The Gatehouse has a fantastic reputation for attracting well-known names and putting on top-notch pantos. And this year is no exception.
It’s beaten bigger theatres for the services of current Neighbours heartthrob Blair McDonough, who has a ball as a likeable Aussie Buttons. Although a little nervous, he gives an honest, wholehearted performance that will surely become more assured as he settles into the part.
Former EastEnders star Scarlett Johnson breaks the mould of the traditional Cinderella, choosing to play her as more down to earth than the wimpish goody-goody we usually see. And it works well.
There is a particularly entertaining contribution from ex-Brookside actress Susan Twist. She’s a hoot as a confused and forgetful Fairy Godmother and there is plenty of suitably comic bitchiness from Richard Oldham and Arthur Bostrom as the Ugly Sisters.
Bostrom’s script hits the occasional laughter-free zone and palls in places. There are hardly any local jokes and some of the musical numbers lack sparkle.
But there is much to commend this show, not least the wonderful Gatehouse Dancers, impressive sets and splendid costumes. Overall, it’s a jolly, entertaining show and another success for producer Stephen Freeman in this his final panto for Stafford Borough Council.