When? Tuesday 18th December 2012
Where? Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, stalls
Who? Billy Pearce, Lynda Bellingham, Brendan Sheerin, Brian Godfrey, Ben Stock, Hannah Grover, Christopher Drake, Afnan Iftikhar, Daisy Boyles, Matthew Prince Chambers, Jack Gow, Chelsie Johnson, Ricky Lee Loftus, Kerry Pearce, Innis Robertson, Laura Watson, the Children of the Sara Packham School of Dance
Billy Pearce has become as much a staple of Christmas as mince pies, The Snowman and difficult relatives. The “80′s TV comedian” – in his own words – is clearly enjoying his 14th year of pantomime at the Bradford Alhambra. Starring as Buttons in Michael Harrison and Alan McHugh’s new Cinderella, Pearce is a blast and provides the beating heart and northern soul of a very strong pantomime production.
Harrison, who Executive Produces, wisely keeps the focus on high quality for all-comers, not just the very young, making Cinderella a very successful family show. The sets are astonishing and no expense has been spared; in particular, some wonderful moments of stage magic are sure to delight the younger members of the audience, with gasps of delight clearly audible in the packed house on press night. Throw in live animals, some incredible puppet design and plenty of knowing nods and winks for the more mature panto-lover and Cinderella delivers a near-flawless pantomime experience for young and old alike.
Joining seasoned performer Lynda Bellingham – who gave a disappointly stiff Fairy Godmother – are a talented cast of triple-threat performers and some fine comic turns. Brian Godfrey/Ben Stock are amusing as the traditional Ugly Sisters, with their first act cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” winning plenty of laughs. Christopher Drake makes a dashing Prince Charming and Hannah Grover is an appealing Disneyfied princess Cinderella. Afnan Iftikhar has a lovely singing voice but could do with practice on his Prince Charles impersonation! Supporting the adult cast are a well-drilled teams of children from the Sara Packham School of Dance, who perform without fear. Lastly, in a classically tenuous pantomime link, Brendan Sheerin – host of Channel 4′s Coach Trip – is the coach driver. Ouch! Sheerin does well enough in the part and enjoys himself – I have certainly seen much worse!
But it is Pearce who sells the show with his infectious enthusiasm and humour. The children go crazy for him and he is cheered, clapped and screamed at (he usually screams back) whenever he is on – or about to come 0n – the stage. The adults in the audience can also take a lot from Pearce, with plenty of self-deprecating humour and safe innuendo. Throw in the occasion ad-lib and Pearce is a name that is guaranteed to sell tickets year after year.
In Bradford Alhambra pantomime tradition, bookings are already being taken for next year’s production – Aladdin – shout out if you can guess who is returning?!
- Harry Zing