There’s a reason why the Sheffield Lyceum pantomime has been such a success since Paul Hendy’s Evolution Productions took over in 2007. Hendy is smart enough to stick to a formula, but also add some fresh twists each year. For Cinderella, the star names are CBeebies’ Mister Maker (aka Phil Gallagher) and ex-Strictly star Joanne Clifton, but as ever it’s the perennial pantomime dame Damian Williams who is the heart of the show.
This is Williams’ 12th consecutive panto, and he’s reliably entertaining and quick-witted as Ugly Sister Donaldina, in tandem with Matt Daines’ Melania (pantos have never been particularly subtle). Clifton is a charming and surprisingly funny fairy godmother, while Evelyn Hoskins makes an impressive panto debut. Not surprisingly, given her background in musical theatre, her rendition of This Is Me from The Greatest Showman is one of the highlights.
The set pieces that have become part of the Lyceum panto tradition are all here – the ‘puns section’, the ‘ghost bench and accompanying song’, and the relentless teasing of a random theatregoer in the front row. Yet there are some truly spectacular moments here worthy of a West End show, including an aerial silk dancing scene, beautifully choreographed by Sarah Langley, and an uproarious cast rendition of Boom Shake the Room among them.
There’s even a surprise cameo (via video) from Paul O’Grady, and a precocious eight-year-old member of the ensemble almost steals the show by calling out the panto’s more old-fashioned elements. Even the most panto-phobic of theatregoers will find Hendy’s Cinderella hard to resist this Christmas.