Review: Red Riding Hood – The Rock ‘N Roll Panto

Christmas starts for me with a visit to the panto, and what a Christmas cracker this one is at Leeds City Varieties with a hugely talented cast, fabulous set design and 110 per cent enthusiasm from the performers. The show has all the traditions associated with pantomime – the costumes, gags, men dressed as women – but this really is a panto with a difference. The music is a huge part of the show and really gets the whole audience rocking in the aisles. If they are not personally singing or acting at the time, each of the actors plays an instrument as part of the band.

There is only a cast of ten – no dancers, no chorus, but this in no way detracts and there is a terrific set design by Judith Croft, who has slightly extended the stage.

It is very difficult to single out individuals for specific praise as they all collectively play such a major part, but there are a number of accolades I must make. Firstly, Simon Nock as Grandma Millicent Merry. After an absence of five years Simon is back as the Dame and how we have missed him! In my opinion he is one of the best pantomime dames on the circuit and plays the part to perfection. His singing performances in Relight my Fire and Since You’ve Been Gone brought the house down.

I must also mention Kenny Davies, our local lad from Leeds playing the parts of Ruffles and Jack Frost. This is Kenny’s ninth successive pantomime at the City Varieties and each year he gets better with his humour and was perfect for these particular parts. And for the first time in nine years, he actually gets some romance in this particular production! He also had more singing numbers which he performed superbly.

I was also highly impressed by Lucy Keirl as Red Riding Hood whose renditions of songs including I Wanna Dance With Somebody and The Edge of Glory (with the Prince) were excellent. Ben Mabberley was also excellent as the Prince. Another performer with an excellent voice was Claire Greenway as Fairy Cherry Blossom, with her solo number of Happy.

Any panto worth its salt has to have the inevitable baddie! Ben Stratton as Sir Jasper and Lupus the Wolf typified the archetypal baddie who was booed at every occasion possible.

Rob Salmon the director kept the show moving at a good pace and the overall musical direction was by Dan de Cruz. Whilst this was very much a panto for the kids, there were enough innuendos and double-entendres sprinkled to keep the adults highly amused as well. This was a great night out and the public have another month in which to catch this brilliant production as it runs until Sunday, January 12 January. To book visit or call (0113) 2430808.

John Burland