Star ratings issued out of 5
Cinderella at the Bristol Hippodrome is a theatrical extravaganza that is certain to delight from a tiny tot to the mature panto lover. Year on year you are guaranteed to see a polished performance at the Hippodrome that provides not only an array of onstage talent but some of the best sound, scenery and lighting to be found in pantoland and this year is no exception, if anything they have raised their game above and beyond anyone expectations.
Craig Revel Horwood is full of energy and boasts a stunning singing voice, he can really belt out those top notes with impressive ease. Of course he also gets to showcase his dance skills in a showstopping routine which will leave you reaching for that number 10 marking paddle. To coin his own phrase he is simply fab-u-lous.
Andy Ford is surely Hippodrome royalty by now, he clearly loves what he does on stage as much as the audience adore his engaging performance. Andy’s boundless energy is contagious, you simply can’t help but smile every time he makes an entrance. His humour hits just the right spot for all ages, he is family friendly yet pushes his limits just to the point he knows it is acceptable for a panto audience. Andy offers up a memorable and hilarious routine using the flags of the world during act 2 and goes on to deliver one of his famously Bristolian song sheets. Andy Ford is a true one off, an asset to the Bristol Hippodrome panto and as long as he is appearing I am guaranteed to attend.
Alison Jiear is delightful in her role as Fairy G, she delivers her lines with style and elegance and her singing voice is simply sublime. The cast are tight, they form an impressive ensemble and the story does not get lost or overlooked as can often be the case in pantomime.
I can spot a Gary Hind score a mile off and I was delighted with the song choices from his original compositions to his cleverly reworded classics. This score elevates the production from being a standard pantomime that you can see in any venue to one with much more of a musical pantomime feeling, it flows beautifully.
I could not pick a single thing that I did not love about this show, it left me wanting more and I walked out of the venue with a huge smile having been thoroughly entertained.
Cast: Andy Ford, Craig Revel Horwood, Alison Jiear, Daniel Norford, Oliver Savile, Leanne Jones, Catherine Morris and Lauren Hampton
Review: Panto land - The online panto
Blue Peter legend Peter Duncan stars as Dame Dolly Doughnut in his latest online adventure.
Generally, we do not believe that panto translates well on to screen but the reason this production works is because it is not a pantomime written for the stage but rather one created especially to be enjoyed in this way, it is a different sub-genre of pantomime and whilst it certainly does not replace a visit to a live production (and it’s not attempting to) it does have it’s own charm and running at 66 minutes will be perfect seasonal viewing for school groups who cannot make it to a theatre or to keep younger children entertained for an hour over the Christmas period.
This production is rich in colour, original musical numbers and family friendly humour. Peter Duncan knows his craft well and continues to lead the way in online pantomimes, something he has very much championed in the last few challenging years.
The production is available from 1st December 2022 from pantoonline.co.uk and families can enjoy this at home for £10.
Cast: Tazmin-May Gebbett, Kevin Osborne, Peter D Humphrey, Arthur Duncan, Lucy-Jane Quinlan, Adam Price, Josh Vantyler, Miguel Angel, Ava Taylor-Knott, Lucy Heath, Chris Redburn, Julia Gale, Clare Hadley, Charlie Wells, Anne Furbank, Polly Mann, Adam Mann and Richard Furbank
Review: Sleeping Beauty
Theatre Royal, Windsor
This was our very first panto trip to this glorious theatre and what a welcome we received, huge praise to the venue staff including the security men on the front door and the very engaging and friendly Box Office Ladies, they all made for a very pleasant visit.
I am not sure at what point Love Island's Amy Hart was quietly dropped from appearing in this production as the title character but I presume this is due to her pregnancy and it gave Italia Conti gaduate Lauren Lane the amazing opportunity to make her professional pantomime dame with great success.
Pantomimes certainly differ up and down the Country regarding their style and delivery and this was a slightly different pantomime experience for us. It is very clear that Windsor audiences are very used to returning cast members Steven Blakeley, Kevin Cruise and Basil Brush and they are welcomed with gusto by the adoring crowds. At times I felt like a bit of an intruder who had gate crashed a party where everyone else knew each other. The show itself runs shorter than a lot of other productions, an hour for act 1 and 45 minutes for act 2 meaning at times it seems slightly rushed, (the ghost gag, or rather Dinosaur gag in this instance) is over in the blink of an eye and a lot of the traditional and expected story of Sleeping Beauty is absent making way for sketches from Nurse Nelly and Chester the Jester.
Anita Harris makes for a deliciously wonderful villain and seems to relish the role of Carabosse and indeed she gave us the only opportunity in the show for a traditional cry of 'Oh no you're not'. This is an actress now in her 80s although you would not know it, she is showing no signs of slowing down and knows the craft of pantomime well.
Hilarious chaos ensues as the cast launch in to their 12 days of Christmas routine, this is certainly the stand out point in the show.
This show boasts colour a plenty, a beautiful set, a great mix of songs, some of the best sound and lighting we have seen and it would be remiss of us not to mention the ensemble who certainly work hard throughout the performance and have great presence.
This production is playing now until 8th January 2023
Cast: Anita Harris, Basil Brush, Steven Blakeley, Kevin Cruise, Elizabeth Cartee, Lauren Lane, David Luke, Joshua De La Garde, Ike Fallon, Elliot Owen-Cowles, Mia Welsh, Isabella Everett, Kayleigh Cooper
Review: Beauty and the Beast
Wyvern Theatre, Swindon
A new wind has blown through the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon hailing a bright new era of pantomime as Imagine Theatre take over production company duties. This is the very first time that Beauty and the Beast has been the panto title at this venue so everything felt very fresh for this festive offering.
This is a glorious celebration with colour, laughter and song a plenty which truly propelled us into the Christmas spirit. It was a total delight to see David Ashley make a return to this panto stage as Dame, the first time since 2016 and he has certainly been missed. David knows how to work an audience and has the art of the pantomime Dame down to skilled perfection. When Dame Fifi has one too many sherries in act two hilarity ensues and this provided the highlight of the production for us.
The dance numbers were polished, the set looks beautiful and lavish as do the costumes and if I had one little niggle (and it really was a tiny one) it would be that there appeared to be a few minor glitches with the sound but with this ironed out, as I am sure it will be, you will be left with panto perfection.
Under the guise of Fairy Flutterby Anne Hegerty (a.k.a Frosty Knickers and The Governess) guides us through our pantomime journey with a wonderful script penned by Eric Potts which weaves us through the tale of Beauty and the Beast, not the Disney version that many will be more familiar with and not the true traditional fairy-tale version but rather a version designed to incorporate the classic and expected panto elements that we know and love.
We have to mention Liam Doyle who is no stranger to the Swindon stage having made many appearances there earlier in his impressive career which has seen him become one of the leading lights of the west end. Liam is the perfect villain of the piece with an impressive voice and stage presence. Roger Wright and Eloise Lord both boast outstanding singing voices and Paul Burling keeps the impressions of celebrities coming thick and fast throughout.
This was an exceptional production and both the Wyvern and Imagine Theatre have delivered a real seasonal treat setting the bar high. This production is a sweet delight from start to finish.