“EVEN your dad enjoyed it” surely has to be a good marker for judging everything in life — and it was what I heard one pantomime-goer say as we left the theatre after Cinderella.
Sheffield Lyceum has pulled out all the stops this year to impress not just the dads but the whole family, too.
There’s the obligatory CBeebies presenter in the form of Mister Maker, aka Phil Gallagher, as Buttons, girl-next-door heroine Evelyn Hoskins as Cinderella and a handsome Prince Charming, played by Oliver Watton.
My fellow Strictly Come Dancing fans will also be very pleased to see former world showdance champion Joanne Clifton as the Fairy (a top booking) and the return of surely the UK’s best panto dame, Damian Williams.
It’s Williams’ 12th year at the Lyceum and the theatre is so lucky to have him.
This year he returns as an ugly sister double act alongside Matt Daines, who does a good job of not being upstaged.
Parents will appreciate the smattering of political and social commentary throughout — the ugly sisters are called Melania and Donaldina and the biggest laugh came from a well set-up Prince Andrew joke — yes, they really went there!
As well as a talented dance troupe, there are also aerial performers Duo Fusion UK, their heart-in-mouth routine is a very welcome distraction from Cinders and the Prince’s obligatory corny duet.
Look out for a surprise cameo performance from the legendary Paul O’Grady, who appears via a screen — not in full Lily Savage get-up, sadly.
But the whole production is nearly upstaged by “emotionally independent”, sassy eight-year-old backing dancing Mildred, played by Tillie Copley, who hilariously interjects to remind the audience that Cinderella (and womankind) are free to make their own decisions in life and not rely on a man. Hear, hear, sister!
Clifton’s Strictly background is weaved in well — her rhyming couplets are given different musical twists from jazz to tango — and she also gets to spread her wings and show off a great samba routine during the obligatory ball.
Casting the ugly sisters as Twice Daly and Claudia Wrinkledman is a touch of genius.
Chart hits from The Greatest Showman, Beyonce, Robbie Williams and Adele keep the tempo up and the award for the most enthusiastic musical director goes to James Harrison, who was jumping and bopping about his booth in full view of the audience.
His energy and enthusiasm were infectious — sod Cinders and the Prince getting hitched, I was more elated to see Harrison finally get his moment on stage during the finale, complete with a snazzy costume, proving that dreams really do come true.