Five years ago Michael introduced the pair to North East audiences in a different version of Cinderella and while co-stars may have changed over the years, the quality of the productions just goes from strength to strength.
The secret over the years seems to be that if you strip away all the effects, you still have a first class pantomime underneath and this year the likes of Pegasus the flying horse, a talking raven, a performing live horse and flying without wires are just enhancements to an already strong show. Also as soon as Clive and Danny appear on stage there is an instant rapport with the audience and the combination of the audience knowing what to expect and Clive and Danny delivering it by the bucket load (literally in one scene) make their panto the must see show every Christmas.
This is still the rags to riches tale of Cinderella (Roxanne Pallett) who is being put upon by her evil ugly step sisters (Phil Corbitt and Steve Arnott) as the hapless Buttons (Danny Adams) is falling in love with her. Naturally when she meets Prince Charming (Matt Rawle) she immediately falls in love, not realising who he is. But as this is a Michael Harrison pantomime, there are plenty of twists to the classic tale, which always moves at a cracking pace. We also have Baroness Rita (Chris Hayward) who arrives on stage is a series of fantastic dresses, all designed by himself. Chris also has the opportunity to lead the musical dance routines and his impersonation of Susan Boyle is scarily authentic.
Donna Steel is perfectly cast as the kooky fairy godmother, who has pink candy floss hair which nicely clashes with her purple dress. Her entrance at the top of the show takes her from the back of the stage to smoothly flying out over the orchestra pit without the aid of wires. This dramatic opening sets the tone for the rest of this production and makes the audience realise they are in for a magical show from the off.
Near the end of the production there is a scene with only Clive, Danny and Chris on stage, where Danny re-enacts the whole show from the start and the reaction from the audience literally stops the show as if it was the finale. It is the first time I have witnessed such a moment in a panto and identifies the quality of this production and its leading actors. This version of Cinderella is literally a Masterclass in Panto, every element is right, the comedy, humour for children and adults, fast pace, costumes, audience participation, water and slosh, special effects, perfect casting and a new take on a classic story which actually enhances the show.
Next year’s pantomime, Robin Hood, is already on sale and breaking records in advance sales. As it is once again written and directed by Michael Harrison, starring Clive Webb and Danny Adams for their sixth year, with Chris Haywood returning for the fourth time, it will no doubt rightly be the “hot ticket” in pantoland once again.