FAB-U-LOUS would be my verdict on this year’s Christmas pantomime at The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. After 2020’s lock down limitations that most popular of pantos, Cinderella, has arrived with Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood heading a stellar cast.
From the moment the curtain goes up, accompanied by a sparkling pyrotechnics display, and Fairy Godmother (Debbie McGee) steps on to the stage to work her magic, we were in for a panto with all the right ingredients for a fun-filled evening whatever your age.
Any production of Cinderella stands or falls by the prime mover and shaker, the Buttons character, and Richard Cadell, a master magician in his own right and presenter of the daily Sooty Show on ITVBe, certainly fills the bill. A natural with children, he keeps his young audience with him all the way to make for maximum participation.
‘Are you happy’ he would frequently ask and you bet they were with his off-script banter and those ‘farty bottom’ jokes that had them whooping and yelling with laughter. As did his hilarious knock about/sing along sketches involving other members of the fairy-tale cast. Although along the way there is a smattering of innuendo for the more adult to snigger over.
Of course he is aided and abetted by that enduring little bear brandishing his own wand with the words ‘issy wissy let’s get busy’. And busy he is helping to get Cinders to the ball in what is the most magical moment of the whole production when her pumpkin carriage pulled by two full-size white horses flies out over the auditorium. My young granddaughter was entranced.
Star Craig Revel Horwood, a tried and trusted panto dame, appears in the guise of Cinder’s wicked step-mother Baroness Demonica Hard-up who is trying to get her equally ghastly daughters, Claudia, Suzie Chard, and Tess, Catherine Morris, (a nod here to Strictly’s two presenters) to ‘cop off’ with a rich man, preferably the local Prince Charming.
The three Hard-ups delight in making poor little Cinderella’s life a misery, even making her tear up her own invitation to the Prince’s Ball.
Craig, head and shoulders above the rest of the cast in height, looks extremely elegant in his figure-hugging creations. Then dropping his feathered skirt for a spectacular leggy dance routine along with the Company’s lively ensemble. He can certainly wriggle his hips and his legs aren’t too bad either - for a man.
The costume designers did their worst with the ridiculously garish outfits for the Ugly Sisters. In line with tradition the rest of the costumes were a dazzling display of colour and design.
In the title role is the lovely Georgia Carr, Sleeping Beauty in last year’s ill-fated production, and her Prince played by Will Richardson really is a handsome charmer - Oh yes he is. Together they made for the ideal romantic interest.
The prince’s sidekick, Dandini, Daniel Norford swaggers nicely into his reversal role with the Prince who needs to go incognito so that he can find his own love and wife. And he does which is cue for a razzle-dazzle happy-ever-after finale celebration to send us all home knowing this is strictly pantomime at its very best.
Cinderella continues at the Mayflower in Southampton until Sunday, January 2. Get a ticket if you can at mayflower.org.uk or by calling 02380 711811.