For my own part, no sooner had I read the tweet from Aberdeen Performing Arts, at whose flaghip venue, the opulent Frank Matcham designed His Majesty's Theatre, Lee would be appearing in Snow White from 1 December 2018 to 6 January 2019, than I was on their website checking out tickets - front row for the final show? Thank you very much, that will do nicely... for a start!
Once I'd rounded up a gaggle of travel companions, I added more shows to that trip and more trips to the diary, in the end making the long journey north three times - in reality, flying from my local airport, the journey door to door was only a little over an hour longer than the drive to Southend last year, and roughly the same as the trip to Plymouth for Robin Hood back in 2013, while Meady economics (invaluable in justifying otherwise unlikely tour itineraries) helped us to calculate that a weekend in Aberdeen including flights, hotel and panto tickets cost less per show than the ticket price alone for the Palladium's Cinderella in 2016!
But enough of the logistics, what of the show? It was Lee's Snow White debut (in the show I hasten to add, not in the role - he was of course playing Prince Harry!), in a QDOS Pantomimes production written by its very own dame Alan McHugh aka Nurse Nellie McDuff and also starring Jordan Young as Muddles, Juliet Cadzow as the wicked Queen Lucretia and Jenna Innes as Snow White. Completing the line-up were a magnificent septet of full-grown men with knees of iron as the dwarfs, an ensemble whose vocal and dancing talent was out-shone only by the dazzle of their smiles and two wonderful teams of babes from Aberdeen Academy of Dance.
It was of course an absolute riot... of colour and laughter, singing and dancing, boos and 'oh no you're nots', and if the sheer Davro-esque anarchy of last year's Jack and the Beanstalk was a little more muted north of the border, there was no doubting the audiences' huge appreciation for their brand of panto delivered with exquisite timing and great warmth by a company at the top of their game. The comedy came largely from McHugh and Young - a well-established Aberdeen panto double-act - with no 'wall scene' or '12 days of Christmas' type opportunities for Lee to get his comic teeth into. I felt that was something of a missed opportunity, though the three did join forces for a very funny sketch in which magic Haribos (Torry-bos, rather) had Prince Harry speaking Doric with the other two like a native Aberdonian, their unusually high-pitched voices courtesy of some talented local youngsters - if you've seen the Haribos ad with adults voiced by children, you'll get the picture!
Thankfully, however, there was plenty of opportunity for Lee to showcase his incredible voice with four songs including, almost inevitably in this year of 'The Greatest Showman', two from that film - Come Alive and a duet of Rewrite the Stars with Jenna Innes - and the song he often jokes will be carved on his tombstone Any Dream Will Do, complete with the now expected interjections from McHugh and Young. The song count was comic gold to the latter in his brilliant, rapid-fire recap of the show in the second half - "Doctor Kildare singing yet another of his four songs, because his agent insisted on it" - while Lee's Holby credentials fed a doctor gag that ran throughout the show, leading to his oft-voiced and increasingly irritated insistence "I'm not a doctor, I'm a prince"!
And Meady-goodness aside, there was much else to enjoy:
- the hilarious dwarfs, who all deserve a name-check - Finlay Bains (Snoozy), Matt Brians (Fearty), Kamen Brown (Dafty), Steven Dalziel (Gaffer), Andrew Fraser (Cheery), Finlay McFarlane (Snotty) and Martin Murphy (Dreichy) - responsible for much laughter and for introducing me to the intricacies of Baby Shark 'choreography';
- Jenna Innes' sweet-voiced and wonderfully feisty Snow White;
- Jordan Young's tireless working of the audience - perfectly pitched for the kids but delivering plenty for the adults too - inciting them to ever louder cries of "hiya Muddles" on each entrance, until one of my favourite moments... running on when Snow White lay poisoned on the ground, he skidded to a halt observing "she's sleeping" and instead of shouting, whispered the familar "hiya pals". Not once, at any of the performances I saw, did a single voice call back in anything but a whisper - instinctive call and response in action;
- Alan McHugh's epic, tongue-twisting round-up of the towns, villages and communities of Scotland's north-east - educating a bemused-looking Prince Harry on the region in preparation for his marriage to Snow White;
- Juliet Cadzow's deadpan reading of a Doric-scattered goodbye letter allegedly from Snow White with its perfect punch-line "I cannae marry Harry".
Happily of course the drought doesn't extend to Lee's concerts as his all-new 2019 tour My Story - A Dream That Became A Reality kicks off on Saturday 16 February, continuing with two or three shows a month throughout the year. In this new show, Lee combines some of his favourite music with reflections on his life and career in conversation with the lovely Beverley Humphreys - booking NOW!
Published: 16/05/2018; last updated: 26/01/2019