PANTO: Have a Ball with Cinderella!

The Ugly Sisters take centre stage at the Millennium Forum panto, 'Cinderella'.
The Ugly Sisters take centre stage at the Millennium Forum panto, 'Cinderella'.

Nothing says Christmas like William Caulfield in drag!

It’s Derry panto season and, perhaps, the biggest shock from the latest, excellent offering from the Millennium Forum is that everyone’s favourite Panto ‘Dame’ has opted to play it straight this year.

The Fairy Godmother and a Buttons find themselves in a pickle at the Forum panto.

The Fairy Godmother and a Buttons find themselves in a pickle at the Forum panto.

Well, straight-ish!

Caulfield is ‘Buttons’ as Cinderella announces itself in all-singing, all-dancing fashion with more than a little injection of humour to ensure that there are plenty of surprises for everyone throughout an unique retelling of the well known fairy-tale.

Kathryn Rutherford takes the lead role of long suffering ‘Cinders’ and her strong vocals are a highlight in a panto that occasionally moves away from the normal slapstick comedy and is not afraid to bear its heart to the audience.

Opposite Rutherford is the dashing Mark Lamb as Prince Charming. Lamb matches his perspective on-stage bride on the vocal front and the duo complement each other well as they belt out a number of instantly recognisable chart classics.

Prince Charming though has to play second fiddle on stage to the non-stop, 100mph performance of Conor O’Kane whose portrayal of the Prince’s long suffering Chamberlain, is one of the show’s unexpected delights. O’Kane’s energy is perfect panto madness and his scenes with the show’s ‘less-than pretty’ sisters are brilliant.

Of course, these particular Ugly Siblings are the scene stealing, optically challenged duo of Keith Lynch and James Lecky as ‘Kim and Kourtney Hardup’, Cinderella’s adopted sisters who are on the hunt for a man and their pursuit is not always restricted to the stage!

Whatever warped mirror this pair have been gazing into over the years, their over-inflated egos and snappy one liners provide some most of the show’s stand-out moments, Whether it’s torturing Cinderella, taunting each other or engaging with the audience, every panto needs a villain or two and this pair pull that off with more than a degree of good natured banter.

Orla Mullan as the Fairy Godmother provides narration and song but it is her transformation of the pumpkin, mice, etc into the coach and transport that will take Cinderella to the ball that injects some unexpected but welcomed ‘horseplay’ into proceedings.

Backing everything up is the excellent dance ensemble who open the show and carry proceedings through a number of superbly choreographed routines. Locals Ellen Hasson, Sharon Duffy and Leigh Chapman are among the high energy troupe who ensure the pace of the show never drops.

And then we have poor Buttons! Caulfield may have cast aside the his normal panto attire but his humour remains as sharp as ever. A master of one liners that fly just over kids’ heads but hit parents smack in the face, even Foyle MLA Eamonn McCann gets a mention as Caulfield displays his usual stagecraft while all the time engaging the audience.

Of course, as Buttons he’s destined never to ‘get the girl’ but it doesn’t stop him getting the laughs and there are plenty there for children of all ages!