Director: Damian Sandys
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
It is officially the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ and on its 25th anniversary of helping spread festive joy, UK Productions and Blackpool Grand Theatre have pulled out all the stops with their version of the classic fairytale Cinderella. While not at the biggest of theatres, this is a show-stopping pantomime that certainly rivals the offering of larger venues across the region with its array of conventional gags, sensationalised characters and even real life horses for the iconic ‘transformation’ scene.
It may not have the most well-known celebrity faces any panto has ever seen, but Bibbidy Bobbidy Boy does this cast work in delivering the entertainment factor, giving the traditional ‘rags to riches’ tale a triumphant twist with an all-singing-all-dancing production filled with magic touches that would make the Fairy Godmother herself proud. The script is a particularly strong one, catering to both adults and children alike with its mix of humour, clever and relevant Blackpool references and well-known and much loved panto scenes and tricks.
Milkshake presenter Olivia Birchenough (Cinderella) and Union J band member J J Hamblett (Prince Charming) do a sterling job as Principal Girl and Boy, while Gavin and Stacey star Melanie Walters delivers a wonderfully over-the-top performance as the adored Fairy Godmother. Jamie Morris and Tarot Joseph are fabulous as the extravagant Ugly Stepsisters bringing the audience to life with their flamboyant fashion sense and audience interaction. But the star of the show has to be BBC Radio Lancashire’s Steve Royle as Cinders’ sidekick Buttons – his timing, characterisation and ability to improvise making him a master of the tricky panto trade.
All that said, the production could be given that extra sparkle by polishing a few of the key elements. The opening costumes of the ensemble, for example, are a little underwhelming, and the eclectic mix of songs could sometimes be more suited to the vocals of the principal characters. At times the choreography could also be slicker, especially in moments of unison, but given the fun-loving nature of this panto these minor flaws pale into insignificance when you look at the bigger picture. Stand out musical numbers include Buttons and his adaptation of Little Mix’s Reggaeton Lento and the Act Two duet between Cinderella and Prince Charming – Ed Sheeran’s hit Perfect.
Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, this is one panto that certainly fits the bill. For anybody looking to get into the festive spirit this holiday season, this is the gift that definitely keeps on giving…
Runs until 7th January 2018.