You’ll have a ball at this pantomime

THERE’S nothing quite like a family visit to the panto to get into the festive spirit and Cinderella (Theatre Royal, Nottingham, until Sunday, January 13) does not disappoint.

Some may look at the cast list and ponder. John Partridge, aka Christian Clarke in EastEnders? Sheila Ferguson, former lead singer of the American 1970s’ group Three Degrees. And the Grumbleweeds, the comedy quartet which provided dozens of happy memories of 1980s holidays in Scarborough and other seaside resorts.

But in a modern panto? There is no need to doubt. Hugely popular, John Partridge as Prince Charming demonstrates just why he had such an impressive CV of West End shows before his Albert Square days, with a lead spot in a London revival of A Chorus Line lined up next February. Song, dance and class are all here in an impressive display.

Sheila Ferguson brings a bit of pizzazz to the role of Fairy Godmother and shows just how she charmed Prince Charles and why she is in demand on the cabaret circuit with a fine version of One Moment in Time.

As for the Grumbleweeds, they have now morphed into a duo, founder members Robin Colvill and Graham Walker bringing hilarity throughout the show as The Broker’s Men. Here is something for the young (the Teletubbies), for the more mature (a devastating send-up of a club chairman from the Bradford Working Men’s Club) and funny and general chaos all round.

There is strong support from Martin Ramsdin and David Robbins (Ugly Sisters), Adam C. Booth delighting the children as Buttons, Aimie Atkinson (Cinderella), Chris Milford (Dandini) and another panto veteran Peter Gabriel (Baron Hardup).

Colour and rapid costumes changes are almost a given in Theatre Royal pantos and there is a stunning transformation scene in which Cinders is whisked off to the ball Pegasus-style by a winged horse.

And The Twelve Days of Christmas will never be the same again after you have seen the Buttons, Baron Hardup and Broker’s Men’s version.

Add a talented ensemble and the Theatre Royal Babes in the juvenile roles, plenty of audience participation without it becoming embarrassing and some lively song and dance and everything is there for this Christmas cracker.