Jonathan Wilkes shines in Cinderella Christmas panto at Regent Theatre
Jonathan Wilkes makes a triumphant return to The Regent Theatre in the latest Christmas pantomime, Cinderella. After the curtain went up for first night, Kathie McInnes gives her verdict on the show ...
THERE'S a cameo by Marge Simpson's hairdo, a towering cocktail, and a flame red rocket. And those are just some of the bizarre hats worn by the ugly sisters.
To say they are dressed to the nines in this production of Cinderella is an understatement.
That's unless you count the scene where the duo double up as synchronised swimmers, fresh from representing Team GB in this summer's Olympics. 'Undressed' would be a more apt description of their athletic efforts.
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It is panto time again and the latest offering at the Regent Theatre, in Hanley, is a Christmas cracker.
The show also marks the welcome return of Jonathan Wilkes, who skipped the Potteries production last year so he could appear in panto in Aylesbury instead.
He is perfectly cast in the lead role of Buttons, Cinderella's best friend and secret admirer. By the end of the night, he really owns the stage.
This version of the classic fairytale is set in the village of Hanley-on-the-Hill.
When we first meet them, ugly sisters Nessa and Stacey have just returned from a holiday in Stone and don't look pleased to be back home.
"It's Stoke-on-Trent. I thought it was called Stoke Nil," Stacey quips to the audience.
The character is played by Torchwood actor Kai Owen, who is a revelation in the role of a dame.
But Christian Patterson as Nessa is still the undisputed queen of panto at The Regent and gets more grotesquely entertaining with every scene.
Mulling over her outfit for the ball, Nessa says: "I think I'll wear my Ikea dress. You only have to walk past and my drawers fall off."
The rapport between Nessa and Buttons in particular is pure magic, especially when they start to improvise some of their lines for maximum entertainment.
Yet there are plenty of other characters who get their moment to shine, not least Cinderella, played by the eminently likeable Rebecca Lisewski.
Her Prince Charming is acted by former X Factor contestant Jonathan Bremner, who has soldiered on in the production despite losing his voice.
Then there's Stoke's Top Talent winner Carrie-Ann Williams, who steps into the shoes of the fairy godmother.
She gets the chance to show off both her acting and singing talents, with a mesmerising performance of Nessun Dorma.
Cinderella is also packed with plenty of technical thrills, from the atmospheric lighting to Cinders' horse-drawn carriage flying through the air.
But the second act is all about audience participation and it's where the show gets some of its biggest belly laughs.
Without giving too much away, families would do well to duck so they are not hit by flying objects during a lively rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas.
And for a while, the zany action goes off at so many different tangents that you forget you are following Cinderella.
This is a show for all the family and there is something in it to warm even the most hardened theatregoer's heart.
• Cinderella runs until January 4. For tickets, call 0844 871 7649.