THE OPENING performance of this year’s Renmore Panto, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is little more than a week away and once again the show promises to be a highpoint of Galway’s festive season.
In its 34 years of pantomime, this is only the third time that Renmore has produced Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The first production was in 1988 and the cast of that show will celebrate their silver jubilee at the Town Hall Theatre during this year’s run.
Over the past 34 years, some 1,800 cast and crew have been involved in Renmore Pantomime while more than 200,000 people have attended the shows. As part of The Gathering 2013 all ex-members and fans are invited home to Galway for this year’s show and it is hoped that many who have long since left the city will avail of the opportunity to renew old friendships and share past memories.
This year’s production features 14 principal cast members (some of whom double up -or double down- as the Seven Dwarfs ), 45 Smurfs, and 17 dancers and cost in the region of €85-90,000 to put together.
The dancing price
Among the principal participants in Snow White is Loughrea native Declan Gardiner who plays romantic lead Prince Perfect. He is also the choreographer for the production. This is Declan’s fifth appearance in Renmore Panto and his first time to take on the choreographer role.
“I always wanted to be a performer,” Declan tells me over an afternoon phonecall. “I was in my first musical, Zorba the Greek, when I was 10-years-old and I was a long-time member of St Brendan’s Musical Society in Loughrea. After finishing school I went to the College of Dance in Dublin for two years then to the Urdang Academy in London where I studied musical theatre for a year.”
After completing his studies at Urdang, Declan worked for some time as a dancer in London, before coming back to Galway. He now works as a singer, dancer, and choreographer in Coyote’s Bar and gives dance classes with various theatre schools in the Galway region.
What are the challenges entailed in choreographing a show like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?
“The challenge would be coming up with a variety of dance styles so each routine isn’t just a carbon copy of the one that went before,” Declan replies. “So maybe we’ll have a bit of ballet for one routine and maybe have some hip-hop for another. You have to go with the music of the times for pantomime, you need to keep the kids interested while also providing visual variety for the parents.
“Also, with the group of teenagers we’re working with in the show, a lot of them wouldn’t have much of a dance background so you’re not just teaching them routines you’re teaching different dance techniques so it’s two jobs in one.”
Declan has also been involved in choosing which songs feature in the panto; “Between myself and Sean Power we would have picked a lot of numbers that would go together,” he explains. “They’re mostly numbers that would have been popular over the previous 12 months, but of those some will work and some won’t. For example, Adele would have been one of the most popular singers over the past year but her songs just wouldn’t sit right in a pantomime.”
Declan goes on to reveal a few of the songs which did make the Renmore cut.
“This year one of the big showpiece numbers is ‘Shake It Out’ by Florence and the Machine which is done as a woodland ballet scene and it’s quite different, it’s a song that’s never really been done in a panto context before,” he says. “Then there’s ‘Lady’s Choice’ which is a song from Hairspray that’s quite fun and energetic. There’s also Robbie Williams’s ‘Candy’ which is the opening number and is very colourful. Overall they are modern kind of numbers and dance routines like you would see on The X Factor.”
The romantic lead
Aside from his work on the song and dance side of the show, how is Declan enjoying playing romantic lead Prince Perfect?
“They say Prince Perfect is very vain and arrogant and while I would never say I am vain and arrogant I wouldn’t find it a stretch to play him!” he laughs. “He’s a fun character to play. He’s got his man servant and I don’t do very much walking because I ride him everywhere like a horse. The Prince lives in his own world where he is the best and then he meets Snow White and eventually realises that there are other things to life than his own beauty and charm.”
As always, this year’s show is scripted by Peter Kennedy who again features as the Panto Dame. Kennedy has penned some lovely thoughts in the programme for Snow White which eloquently express the magic and appeal of panto. His lines are particularly poignant as both his father and mother passed away recently.
“Pantomime is all about joy and laughter, about fun, and song and dance,” Kennedy writes. “But more than that, it’s about creating childhood memories. Every one of us will some day look back and remember the joy of cheering for the heroes and booing the villain, and we’ll be thankful that our mummies and daddies bothered to dress us up and drag us to the theatre for a few hours of happy escapism. And when we grow up, we’ll do the same for our children, in the hope that they too will some day cherish the warmth and love of those precious childhood outings, those family get togethers, those special moments.
“In thanking my mum and dad for bringing such joy into my life, I hope that all the children in the audience will thank their parents someday too, for introducing them to this wonderful world of laughter and happiness.”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the Town Hall from Saturday December 29 to Sunday January 13. Shows at 7.30pm are December 29, January 1, January 3 to 5, and 9 to 12. Shows at 2.30pm are December 29 and 31, and January 1, 5, and 12. Shows at 12 noon and 4.30pm are December 30 and January 6 and 13.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie