Pantomimes at New Wimbledon Theatre have recently put a big international name at the top of the bill and surrounded the star with solid performers who know exactly how to navigate from a "Behind You!" to an "Oh No He Isn't!" keeping the fourth wall sufficently intact to keep the show on the road.
Last year, Dame Edna Everage lorded it from on high (literally), providing a detached, acid commentary on the ridiculous events surrounding her. This year, Priscilla Presley - yes, the Priscilla Presley - is right at the heart of the show: a glamorous, villainous Queen and an actress who shows that she has lost none of her comic timing since wowing us in The Naked Gun franchise. After a turn on the American version of Strictly, she can move like a woman half her age too. She gets great support from New Zealander (not Australian - oh no he isn't) Jarred Christmas, who gets most of the gags, and the leader of the seven dwarfs, Warwick Davis, whose charisma (and that of his six co-workers) diffuses any sense of unease about exploiting physical differences.
The show works so well because scriptwriter and veteran Dame Eric Potts and director Ian Talbot stick so closely to the big panto formula: don't go more than five minutes without a laugh; throw in plenty of pop culture references and leave room for ad libbing; aim half the jokes at the kids and half at the adults; ensure that the live music and the singing are top drawer; make all the costumes glitter under the brightest of lights; and send the audience home knowing that they all lived happily ever after. Stir in the warmth with which the oh so familiar story of Snow White is held, and you can't miss.
(There's an added wrinkle in this show. Ms Presley - who has had some "work" done - repeatedly implores the mirror to confirm that she is more fair than 18 year-old Snow White. After what she went through under the knife of an unlicensed surgeon, that shows admirable sang-froid or admirable professionalism - or both.)
Snow White (at New Wimbledon Theatre until January 13) is not the cheapest panto in town, but you can see every penny of the ticket price up there, on the stage. Indeed, it's worth the money just to see the kids' faces light up as the dwarfs march through the stalls giving it the "Heigh Ho" before we all join in!