Theatre review - Cinderella at Manchester Opera House

Gareth Gates as Prince Charming & Shannon Flynn as Cinderella
Credit: Phil Tragen

Gareth Gates as Prince Charming & Shannon Flynn as Cinderella Credit: Phil Tragen - Credit: Archant

Cinderella at Manchester Opera House is a jolly romp of perfect pantomime fun, says Kate Houghton

Connor McIntyre and Les Dennis as the Ugly Sisters, Manchester 2018
Credit: Phil Tragen

Connor McIntyre and Les Dennis as the Ugly Sisters, Manchester 2018 Credit: Phil Tragen - Credit: Archant

Why do the British love a pantomime so? There must surely be a thesis in there somewhere. A theatre full of people, from multiple generations, all laughing uproariously as actors who seem to be having the time of their life stride across the stage, singing, dancing and telling fabulously awful jokes…really, what’s not to love?

Last night saw Manchester’s Opera House, the venue for the city’s pantomime for decades, bring back the kind of show we all want to see, after last year’s somewhat ‘interesting’ (read ‘cringe-worthy) performance by John Barrowman and the Krankies. A classic fairy-tale, where good conquers evil, the beautiful princess marries her handsome prince and all live happily ever after – it’s no wonder the children were leaping in their seats with the joy of it.

Ben Nickless as Buttons.
Credit: Phil Tragen 30.11.18

Ben Nickless as Buttons. Credit: Phil Tragen 30.11.18 - Credit: Archant

From where I sat I could see a fair dozen children, including one of my own, boys and girls aged from around six to 12. Each and every one spent more than a few minutes, on multiple occasions, absolutely doubled up with laughter. I thought my own son would end up on the floor at one point. If they weren’t laughing, they were wide eyed with wonder, or shouting at the cast in the traditional to-and-fro of ‘oh yes it is’ or ‘she’s behind you.’ Bliss to be a part of and memories being made for both parents (and grandparents) and children. Joy.

This year’s cast was excellent, each and every one. Cinderella, played by Shannon Flynn, was sweet and feminine, which only served to increase the hilarity when she threw all that out of the window to throw a few punches in an excellent scene with Prince Charming and Buttons. Hayley-Ria Christians’s Fairy Godmother did the job just fine and has a smashing singing voice. Prince Charming, played by Gareth Gates looked the part, all handsome and dashing, gave a beautiful rendition of Unchained Melody and demonstrated an excellent sense of humour. The standing ovation must go, however to Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre as the Ugly Sisters and Ben Nickless as possibly the best Buttons in the history of panto.

When Les and Connor are in play, there’s little room on stage for anybody else, the only character able to hold his own being Buttons. This is, of course, expected so their scenes were, happily, always ‘all about me.’ The banter, the one-liners, the put-downs – all brilliantly written and delivered. I did wonder if perhaps McIntyre had lost his voice a little, as the projection wasn’t what it could be, but this didn’t really affect the overall hilarity. Their shared history on Coronation Street allows for many in-jokes that the followers of the show in the audience can share, of course.

Ben Nickless, take a bow. Goodness this man is talented. His comic timing and delivery is wonderful, but it was his impressions that really got the audience going. From Gary Barlow to Jose Mourinho, in both song and chat, he was superb. There’s a fabulous scene where he sings an Elvis song, as he learned it from listening to his grandmother’s ancient record player. It’s scratched, speeds up, slows down and jumps about – and has everybody laughing their heads off, even the kids, who have no concept of where the joke stems from, vinyl and 45s not being a part of their lives as they were for the older generation.

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Cinderella at Manchester Opera House is a triumph of traditional pantomime; from the costumes to the comedy to the casting, it delivers the perfect Christmas entertainment for young and old, for those who love a nudge nudge wink wink joke and those who thrill to the sound of their children laughing. Go, it’s a simply tremendous night out.

Until 30 December 2018: