Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs ~ Malvern Theatres

Star rating: *****

Our pantomime season has kicked off late this year, however the first of the festive treats that we’ve been able to attend has surely set the bar high, as a five star extravaganza and perfect family pantomime – Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at Malvern Theatres is not to be missed.

Starring the wonder that is Hi De Hi! star, Su Pollard, as the Wicked Queen, the show transported me back to the traditional pantomimes I was brought up watching. Thanks to exceptional comedy performances from Pollard, Mark James as Muddles and Philip Meeks as Dolly, there were plenty of laughs to be had and the jokes worked on every level, too. My four year old son all but rolled in the aisles with mirth at the physical comedy from Mark James, while I was entertained by the tongue in cheek, political references and occasional overt smut from Philip Meeks who shone in an amazing array of outfits! He was certainly the mistress of quick changes too. Francesca McKean was a gentile and sweet Snow White, she was the epitome of easy-going, naive Princess. Aidan Banyard possessed the stance, winning smile and qualities of the dashing Prince. The Dwarfs were all glorious, too with Soppy (Charlotte Fawbert) being my favourite. However it was Pollard who stole the show, a wicked laugh like no other, commanding the stage in her unique way and her vocal ability when it came to the musical numbers was quite extraordinary.

There were numerous songs moving the action along, a nod towards The Greatest Showman, Shrek the Musical and the hugely successful and popular artist, George Ezra as well as Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Choreography courtesy of Alastair Bull, was eye-catching and befitting for the genre. The scenery provided an atmospheric backdrop suitable for the story and moved seamlessly.

My personal highlight was the Twelve Days of Christmas, performed by Muddles, Dolly, the Prince and Grouchy the Dwarf (Craig Salisbury), it never fails to be a favourite pantomime tradition of mine. The mayhem and chaos of the scene had the audience in fits of laughter. The five toilet rolls gag proved as popular as ever.

UK Productions really know their stuff when it comes to the simplicity and heart of the genre of pantomime and Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs left my party feeling like Christmas had finally begun. Book your tickets now: Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

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Claire Richards ~ Town Hall, Birmingham

Star rating: *****

Claire Richards has long been my best-loved member of of pop band Steps, her vocal ability is so extraordinary that waiting for her signature ‘belt’ to make an appearance in the back catalogue of Steps hits has become rather customary. When I knew she was planning to go solo it was quite a moment, I was so excited to hear her album and the tour has been on my hit-list since back in the summer. The album ‘My Wildest Dreams‘ has been delayed until 1 February 2019, but she promises it will be worth the wait – and from the sound of the various numbers the singer treated us to during her solo gig, it definitely will be worth the wait!

Looking the epitome of chic elegance, Claire sang us through numerous songs from her album, some I was familiar with and already love listening to and the others that were new to my ears I already know I will want to play over and over. This incredible lady has created a perfect first solo album in my humble opinion. She was nervous, at least that’s what she told the audience, but she’s the master of hiding nerves if she truly felt that way! As one number rolled into another the atmosphere buzzed and every member of the crowd was on her side willing her to be as brilliant as she absolutely was.

With Christmas just around the corner, ‘My Heart Is Heading Home (This Christmas)’ was a welcome choice on the set list, you can download that ready for the festive season too – I highly recommend you do. ‘End Before We Start’ which already has an official video was sensational live, ‘On My Own’ is equally moving and I feel it represents the star’s solo journey. The title track ‘My Wildest Dreams’ is also lyrically heartfelt and yet another song which was performed beautifully live. ‘Deep Waters’ is gloriously upbeat and upped the vibe in the venue. ‘Brave’ is the only self-penned tune and possibly one of my overall favourites, I can identify with the message and it’s a fitting tribute to her children and to motherhood.

Of course there was a nod towards Claire’s ‘day job’ as a member of Steps with stripped back versions of ‘Deeper Shade of Blue’ and ‘One for Sorrow’ which were a welcome addition to the set. However, it was her performance of Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ which was the biggest revelation of the night and rocked Town Hall, Birmingham.

If you have the chance to see Claire Richards performing her solo gig, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that you go. It was an amazing evening of wonderful music and there’s no doubt that this path is right for her, it’s about time!

Check out Claire Richards’ website for all the latest news: Claire Richards Website

Pre-order the album ‘My Wildest Dreams’ here, just click the image:

BBC Good Food Show ~ NEC, Birmingham

The BBC Good Food Show has been on my radar for years so to be able to experience the Winter Good Food Show has been a dream come true. With top Chefs like Mary Berry, James Martin and Michael Roux Jr. displaying their culinary talents in the Big Kitchen and a whole host of action on the smaller stages, combined with the opportunity to attend workshops – it couldn’t have been a better way to begin rounding off my reviewing calendar. Plenty of food and drink too, samples at every turn and bargains galore which is a perfect Christmas shopping option too.

Television Presenter; Chris Bavin was on hand on the Seasonal Kitchen stage to talk us through the various recipes that might be useful during the festive season.

The Winter Kitchen was also a fun place to be, seating capacity was just right for the numbers in attendance and the well placed screens

There was a Pop up restaurant for anyone wishing to wine and dine in style – it was set up beautifully, looked exceptionally inviting and might be on my wish list of things to do next year!

Book signings from a few of the culinary guests were a particular feature occurring frequently throughout the show. Any of those fabulous books would have been an ideal Christmas gift.

Skills School places need to be booked as soon as possible as they sell out but they look well worth attending. Sourdough Masterclass with Denise Tollyfield and Knife Skills were on offer.

The Good Food Show offers a unique shopping experience with sweet and savoury food as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments all available to sample and purchase. A big shout out must go to the gluten free sponge cakes from Sponge – they were like a drop of heaven, so delicious and spectacularly presented in gorgeous boxes. We also enjoyed gingerbread mallows, massive crisps (the chilli flavour were a particular favourite) and fudge.

My team and I can hardly wait for the summer edition of the show, my 4 year old son got as much out of it as we did – he especially loved the Haribo from Chris Bavin!

 

 

 

 

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