Joe McElderry of X Factor fame makes his panto debut in this boisterous production of Cinderella and what a sweet Prince Charming he is. As on TV, McElderry inspires the feeling that he's an inherently good person and we all go off with a sense that Cinders really is going to live happily ever after in the arms of such a nice chap. He has a number of beautifully sung ballads and if he and Victoria Farley's polished Cinderella seem a little more like friends than lovers that's not something that bothers their enthusiastic audience.
Shane Richie Jnr is brilliant as a very wry Buttons. For a character usually played for buffoonish laughs, Richie Jnr instead goes for the world weary air of a vaudevillian music hall star. It's an ingenious move and he's genuinely hilarious. Nick Barclay and Howard Gossington are a suitably gruesome paring as the ugly sisters and Jenny-Ann Topham relishes the role of wicked stepmother with dastardly panache. David McMullan is an amusingly officious and very dapper Dandini.
The appearance of real ponies drawing Cinderella's coach almost proves too much for this raucous audience to bear and her transformation is masterfully handled to appear almost magical.