thu 09/02/2023

Pantomime 2021 round-up 2: TV stars in the spotlight | reviews, news & interviews

Pantomime 2021 round-up 2: TV stars in the spotlight

Pantomime 2021 round-up 2: TV stars in the spotlight

Shirley Ballas and Scarlett Moffatt are good fun

Shirley Ballas shows off some of her dance moves in Snow WhitePamela Raith Photography

Shirley Ballas (main picture), released from her day job as head judge on Strictly Come Dancing, certainly knows how to make an entrance, and as the Wicked Queen she does here in a range of fantastic costumes. She swashes her buckle – well, swishes her frock – with aplomb.

Although Ballas's is the name above the title, the driving force of the show is Leon Craig in the Dame role as Nurse Nellie. He's terrific, much aided by a sparkling, family-friendly script by Paul Hendy (who can't resist a pun), and Damian Patton as Muddles and Cameron Blakely as Herman the Henchman. Patton has a touch of Nicholas Lyndhurst as Rodney Trotter while Blakely could be Max Wall's brother, and their interaction – the three men appear to be having great fun on stage – gives a solid comedic base to proceedings.

Rhiannon Chesterman as Snow White and Harrison Wilde as Prince Charming are, well, charming and sing beautifully together – and Wilde also gives great comedic value.

Ballas isn't always bang-on with her lines and some of the acting in minor roles is weak. But a definite highlight is Ballas's dancing, with two terrific scenes to display her talents.

Director JJ Almond keeps things rattling along, and a terrific set piece involving the payoff to a running gag involving Herman and his Freddie Mercury obsession draws the show to its close.


Cinderella, The Hawth, Crawley ★★★★

Former Gogglebox star Scarlett Moffatt (pictured right by Craig Fuller) describes herself as a panto performer of a few years' standing, as a “seasoned Fairy” and she certainly sparkles in the role, here given musical backing to her character's rhyming couplets.

In Paul Hendy's witty script, the Fairy has yet to be given her wand by the Wing Commander (a neat joke that), played on a pre-record by Paul O'Grady, if she can bring Cinderella (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) and Prince Charming (Matthew Lawrence) together.

She's hampered, of course, by the dastardly Ugly Sisters, Aldianna (Michael J Batchelor) and Lidleena (Gerge Akid). They're called Aldi and Lidl for short because “We're cheap and cheerful and we love a rummage in the middle aisle.” That joke was much appreciated by the adults but went straight over the wee ones' heads.

CBeebies favourite Nigel Clarke is hugely engaging as Dandini, and his “Tick Trick Boom” song-and-dance routine is terrific, while Richard Franks gives good value as Buttons, constantly breaking the fourth wall.

Aerialists Duo Nava do a turn while the lovers perform a duet, which is fun but doesn't add much to proceedings, but this is a thoroughly warm-hearted show.


Jack and the Beanstalk, Orchard Theatre, Dartford ★★★★

Alan McHugh's script slightly reorders the story, as here Jack (Pearce Barron) declares he will slay the giant in order to win the hand of Princess Apricot (Kiera-Nicole), but her father, King Crumble (Derek Elroy) has his doubts, especially after his daughter is kidnapped by the hungry monster for his tea.

Jack eventually wins through, of course, despite the giant's sidekick Fleshcreep (David O'Mahony, threatening to steal the show) putting obstacles in his way.

There are some good comic set pieces, including the shopping trolley sketch and a “she sells sushi” wordplay one, which are great fun.

Dame Trot is a bit underpowered, but as Christopher Biggins (pictured left) – one of the great Dames – is recovering from knee and heart surgery that's understandable. Rikki Jay as Silly Simon, however, makes up for that with an energetic and warm performance that gets the kids onside the moment he comes on stage, doing several minutes of call and response that sets the tone for the evening.

With lots of dance numbers at times this feels more like a musical show than a pantomime, but it's showy and sparkly and good fun, with lots of local gags and adience participation.

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