There are some clear stand out moments in the big Derngate panto in Northampton this Christmas. You’ve got Anita Dobson leading the cast in a rendition of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, even miming the guitar solo her real life partner Brian May performs during the song. There is Martyn James as Buttons making his assistant vanish with live stage magic. Skills.
Sid Sloane from CBeebies orchestrates the genuinely funny-without-groans moment of getting young golden ticket winners from the audience to recite a cheeky tongue twister.
You’ve also got 83-year-old showbiz legend Bernie Clifton singing his heart out, sending giant inflatable sausages to the back of the auditorium across the raised hands of the audience and – for the longtime fans – he goes for a ride on the ostrich.
It says something that despite these riches it is still the ugly sisters (Tess and Claudia played by Tommy Wallace and David Dale respectively) that are burned on the back of your retinas when the final curtain falls.
They gurn and cackle their way gleefully through the show after sending a justified shiver down the spine of the dads when they first befriend the audience. Someone called Adam ends up as Tess’ crush for the night and the rest of us breathe a quiet sigh of relief.
There must be at least half a dozen costume changes for the sisters and their outfits are relentlessly spectacular. Well done to Wardrobe Supervisor Katy Spall.
As the evil stepmother and main baddie Anita Dobson shows occasional flashes of menace but actually seems pretty excited to be involved, slipping into accents as she schemes and divas her way through the story.
Charlotte Haines as Cinderella and particularly Dan Partridge as Prince Charming can both belt out a tune, as can the Irish star Jacinta Whyte who makes a suitably opulent Fairy Godmother.
Pantomime is traditionally recognised as the seeding ground for our future performing talent, and without doubt the kids who saw this performance left with stars in their eyes.
It’s more the songs and fun than the jokes this time out but for the parents and possibly grandparents, don’t underestimate the wow factor of seeing the actual Bernie Clifton (uncle to Strictly’s Kevin Clifton) performing live on stage.