St Helens Theatre Royal
December 3, 2022 - January 8, 2023; 2hrs 30mins
Regal Entertainments has established a solid reputation for punching above its weight when it comes to its regular school holiday pantomimes - though there's no denying they save a bit of extra-special sparkle for the Christmas show.
This year's production - Cinderella, written by Reece Sibbald - is no different, with no less than two Britain's Go Talent stars in its hard-working principal cast.
2020 winner Jon Courtney proves a panto natural as Dandini, showcasing droll likability and tongue-in-cheek humour. The Audience was delighted when he got the chance to show off his winning BGT act - comedy songs at the piano - with a number written specially for the show. I'm sure we will see him again on panto stages, judging by this winning performance.
Youthful ventriloquist Jamie Leahey - he's just 14 - was this year's BGT runner up, thanks to his sweetly-funny double act with chicken puppet Chuck and remains a big hit at the Theatre Royal. It's worth noting that Jamie & Chuck aren't performing at every show; check their schedule here if you particularly want to see them.
Corrie's Kimberley Hart-Simpson makes a lovely Cinderella, and shines in a truly gorgeous transformation scene (yes, complete with Shetland ponies) that will melt the hardest of hearts and perhaps cause more than a few leaky eyes in the audience.
Returning favourite Lewis Devine is a clear favourite as Buttons, proving again why he is such a staple on the local panto scene, mixing cheeky charm with slightly-naughty one liners.
Musical theatre regulars Rachael Woods and Joe Sleight show off fantastic vocals in their respective roles as Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming, and Kristopher Bosch and Richard Aucott are a devilishly delicious pair of Ugly Sisters (Borisina and Trussiana), whose comic timing is matched by fabulously OTT costumes.
My mini reviewers all had their own favourite characters and bits - including a riotous 12 Days of Christmas and references to "Tik Tok dances", but all agreed the show was "absolutely amazing".
For a glitteringly festive family show - that won't break the bank - Cinderella is a real Christmas cracker that will leave you with a song in your heart and possibly a little tear in your eye.
More info and tickets here