The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2022

Crossroads Pantomimes brings us The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan. Based (loosely) on the book by JM Barrie, about the boy who could fly and never grows up. 

As the glittery curtain rises we meet Tink (Samara Casteallo), a flying fairy who can produce pixie dust, which allows other characters in Neverland to fly. Tink enrols the help of Wendy (Jessica Croll) to come to Neverland to help save Peter Pan (Ross Carpenter) and make him fly once more. Arch nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Manford) has other plans and aims to steal all of the pixie dust and get his revenge on Peter Pan.

At least I think that is the plot. The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter what the plot is, this show is way bigger than the plot. The plot gets stretched and bent and twisted and we get distracted and we laugh and we clap and we dance and then we return to the plot for a moment and then off we go again.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2022

This is hands down THE best pantomime I have ever seen. I was worried that it was missing a “pop star” but that didn’t matter. I was worried that it was missing a “dame” but that didn’t matter. What really mattered was the astonishing partnership between Captain Hook (Jason Manford) and the incredibly talented Ben Nickless as Smee. From the minute the two are together on stage there are explosions of comic fireworks, which had us crying with laughter time and time again. 

Nickless returns to the Opera House for his fourth panto, but this year it’s different, this year he is a big star. He has had an incredible year on Britain’s Got Talented, and it’s given him the platform to take command of the stage. I loved him last year and didn’t think he could get any better, but somehow he has. Having two hilarious comedians in the show has made it doubly funny. They don’t compete with each other, the fit perfectly together.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2022

Manchester loves a northerner, so Manford is an excellent casting choice. The crowd absolutely love him, and for good reason: he can act, he can sing, and he is super funny. The way in which he breaks character every so often, works really well at engaging the audience. He has the crowd participation element of panto spot on!

Both Manford and Nickless were born to star together on stage in pantomime. The mermaid scene and the 12 days of Christmas had me in absolute stitches. I really hope we get to see them collaborate again in the future.

The whole cast are tremendous, I can’t imagine it’s an easy feat sharing a stage with the huge personalities of Manford and Nickless, but it doesn’t phase them at all. Ross Carpenter is a beautiful Peter. I found him to be gentle and kind in character, with a spritely energy about him. 

I loved the addition of The Acromaniacs, like many elements of this production, their inclusion brings nothing to the plot, but it doesn’t matter because they’re fabulous. They bring a variety hall feel to the production and I loved it!

The ensemble are exemplary, they are seamlessly woven into the scenes, so much incredible talent and they keep us entertained throughout.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2022

Ian Westbrook’s set design is exquisite. The sound design, the special fx, the choreography, the costumes, the props, the lighting: all of it, is utter perfection. 

You don’t need to like panto to love this; this is modern panto – genuinely clever and very funny. It’s a panto for the young and the old. It’s for the northerners, the southerners and even the Aussies (hiya Jordan!). Life feels very heavy at the moment for so many people, there are so many things to be worried about and who knows what next year will bring, but spend two hours in the Opera House this festive season and somehow things will feel just a little bit lighter and brighter. The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan is exactly what we all need this Christmas, superb!

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 31st December tickets available here.

Aladdin

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Crossroads Pantomines production of Aladdin tells the tale of Aladdin: not as you know it, but instead as a version with many more laughs and spectacular crowd pleasing numbers.

We join the journey of Aladdin (Matthew Croke), whose only dream is to marry his one true love; Princess Jasmine (Rumi Sutton). However, the road to true love does not run smoothly, thanks to The Supreme Leader of Mancunia (Nicola Sanderson) and Abanazar (John McLarnon) : cue plenty of booing and hissing from the audience.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

This pantomime has everything that British pantomime should have – with bells on! The absolute star of the show is the incredibly talented comic genius that is Ben Nickless (Wishee Washee), who helps his brother Aladdin overcome all of the hurdles put in front of him on his quest to marry Jasmine. Nickless’ Covid rap gives us an hilarious spin on the last two years of life in a pandemic, with plenty of laughs about masks, testing and lockdown life. The audience were in absolute stitches during his attempt to use a loop pedal to give us a rendition of an Ed Sheeran classic.

Alexandra Burke plays the role of Scherezade, who provides Aladdin with assistance throughout his journey, and who gets us moving in our seats as she belts out the numbers – the crowd absolutely loved her rendition of Bad Boys, and the ensemble provide the dance moves that we all expect from a spectacular panto like this.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

Eventually, after much turmoil and misadventure and the most amazing carpet ride, Aladdin gets his girl. But not before we are treated to the most hilarious number “What I would be” from Nickless, Dupree, Croke and Sanderson. The audience were doubled over laughing at the comic genius of this scene, the timing is impeccable and Ben Nickless deserved a standing ovation just for this!

The set and costumes are vibrant and majestic. The use of puppets for the genie and the snake are both comic and transfixing. Ceri Duprees (Widow Twanky) outfits are extravagant and mesmerising, just as she is. She is everything she should be. Hilarious, sarcastic, and with a pair of legs to die for! Her renditions of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face and of Bang Bang will be talked about by this audience for a long while.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

This pantomime is the tonic we really don’t realise we need until we get it. With all the uncertainty at the moment this is the light relief that we Mancunians are desperate for, so get your booster and get down to the Opera House for an addition boost – that’s all you need this Christmas.

