THIS is the 11th time that Andy Ford has led the comedy output in a Hippodrome panto, and in more than one of those of shows he has had to carry that burden almost single-handedly propping up high profile personalities with little stage experience.
This time its a different story with M. Poirot David Suchet, former Steps vocalist Faye Tozer, and ace female impersonator and pantomime dame Ceri Dupre to lend far more than just a helping hand.
Although we are introduced to Poirot very late in the show, it is almost just a nod to the inevitable, and for the greatest part of the story David Suchet brings his fine acting abilities to bear on presenting an ideal Captain Hook for this adaptation of JM Barrie’s classic children’s tale. You could well believe that he had specialised in playing pantomime all his theatrical life in the way in which he combined with Andy Ford and Ceri Dupree in a tongue-twisting routine, and a made-to-measure Twelve Days of Christmas, where they are joined by Fay Tozer.
Dressed in a series of startlingly flamboyant costumes, Ceri Dupree introduces us to a parade of well known lady singers including an outrageously dressed Cher, while Faye Tozer, as Mimi the Mermaid (a character from the mind of story adapter Alan McHugh rather than a JM Barrie original) belts out numbers in true pop concert style, much to the delight of an excitable audience.
All that may give you a clue that although there are elements of Barrie’s story to be found in this adaptation, by and large Hugo Rolland and Molly Farmer’s brightly played Peter and Wendy, plus the Lost Boys, have rather been sidelined in this production. We do however get to savour Carly Joan Furlong’s lovely mixture of jealousy and love as Tinkerbell, giving an audience champing at the bite to join in the chance they had been waiting for.
With MD and keyboard player Dan Glover and his five-piece orchestra producing, via Andrew Johnson’s sound design, greater volume that a 70-strong symphony orchestra, the tone was set for a big, colourful, well-costumed and slickly presented production.
At the end it was left to Andy Ford to bring us back into Pantoland, giving the full cast time to change into their spectacular finale costumes as he first involved the audience in congratulating those with birthdays and then giving a rendition of a panto song with words fitting the occasion. This may have been an easier night’s work than some previous Hippo pantos he has been involved in, but even with this amount of talent to contend with, when it came to playing in pantomime style, Mr Ford was as bright a star as any of those sharing the stage with him.
Photographs by Mark Dawson