The Lyric Hammersmith and Hackney Empire are now well and truly established as the panto meccas for West and East Londoners respectively. And though I'm yet to see the latter's contribution this year, I can vouch that the former's is looking ship shape.
Steven Webb, who's fast becoming to the Lyric what Clive Rowe is to the Empire, returns with another sterling turn as Buttons, reimagined as a 'fairy' - hashtag one for the grown-ups - who's lost his wings and must save Cinderella (Julie Atherton, making a welcome return to the capital after her stint in the Sister Act tour) in order to regain them.
It's a fairly standard retelling of the tale, replete with perhaps the grizzliest Ugly Sisters you'll see this season (David Ganly and Hammed Animashaun) and a Wicked Stepmother (or Mrs Hardup) courtesy of Mel Giedroyc who laps up the boos like a trooper - "I need boos to get through this show," she reflects.
The production values are impeccable, with designer du jourTom Scutt creating a white horse that wouldn't look out of place at the New London and a Prince's ball that Wills and Harry would recognise. On the costuming front there's a quick change that had all around me gasping, though the real show-stealer is Mrs Hardup's black swan ball gown.
Sean Holmes, who's taken a break from Edward Bond to direct his first panto, shows an assured touch and embraces all the pop culture elements his venue usually eschews, from Whitney Houston covers to X Factor-style dance routines (a nod here to choreographer Lainie Baird and the Young Ensemble for their excellent work). There's even the token Gangnam gag.
All told it's a bucket-load of sugary goodness with enough traditional elements to retain its status as the Rolls-Royce of London pantomimes. Full credit to writers Joel Horwood and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and the team for keeping the laughs coming in this bleakest of recessionary winters.