Bobby Davro was such a popular panto star last year that the Royal and Derngate invited him back again for this year’s spectacular. And, just like last year, it’s a rip-roaring Christmas cracker of a panto with a really funny script and loads of entertainment for all ages. Mrs Chrisparkle and I noted how amusing it is when you see lots of kids laugh their heads off at some of the more “adult” lines, even though they clearly haven’t got a clue why it’s funny! There are lots of such moments in this show.
It’s a beautiful set, with lavish costumes, a bright and breezy band and a feelgood factor running all the way through it. This year’s panto is sponsored by Skype, which means that particular form of communication conduit gets the odd mention, but it felt less laboured than in previous years when they kept on wheeling on that Churchill dog for no good reason.
Bobby Davro can do no wrong on that stage – you can never quite tell what’s scripted and what’s not, all of which adds to the spontaneity of the humour. His winning, instant rapport with the audience works a treat and you can’t resist being in his gang for the night. He clearly has a happy relationship with the rest of the cast and that too helps the evening go with a bang. He’s also given lots of opportunities for impersonations, all of which are spot on. He repeats his crowd pleasing routine from last year with getting the audience bouncing up and down to Tie Me Kangaroo Down, but this year his marsupial companion gets way out of hand – with absolutely hilarious consequences.
Denise Welch makes a rather “knowing” Fairy Godmother, recollecting her previous experiences with Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) and considering the potential usefulness of Prince Charming if Cinderella doesn’t get him. I was surprised what a clear singing voice she has too.
Cinderella is played by Danielle York with charm and enthusiasm; she and Mr Davro make a great double act – at its best with the chocolate shopping trolley routine – and her singing and dancing are very entertaining too. Most easy on the eye as well, if I may be so sexist; plenty for the dads, as Dara O’Briain would say. Her dad, Roy Sampson’s Hardup, gave excellent support in all his scenes, as the poor but idle Baron; including a very funny brief appearance as a policeman.
Tulisa and Jessie, the Ugly Sisters, are another powerful combination, and Andy Brady and Darren Southworth get great comedy value out of their superbly hideous characters. They brighten the stage every time they come on, and give very good “oh no you’re not, oh yes you are’s”. Mrs C was very impressed with their homage to Lady Gaga in their opening number.
The double act of the Prince and Dandini work very well, with James Darch’s Prince oozing grandness and superiority whilst Josh Coburn’s Dandini is a good rottweiler protecting his master. Mr Coburn comes into his own though with the set piece “If I were not upon the stage…” number. This is always a laugh whenever you see it, in panto or “end of the pier” show, but Mr Coburn’s appearance and the treatment he suffers by being stood next to Mr Davro is hilarious and deserves (and gets) the biggest cheer of all at curtain call. He’s clearly a good sport!
There’s a great young ensemble of singers and dancers who look perfect and dance really well, and the kids from the Mayhew School of Dancing lighten up the stage and perform with confident ease.
It’s a really funny evening – uplifting, colourful, musical, and performed throughout with great energy and excitement. We loved it!