AS the first snow of winter lay on the hills, so Sunderland Empire opened its doors on this year’s pantomime, and what a colourful, warm-hearted entertainment it is.

Su Pollard leads a first rate cast with no enthusiasm spared. Her evil stepmother is a glorious creation of glamour and tongue-in-cheek wickedness, vainly consulting her mirror and shamelessly goading the audience to boo her very presence.

Andrew Agnew’s boundless energy as the madcap jester, Muddles, keeps the story moving. His performance truly vested in the traditions of variety with gags and repartee delivered with practised ease, whether the chuckle-along jokes for the kids or the nudge-nudge naughty ones for the grown-ups. And joining in with equal relish, and in a parade of extravagantly absurd costumes, Philip Meeks as Nurse Penny Well "exfoliates and radiates".

Victoria Serra as the beautiful Snow White and Matt Lapinskas – East Enders and Dancing on Ice finalist – as her handsome Prince Frederick provide the fairytale romance. Escaping from her stepmother’s jealousy Snow White retreats to the woods where she finds friendship and protection with the seven gem-mining dwarfs - Richard Blenkiron, Chris Chapman, Charlotte Fawbert. Aaron Haworth, Binde Johal, Nathan Philips and Laura Whitfield – but evil trickery is in poisonous pursuit.

With a wonderfully anarchic rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the cutest collection of woodland animals and Ian Wilson’s enchanting picture book set designs, Snow White is set to blow away the chill blasts of winter. And would it be giving too much away to say that in the end love conquers all?

Runs until Jan 4. Box Office: 0844-871-3022 or

Laurence Sach