forever. The intergenerational dance-off that ensues brings a welcome dollop of nostalgia for the adults struggling to understand the appeal of Baby Shark, while an ice-skating Granny Hurdy-Gurdy slices through the controversy to make Baby it’s Cold Outside all her own.

Sound like you just might allow yourself to enjoy it? Yes, me too.

The Snow Queen runs at the Gaiety until January 20

Read more: It's panto season so raise the roof! Here's what on across the country

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