PANTOMIME is back in the Bristol Hippodrome with its usual big, spectacular, star- studded production, and to use that well-used traditional cry between performers and audience “Oh yes, it is, Oh no it isn’t”.
There are indeed some very spectacular moments, like the wonderful ending to Act 1 when Cinders and Buttons literally fly off to the ball, high above the stage threatening to come out over the proscenium arch and into the audience.
And the eye-popping costumes worn by Craig Revel Horwood, as he changes from Strictly Come Dancing’s “fabulous” judge, to wicked step-mother Baroness Demonica Hardup. But Craig must have been a little disappointed to find himself accompanied in his dance routines by only an eight-strong ensemble, albeit eight dancers who worked their socks off throughout the production bringing enthusiasm as well as skill to everything they did.
No mean hand at vocals and comedy, as well as dancing, Craig certainly deserved his place at the top of the cast list, a place he shared with comedian Andy Ford, who, in his tenth Hippodrome pantomime, has become a firm favourite with Bristol audiences.
If you want a lesson on how to make contact with an audience and keep them on your side throughout, watch Andy at work. With slapstick comedy now ruled out of pantomimes, all comedians find it harder to reach out, particularly to the younger members of the audience. But with his own version of the old panto favourite If I Were Not Upon the Stage, aided and abetted by the Baroness and Leanne Jones and Catherine Morris as her two suitably obnoxious daughters, Claudia and Tess, and a clever routine using the flags and names of countries worldwide, Andy managed to produce comedy that pleased all ages in the audience.
A good choice of music, played with great gusto by MD Tom Chester and his five fellow musicians, gave Lauren Hampton’s spirited Cinderella and Oliver Savile’s dashing Prince Charming every opportunity to keep the adults interested in their romance and prevent the younger element from being bored by the sloppy bits.
When it came to opportunities, vocal, dramatic and comic, Alison Jiear, a lovely warm-hearted Fairy Godmother, and Daniel Norford’s ebullient Dandini, had to live off of scraps. Just as the Fairy Godmother turned some mice and old vegetables into a spectacular coach and horses, the duo made a satisfying meal of their scraps.
There was no sign of a Baron Hardup in this story, leaving us with only eight principal performers, but although it would have been nice to have seen the workload spread over a larger number, and a few more spectacular sets to back them up, led in fine style by Andy Ford and Craig Revel Horwood this was a quality company with the energy and skill to ensure that this visit to pantoland was not a disappointment.