A pantomime should fit round the audience member like a favourite comfort blanket while sprinkling a little stardust to send him or her off into the night with festive magic in their thoughts. I am pleased to say that this is exactly what Buxton Opera House’s production of Cinderella – directed by Philip Hart -does.
There is much about the production to please the panto traditionalist . Plenty of quick-fire jokes, he’s-behind-you moments, audience members getting sprayed with water and outrageously over-the -top performances. As ever, there is plenty of audience participation and time is found to include a classic decorating slapstick scene.
But there is enough that is new about this production to make it stand out from the crowd. The panto is set around a Strictly Come Dancing theme which allows for a hilarious dance-off scene to unite Cinders with her Prince Charming. The up-to-date score and neat dance routines allow the excellent cast to show off their all-round entertainment abilities.
Buttons is a very important character in the saga of the glass slipper as he is the one to make the initial rapport with the audience. The casting manager did well to opt for young Glaswegian Ross Barbour to play the role. He has an infectious enthusiasm and displays an on-stage chemistry with Shannon Flynn who plays the title part.
Flynn is known from such TV programmes as Coronation Street and Waterloo Road and would be instantly recognisable to the younger members through her presenting roles on CBBC. She puts in a very creditable performance as a cute girl going from rags to riches and skilfully tackles her singing parts.
Alasdair Baker returns to the Opera House stage and lends all of his panto experience to his part of Baron Hardup while Emily Juler gives an impressive performance as the Fairy Godmother. She showcases her singing well – particularly with her solo as the set is transformed to reveal Cinderella in all of her ball-gown glory.
Ryan Bennett sings and acts his way into the hearts of all as Prince Charming while the young Connor Hignell showed that he has a bright future ahead of him in musical theatre as he dominated the early stages of the Ballroom Scene. Hannah Shackell does well on her professional debut and all are backed by some talented young performers in the Chorus.
Undoubtedly the stars of the show though are the Ugly Sisters Melania (Jamie Barwood) and Ivana (James Holmes of Miranda fame). They play their parts as the gruesome twosome to perfection with some deliciously outrageous acting, ludicrous costumes and very amusing interplay with the audience. They are a perfect comedy pair. It is easy to see why Holmes is an Opera House regular in the role of Dame and – on this performance- Barwood would be welcomed back with open arms.
This is a bright and breezy production that has something for all ages and deserved its generous applause at the finale. This is a pantomime well worth visiting for a heap of festive fun. Oh yes, it is!!!
The performance lasts for approximately 2 hours 25 minutes including interval and continues until January 1st. For ticket availability contact buxtonoperahouse.org.uk or telephone 01298 72190.