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.

Snow White | Epstein Theatre

Snow White Image 2 - Credit David Munn Photography

Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Epstein Christmas panto is gaining quite the reputation for being the ‘must-see’ of the festive period in Liverpool, and this year’s offering of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is no different.

The story follows Snow White (Mia Molloy) and a chance meeting with Prince Valiant (Alex Patmore) which sets both their hearts a racing, however this raises the ire of Snow White’s wicked step-mother, Queen Kimberlina (Kim Woodburn).

Snow White Image 4 - Credit David Munn Photography

After escaping The Queen and one of her diabolical schemes: Snow White with help from Fairy Goodheart (Claire Simmo) seeks refuge with Seven Dwarfs, but this being a Scouse panto, these aren’t your typical fairy-tale little men. There is Snotty, Soft-Lad, and the rather posh, Wooly-Back, (he’s from the Wirral) to name but a few. Throw into the mix a very untraditional panto dame in the guise of Dame Debbie (Michael Chapman), loveable sidekick Muddles (Lewis Pryor), evil Henchman (Daryl Holden) and a special appearance by Derek Acorah as the Magic Mirror, some fantastic songs, and some brilliantly choreographed dance routines and you have the recipe for a perfect panto.

The show is a riot from start to finish, filled with jokes for children and adults of all ages. Never taking itself too seriously: the show is packed with moments of slapstick, as well as family friendly jokes, with hefty dose of cheeky innuendo that never becomes coarse or vulgar but will have the adults crying with laughter. This is Snow White with a Scouse twist, with plenty of gags and phrases that will resonate with locals,, it’s a fabulously festive treat, (I’ll be doing most of my Christmas shopping with Scally the Dwarf).

Snow White Image 3 - Credit David Munn Photography

Top billing for the show goes to Kim Woodburn and Derek Acorah, however there is so much more to this show than just the star names. The whole cast work there socks off throughout, with intricate song and dance numbers that include: Mr Blue Sky, Killer Queen, and Devil Woman.

Michael Chapman as well as playing Dame Debbie both wrote and directed the whole thing and should be immensely proud of his achievements. He is outstanding as the sassiest, most gangster panto dame you’ll ever see, and pretty much steals every scene he’s involved in. Lewis Pryor shows what a great all-round talented performer he is as the loveable Muddles, whilst Mia Molloy is perfectly cast as our heroine with a beautiful voice and great character acting.

Snow White Image 6 - Credit David Munn Photography

There are a couple of very few minor issues: the action seems to take a bit of a lull midway through the first act, and there were a few misplaced lines here and there but we can always forgive that in panto can’t we? Oh yes we can! All in all this is a fantastic, fun, family show, which will leave young and old entertained from start to finish as well as being excellent value for money. Now where did I leave my trainers!?

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs is on at the Epstein Theatre until Wednesday 2nd January, tickets available here.

Cinderella | Oldham Coliseum

Darren Robinson Photography

Mini Reviewer Daisy, aged 8

This classic fairy tale, based on a girl and her two stepsisters plus their stepmother, has been chosen as the Oldham Coliseum’s Christmas pantomime.

Cinderella is played by Shorelle Hepkin, who shows off her great personality, and of course, there is Buttons, played by Richard J Fletcher who is her mate and has some extra funny scenes.

The costumes are amazing and wow the audience, putting the ‘ooh’ into ‘Shock’.

Darren Robinson Photography

Sue Devaney is fantastic as the wicked Stepmother and shows off some brilliant vocals.

As for the two stepsisters, who are played by Fine Time Fontayne and Simeon Truby, they are hilarious-especially when they come out dressed in emoji costumes with big haired wigs!

There’s a great glittery set, which shines throughout all the scenes and there’s some classic hits I enjoyed singing along too, from ABBA, to Baby Shark to This is Me from The Greatest Showman.

I loved it!

Daisy’s verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Darren Robinson Photography

Mum of Daisy, aged 30 plus 10

The Oldham Coliseum definitely knows how to put on a panto and this years’ offering, Cinderella, is no exception. From start to finish there’s something for kids, parents and grandparents and all come out beaming from ear to ear by the end.

If you want tradition you can’t go wrong here as it’s got everything; not one but two great dames as the ugly sisters (aptly named as Pumpy and Trumpy Squeezepocket played by Fine Time Fontayne and Simeon Truby); the super fabulous Sue Devaney who steals the show as Cinders Stepmother and of course there’s Buttons, the comedy sidekick (Richard J Fletcher).

Darren Robinson Photography

You’ve also got all the classic panto lines to keep the audience involved such as ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘oh no she isn’t’ plus there’s a mix of current pop tracks that keeps it ‘down with the kids’.

My four year old and eight year old were in stitches when the step sisters ‘flossed’ and joined in with glee when Baby Shark was being sung.

A fantastic festive night out!

Mummy’s verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cinberella is on at the Oldham Coliseum until 12th January tickets available here

Cinderella

Cinderella Image 11 - Credit David Munn Photograph

Panto isn’t just for Christmas at the Theatre Royal in St Helens with Regal Entertainments continuing their tradition of regular school holiday pantomimes with this Easter’s offering of Cinderella.

The theatre continues its run of attracting well-known names to St Helens with Lee Latchford-Evans from cult pop group Steps taking the role of Prince Charming.

A trained actor as well as singer, Latchford-Evans showed off an easy likeable charm as the Prince as well as a predictably good singing voice.

Georgina Parkinson was a sweet-voiced Cinders with funny man Lewis Devine returning as Buttons following his stint at The venue at Christmas, and proving just as popular with audiences this time.

Cinderella Image 1 - Credit David Munn Photography

Resident dame Si Foster (who also co-writes with Ben Ebgelen) and Mark Newall take on the role of Kendall and Kylie the Ugly Sisters – a brilliant double act who throw plenty of shade and wow in a series of tremendously tacky frocks and wicked weaves. Watch out for the Bags for Life gag – bravo!

Samantha Palin is a warm and distractedly dotty Fairy Godmother, with big hair and bling that wouldn’t look out of place on a Real Housewife of Cheshire. And Andrew Geater is a dashing if somewhat snooty Dandini – they both have fantastic voices and get their moments to shine vocally.

I’m a sucker for the traditional panto transformation scene that usually closes Act 1 and the show certainly doesn’t disappoint here with a gorgeous mix of ballet, baby animals (courtesy of the charming juvenile dancers) and yes – real Shetland ponies! (One of these makes a hilarious reappearance in Act II that had my young co-reviewer in stitches and that I know he will be talking about for days to come.)

Cinderella Image 10 - Credit David Munn Photograph

All of the music is incredibly well chosen. From 80s anthems like Holding Out For a Hero and Love Lifts Us Up (Where We Belong) to musical theatre floor fillers like One Night Only and Fabulous Baby, every song was a total crowd pleaser.

And needless to say Step’s fans won’t go away disappointed with a medley of their biggest hits featuring to the audience’s total delight.

Add to this beautiful and vibrant costumes, charming sets and a brilliantly funny and topical script (anyone who has ever pleaded with ‘Alexa’ will appreciate one gag in particular) that will appeal to all ages, adds up to a warm and witty show that will leave you feeling fuzzy inside.

And with ticket prices starting at an incredibly reasonable £13 – this is a high quality family pantomime at applaudingly affordable prices.

A cracking treat for Easter!

On until Sunday 15th April, tickets available here.

Peter Bergin is Peter Pan!

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Peter Bergin who trained at Rose Bruford, will take flight in Blackpool as he takes over the role of Peter Pan from Jake Quickenden who will soon be appearing on ITV’s Dancing On Ice.

Featuring a live band, lavish set and spectacular costumes, JM Barrie’s classic story has been wowing audiences at Blackpool’s Winter Garden’s since December 16th. Read our ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review here.

Also appearing are TV star Jennifer Ellison as the villainous Captain Hook, Blackpool’s own Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling and Radio Wave’s Breakfast Host Scott Gallagher as Hook’s hapless sidekick, Smee.

The show runs until Sunday 7th January, offering audiences just a handful more opportunities to capture this magical family, musical adventure!

Tickets can be purchased here.

Dick Whittington

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Opening Night verdict 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

Qdos Entertainment, the worlds biggest pantomime producer bring their magical production of Dick Whittington to Manchester’s Opera House this festive season.

Starring the hugely popular John Barrowman, an absolute  panto pro he has the audience in the palm of his hand from the off, whipping off his trousers to reveal the tightest pair of pants to ever grace the panto stage! Joining Barrowman are legendary double act, The Krankies, stalwarts of the cabaret circuit since the 70’s, Dick Whittington marks their seventh season alongside Barrowman and their on stage chemistry is electric.

Sprinkled with lots of adult humour Dick Whittington is high on audience interaction and chock-full of laughs as Dick (Barrowman) falls in love with Councillor Krankie’s (Ian Tough) daughter Alice (Lauren Hampton). dastardly King Rat (Phil Corbitt) however has other ideas as he tries his best to come between our lovebirds.

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Fun and frolics are high on the agenda as Barrowman greets the Manchester audience with an “Ey up chuck!” he is a highly entertaining, hugely charismatic, singing, dancing, innuendo spouting machine! Pair this with an outrageous performance from the Krankies and you really have got a match made in double entendre heaven. Lots to keep little ones and Mum & Dad highly amused with a few jokes perhaps a little too close to the bone for older children, who Mum and Dad may be desperately hoping don’t get certain jokes, let’s just say there could be some interesting conversations on the way home!

The rest of the sparkling cast compliment our leads perfectly with special mention to Jacqueline Hughes who delights as The Spirit of Bow Bells and Ryan Kayode as Tommy the Manc Tabby Cat who judging by the applause received was clearly an audience favourite too.

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As you’d expect there are ad libs galore particularly between the hilarious Krankies who remain sharp as a tack. Jeanette Tough, now aged 70 could give Debbie McGee a run for her money as she’s flung around the stage, barely stopping for breath and even ending up inside a giant sharks mouth!

The choreography is executed perfectly by the Company who are joined on stage by local children from the Stalder Academy of Dance.

Many of the usual panto traditions are here, there’s ghosts & ghoulies, silly songs and sparkly sets plus a surprise soaking for some audience members, however this is as Dick with no Dame which for me seemed an odd choice, please Qdos can we have our Dame back next year? Preferably Manchester favourite Eric Potts. The 3D section is enormously impressive but scared my young guests to the point of having to cover their faces, much too frightening for young children.

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The cast have undeniable chemistry, particularly evident during an underwater version of 12 Days of Christmas, which has the audience in hysterics from start to finish.  The storyline is secondary to the madcap mayhem playing out before us as Dick Whittington entertains and delivers a highly memorable night, for some this may be classic ‘British humour’ that needs a little updating, there was no doubt however that Dick Whittington brought a lot of laughter and festive cheer to Manchester last night, it’s a cheeky, festive treat!

On at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 7th January, tickets available here.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Lucy Jo Hudson and Ensemble

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s that time of year again, oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it bloomin’ well is! As pantos pop up across the country and evil villains prepare for an almighty booing, St Helens is no exception with a star-studded Snow White opening at the Theatre Royal for the festive season.

Starring Corrie and Where The Heart Is favourite Lucy-Jo Hudson and a pre-recorded ten foot tall Magic Mirror in the form of local legend Johnny Vegas, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has it all from plenty of ‘it’s behind you’ to a spectacular interactive 3D section which is spine tingly good and more than worth the ticket price alone.

There is something for everyone in the high energy and hugely entertaining production. With superb sets and lavish costumes full of colour and sparkle, Regal EntertainmentsLtd put their impressive stamp on this production, further demonstrating their commitment to delivering high quality, accessible local theatre. Writers Si Foster (who also takes on the role of Evil Queen Camilla) and Ben Engelen deliver an enormously funny script with plenty to keep the little ones entertained and even more to thrill Mum and Dad…just wait for the outrageous Andy Pandy scene! Hilarious! Nazene DanielleLangfield’s choreography is impressive and intricate as both senior ensemble and children from local dance schools all get the chance to shine.

Richard Hazlewood, Johnny Vegas and Si Foster

Lucy-Jo Hudson makes for a perfect princess; she’s sweet but sassy with an incredibly beautiful voice, her time on TV show Dance, Dance Dance clearly well spent as she delivers each routine with precision. Receiving many of the laughs is local funny man and audience favourite Lewis Devine as Muddles, hugely charismatic and immediately likeable he has the audiences in stitches from that start with his mad-cap antics and hilarious impressions.

St Helens Theatre Royal once again deliver a perfect panto, Snow White is a guaranteed festive treat for all ages, it’s easy to see why this show has already been extended offering audiences an extra week to catch it. With impressively high production values, plenty of audience interaction and a strong cast who bring an enormous amount of fun to the show, Snow White is a wickedly wonderful night out!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is on at the Theatre Royal St Helens until Sunday 14th Jan tickets available here