The Grand Opera House in Belfast has always held a special place in my heart and it all started with trips to the panto as a child.

So it was very special to take my own son to this beautiful theater for the first time, and of course the ideal first type of show to take him to: the annual pantomime.

I prepared him. Audience participation, ice cream during intermission and without May McFettridge it wouldn’t be the Grand Opera House.

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This year’s panto is based on the popular Disney story Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a story my four year old is not very familiar with, but he was still excited to see how the story would unfold.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the pantomime myself and the first thing that blew me away was the sheer spectacle of it all. The costumes, stage, lighting and music are impressive from the start.

And it didn’t take long for my son to master panto, thanks in large part to the silly antics of Phil Walker as Muddles, the Evil Queen’s court jester.

Snow White and the Big Seven
Snow White and the Big Seven

He quickly mesmerized the kids by singing “hiya Muddles” every time he came on stage, which thrilled my son. If you are allowed to shout loudly during a performance, there is nothing like panto to captivate the audience and make them laugh.

Plus the humor of a panto is absolutely ideal for a four year old. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty for the grown-ups, plenty of tongue-in-cheek commentary that happily goes over the little ones’ heads. But the slapstick humor gets a lot of laughs, especially from younger viewers.

It was these brilliantly staged light-hearted moments that my son lived for and the dynamic between May McFettridge as May of the Mirror, Paddy Jenkins as the Queen’s henchman and Walker’s Muddles made for a brilliant panto.

Muddles, Paddy and May from the mirror
Muddles, Paddy and May from the mirror

And there’s no denying that after all these years May McFettridge is still the star of the show. No one can beat her humor, her timing and her stage presence. My son was a bit unsure at first, but gradually assured me that he started to like May.

I was particularly impressed by her arrival as she sailed down from the sky into the transom. The production and what they have achieved on stage since childhood is outstanding.

My highlight was when Muddles sent his bike flying over the audience and even managed to flip upside down. I have no idea how they did it, but it’s certainly a far cry from what I was used to as a child, and it’s an example of the attention and care that has gone into the Grand Opera House’s pantomime over time , becomes more and more. more impressive over the years. .

Snow White and the Big Seven
Snow White and the Big Seven

The story follows the basic outline of Snow White, with some Northern Irish additions such as Prince Conall of Coleraine. We see the beautiful Snow White, played to perfection by Aisling Sharkey, fall in love with Conor Headley’s Prince Charming, much to the dismay of Queen Dragonella, the wonderful Jolene O’Hara, who wants her prince for herself.

She is convinced she is the most beautiful in the country, even though the crowd gives her a loud “Oh no, you’re not.” My son shouted it gleefully, although he was disappointed that there were no “He’s got your back” moments.

His favorite character was Queen Dragonella, which is a testament to how well O’Hara played the role and you could clearly see that she had fun playing the villain.

Queen Dragonella
Queen Dragonella

Another entertaining element of this year’s pantomime was Britain’s Got Talent finalist Flawless, and the dance troupe certainly impressed with their moves in their role as Queen’s Guard. The backflips and breakdances were something my son had never seen before, so he loved watching them perform.

Of course, there is no Snow White without the Magnificent Seven, brilliantly led by Scott English. I would have liked to see more of them on stage, but in the end they were there to save the day and that’s what matters most.

The length of the panto is almost perfect for families, with the first half lasting almost an hour and finishing just after 9pm. It was late for my son, but he had the best night and there was no chance of him falling asleep from all the excitement on stage.

A wonderful introduction to panto and a great start to a holiday in Belfast.

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