This year’s Opera House pantomime is every bit as sumptuous looking as you’d expect a Qdos production to be. But, as with many a modern panto, the comic shenanigans threaten to crowd out the fairytale elements.
That said, the combination of Ben Nickless as Buttons and the relaxed, lugubrious pairing of Corrie star Connor McIntyre and Les Dennis as the Ugly Sisters, is never less than entertaining. But the emphasis on them means that Cinders (an engaging Shannon Flynn) barely gets any stage time early on, and Guy Unsworth’s production only really hits its stride when the mechanics of the Cinderella story properly kick in.
Nickless especially, whose tried and tested prop comedy and impressions channel the spirit of Freddie Starr – and, in the case of a speeded up Elvis section, borrow from him liberally – has the kids in stitches. But featuring so many of his routines gives the production a slightly disjointed feel.
Luckily, when they do get together, the central pairing of Flynn and Gareth Gates’ affably confident Prince works well – with Gates especially being given time to show off his considerable vocal talents – and a spectacular coach ride, complete with animatronic flying horses, delivers a mind-boggling feast for the eyes.