Aladdin is on at the Manchester Opera House until Sunday 2nd January tickets available here.

Snow White

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When it comes to family fun Qdos Entertainment don’t do things by halves. Delivering Manchester Opera House’s pantomime for the third successive year they give audiences another Christmas cracker of a show in which no expense is spared; a glittering and gaaawwwjus production of Snow White starring Strictly’s very own Craig Revel Horwood.

This festive extravaganza has everything you’d want from a Panto, lavish sets, elaborate costumes and lots and lots of laughs. Writer Alan McHugh (with additional material from Ben Nickless) ensures the script is teaming with Mancunian references from the wonderful opening number playing homage to the Opera House to the tune of The Lambeth Walk to the ‘mad for it!’ Magnificent Seven who are ready to ‘ave it!’ all night long!

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2019

Revel Horwood makes for a deliciously devilish baddie, fabulously theatrical and outrageously naughty as wicked Queen Lurcretia he commands the stage throughout. Strutting, preening and pouting before belting out his several solos with style and some serious sass proving what an incredibly talented all-rounder he truly is.

There is strong support from audience favourite Ben Nickless who returns for the second year running, this time playing the hapless Muddles along with a welcome return for Manchester’s favourite Dame, Eric Potts who makes for a magnificent Nora Crumble. The two bounce off each other brilliantly, their silly humour and cheeky charm is measured just right for this family audience. They bring this classic story bang up to date with hilarious mentions of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and there’s even a scene with a over keen Alexa!

Zoë George and Joshua St Clair make for a perfect pairing as Snow White and the dashing Prince Harry. Although a little underused when we do hear from them their vocals are superb and they both have bucketloads of charm.

The ensemble cast and young company add to the spectacle of the lavish numbers with slick delivery of Ashley Nottingham’s choreography, great to see some same-sex pairings on stage during the dance numbers too.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2019

Of course as to be expected with Panto there are some cheeky moments with a few close to the bone one-liners however the innuendo never goes too far & is pitched at just the right level to give the adults a giggle while the kids laugh along with the slapstick and physical comedy that’s so brilliantly delivered.

Revel Horwood, Potts, Nickless & St Clare’s riotous version of The Twelve Days of Christmas brings the house down quite literally, it is pure panto perfection!

The combination of impressive special effects, classic panto entertainment and a wonderfully talented cast result in another hit for Qdos.

Snow White is a riotous romp of camp, colourful, comedy, a FAB-U-LOUS night out for all the family.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2019

Snow White is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Sunday 29th December tickets available here.

 

Cinderella | Opera House

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

First staged in 2016 at the London Palladium then last year at Birmingham’s legendary Hippodrome Qdos Entertainment’s Cinderella has been brought bang up to date by writer Alan McHugh with Corrie jokes a plenty and hilarious local references a go-go. Both Ben Nickles who plays Buttons and Ugly Sister Les Dennis adding material to the laugh a minute script ensuring a riotous night out is guaranteed.

All the stops have been pulled out in this spectacular production; lavish sets, colourful costumes, catchy songs and a superb cast ensuring the Opera House panto remains at the top of theatre goers agenda for another festive season.

Our Ugly Sisters Phelina (Connor McIntyre) and Michaela (Les Dennis) are mad for it as they blend the silly with the slapstick and throw in some cheeky charm for good measure, the pairing is genius as panto pro Les leads the way, reminding us all just why he’s one of the best in the business.

Rochdale comedian Ben Nickless quickly becomes an audience favourite as Buttons; he laps up the applause and delights with outrageously funny comedy capers and hilarious impressions, a born entertainer who comes very close to stealing the show.

Gareth Gates and Shannon Flynn make for a perfect pairing as the dashing Prince Charming and the down on her luck Cinderella proving that they’re not afraid of getting stuck in with the slapstick when their romantic meeting turns into a hilarious battle of wills with lovesick Buttons.

Hayley-Ria Christian makes for a super sassy Fairy Godmother while Jack Wilcox is a commanding and charismatic Dandini.

The ensemble cast and young company, always a favourite of mine in panto add vibrancy with slick delivery of Fabian Aloise’s choreography adding additional charm to this feel-good family show.

Qdos Entertainment has got Cinderella just right in terms of pitch, the script is jam-packed with hilarious gags and witty one–liners while the innuendo we all expect from panto never tips into crudeness, its good old cheeky fun and plenty of it.

The transformation scene at the end of Act I really has to be seen to be believed and is worth the ticket price alone as the gasps of delight from the audience both young and old are heard loud and clear. While panto may one of theatre’s oldest traditions this production feels fresh and vibrant.

Cinderella really is the perfect package; it’s lavish, sparkly, sequined fun suitable for all the family. This extravagant production is everything panto should be and more.

Guaranteed to entertain from start to finish leaving you feeling suitably festive and full of Christmas cheer. Big, bold and brilliant!

Cinderella is on until Sunday 30th December tickets available here.