Christmas seems to have come round even quicker this year – and the Floral are already advertising next year’s Peter Pan – but amidst all the December madness it’s always worth finding the time to take in the Floral Pavilion pantomime, a long established fixture of Wirral’s festive season. This year it’s an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ production of Cinderella, a show that’s perhaps a tad formulaic but which hits all the requisite buttons with impressive accuracy.
The lead role is played by Olivia Birchenough, who came to fame in TV’s Milkshake! and who’s appeared in New Brighton pantomimes before. She’s an exceptionally talented performer and her sheer joyfulness on stage captivated everybody watching. Alison Hammond, a familiar face from ITV’s This Morning, also went down well with the audience in her role as the Fairy Godmother, not least for battling on like a trouper when she caught a foot in her voluminous dress during a dance routine.
This production boasts not one pantomime dame but two – Jamie Morris and Tarot Joseph as the Ugly Sisters, Daisy and Silly Lily Hardup, resplendent in a series of dazzling costumes designed by the actors themselves. Their camp, occasionally off-colour humour generated a lot of laughs. The audience enjoyed booing them, but the Sisters had their revenge when they got out the water pistols and gave as many people as they could a good soaking.
Holding everything together was Tam Ryan, whose considerable stage experience shone through in his superb performance as Buttons: confident, relaxed, occasionally – and very wittily – off-script, and delivering some hilarious one-liners with real aplomb.
The main cast were supported well by six energetic, well choreographed dancers from the Liverpool Theatre School (LTS) and the Merseyside Dance and Drama Centre. The LTS also provided some even younger dancers, who charmed the audience with their enthusiasm and skill.
The entertainment level was kept high by several well-known pop songs, and crowd-pleasing surprises, including the magical transformation of Cinderella’s costume from shabby dress to spectacular ball gown, and actual horses to pull her carriage. There was also some enjoyable audience participation, not all of it voluntary. If you go it might be advisable not to sit in the front row; on this occasion Simon from Derbyshire was on the receiving end of a fair amount of stick from the Ugly Sisters, who seemed to take quite a shine to him. And wherever you sit, make sure you join in – if you don’t, you might well be made to.
The exuberance of everyone involved in the production was infectious and impossible to resist. We all had a thoroughly enjoyable night.
**** The Floral scores again with another triumphant family hit
Photos: ©David Edwards 2016
Cinderella continues at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton until 8 January 2017. For more information, click HERE.