Like a well-oiled machine, Qdos’ annual pantomimes in Swansea’s flagship theatre consistently deliver on all levels, and their latest offering is no exception.
Cinderella, which was last at the Grand Theatre back in 2011, is the familiar tale of a servant girl who dreams of going to the ball and meeting her Prince Charming. Standing in her way are two ugly sisters, who also dream of snaring the prince for themselves.
While the story is, for the most part, reassuringly formulaic, there are a few tweaks and changes along the way. The most obvious omission is the character of Baron Hardup but, on the plus side, it does give the other characters more of a chance to shine.
Headlining the spectacle is Ian “H” Watkins of Steps fame. No stranger to the Swansea stage from his early visits in Frank Vickery’s productions, he cuts a cheeky and likeable Dandini, and is at his best while belting out some of the pop group’s best-known hits.
Alongside him as the two nasty siblings are local favourites Ceri Dupree and Kev Johns. They both hail from the city, and both have plenty of experience when it comes to glamming it up in women’s clothing for comic effect. They compliment each other well as a double act, and Dupree excels in the singing department, with a stand-out moment being the inevitable Shirley Bassey number. Johns, meanwhile, is the heart of the show, and effortlessly endears himself to the crowd, even while playing a villain. In fact, the record-breaking dame is such a mainstay of the panto that it’s almost unthinkable to imagine Christmas in Swansea without him.
Otherwise, the show pretty much ticks all of the boxes – the orchestra are superb, the ensemble cast young and energetic, and while the special effects are somewhat sparse, they are tastefully modest. As such, there’s no single ‘wow’ moment in this panto – don’t expect the characters flying about the stage or anything – but the sight of live horses pulling Cinders’ carriage to the ball is a highlight.
It’s over-the-top fun and presented with all of the magical good will of the season – what more could you ask for from a Christmas panto?
Until Jan 13
Main image: Ian H Watkins
This review is supported by Wales Critics Fund