The Opera House Manchester has certainly pulled off a cracker of a pantomime this Christmas with its festive offering of Cinderella.
The magical show has everything you could wish for, from a pop star Prince Charming (Gareth Gates) to a pair of hilarious panto dames (Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre).
Produced by leading panto production company Qdos Entertainment it delivers sparkle in every sense of the word, with its dazzling and lavish set and no expense spared on the lighting and special effects.
CBBC’s Shannon Flynn is first to grace the stage as Cinders and she opens the show in style with a fabulous song penned especially as a tribute to the Opera House theatre. Flynn is sweeter than sugar and ideal as the ‘put upon’ young girl who just wants a chance to go to the ball.
Making her dreams come true is Hayley-Ria Christian as the ‘fabulous’ Fairy Godmother. Never have I seen so much sass in a fairy plus, accomplished singer Christian, belts out some stand out vocals.
Elsewhere Gareth Gates is the perfect Prince and also impresses with his musical numbers, treating the audience to one of his biggest hits Unchained Melody and two Greatest Showman tunes.
Racking up all the laughs are Corrie duo Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre as ugly sisters Michaela and Phelina. It’s a genius bit of casting and the pair light up the stage with their banter and plethora of ‘in jokes’ about the cobbled street soap which delights the older members of the audience.
It is Ben Nickless as Buttons that steals the show here though with his side splitting panto gags and fabulous impressions perfectly picked to appeal to the Manchester audience – from Mourinho to Take That – he nails them all! Nickless really is a joy to watch and should be cloned so that he can be rolled out to star in every pantomime across the country.
Director Guy Unsworth delivers some great scenes throughout, none more so than a brilliantly staged slapstick routine between Gates, Flynn and Nickless which sees them try to sing a love song whilst knocking each other on and off a wall.
There is also a brilliant script from writer Alan McHugh who has done a great job weaving in the classic panto lines alongside some nods to the big trends of 2018, from flossing to Alexa and even a reference to Baby Shark (which has the kids go wild).
Watch out for some eye popping speciality costumes from Mike Coltman who exceeds all panto expectations creating outfits as big and colourful as the characters with his crowning glory being dressing the ugly sisters up as a can of Fosters and a packet of crisps, sandwiching them either side of Buttons to make them ‘a meal deal’.
With panto originating from as early as the 16th century there’s not much we haven’t see before but this production of Cinderella is definitely one of the freshest I have witnessed with some spectacular moments, from a talking teddy to a horse drawn carriage that fly’s over the heads of the awe-struck audience.
This is truly one of the best pantomimes I have ever seen. Oh yes it is!
Cinderella runs at Manchester’s Opera House until 30th December