The theatre is alive with the buzz of hundreds of people gathering together for a tradition that sadly had to be broken last year. The atmosphere in the auditorium was in a word electric. The Regent Theatre always go above and beyond with Panto, this one is no exception.
For their 14th year together we have Jonathan Wilkes and Christian Patterson as Buttons and Baroness Heifer Hardup respectively. These two together is a match made in heaven. There is a reason they keep coming back, the people of Stoke adore them both. They’re regional treasures at this point frankly. We have a few more returning actors in Kai Owen, a massively watchable Dandini who gives off an air of Dad jokes coming to life in the best possible way. Naomi Slights as Cinderella was a perfect principal girl, she was kind and charismatic on stage. Her presence throughout was warm and endearing. Viven Parry is back playing the role of Stacey joined by Annie Wensak as Nessa. These two played the Evil Stepsisters which was a big switch from the Panto normal. They had a clear connection on stage and bounced off each other well. I felt that Delme Thomas was really missed this year. He was becoming a Panto staple in Stoke and his performance was missing for me!
Ryan Jupp as Prince Charming was one of my favourite performances of the night. He was bright and warm throughout. He approached everything was a kindness and embodied the essence of a fairytale prince perfectly. Olympia Curry played the Fairy Godmother, her voice was stunning, and she had a magical grace on stage that shone as bright as the sequins on her costume.
The costume design in this Panto was absolute perfection. They were magical. I loved the consistent nods to Christmas with the reds and whites visible in the ball scene and also the finale. My personal favourite costume was Cinderella’s ballgown.
The transformation scene was sheer perfection. This was greeted by gasps of sheer joy from young and old in the audience. It was visually stunning.
The writing here and changes to the traditional story for example having the Baroness alive and her being the one to marry for money and it being Cinderella’s father that had died. It works with a Heifer being a dame. The female Stepsisters work as they still have the big elaborate costumes expected of these two. The writing is in a word brilliant, there were a lot of adult based jokes that obviously went over the children’s heads. At a point a riddle was made, and it went wrong and a young child around me declared ‘they’ve just said a naughty word.’ Was this slightly too risky? Maybe. Also, in ‘It’s Raining Men.’ There was a Magic Mike style dance with topless dancers using umbrellas and suggestively dancing. This again felt slightly unnecessary for a show mostly targeted at children. My other slight gripe are the song choices, they repeated the same song several times. It wasn’t a song that I recognised. There were some Panto classics used like ‘I Will Survive’ and ‘I’m Still Standing.’ But, not enough to keep the younger children entertained. The Regent usually do the music choices perfectly, but this year felt a tiny bit off.
The whole experience of being back in the theatre and watching the magic of Panto brought to life by people that now almost feel like home was just wonderful. It’s what the country needs a good old-fashioned laugh surrounded by others wanting that too. Festive, funny and fabulous.
Festive, funny and fabulous, Cinderella runs until 2nd January 2022 https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/cinderella/regent-theatre/
Reviewer: Leanne Rushton
Reviewed: 10th December 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★