REVIEW IT was a wet and woolly night in Belfast as we headed to the Grand Opera House to see Cinderella – a perfect night for panto in other words.
The new Baby Grand addition to the theatre means there is a lot more room for the audience to access their seats and the shuffling queues of the past were just that.
Our two charges, nephews of five and six, were hitting their peak of excitement at the whole spectacle.
The opening musical number was worthy of Strictly Come Dancing and had the audience stunned from the outset.
When the Fairy Godmother made her appearance on a malfunctioning flying star, the kids were mesmerised.
They were also a bit puzzled as the 'FG' aka May McFettridge aka John Linehan started to do his thing. You could tell they couldn't quite work out this gender bending thing.
The adults of course lapped it up when he started harassing the audience at the front.
Finding out one group was from Newry he asked "What are you doing up here – selling diesel?" which became a running gag all night.
S/he also had a go at our local political set-up and made fun of the sectarian divide the way only a panto dame can.
The rest of the cast then made their appearances in various manners.
The man-mad ugly sisters rode on stage on a pair of mini-chopper motorbikes and looked like two paratroopers in drag, which I guess was the effect they were looking for. Jay Worthy as Britney and Mark Dugdale as Beyonce certainly didn't lack enthusiasm and their costumes were quite outrageous.
Shinead Byrne as Cinderella was perfectly cast and has a mighty voice, easily hitting the high notes alongside Mark Adamson as the Prince who himself has quite a tenor.
Neighbours actor Patrick Harvey played Dandini, but a few references to this fell a little flat as I think the Saturday night audience was perhaps not soap opera savvy.
Aidan O'Neill as Buttons was the kids' favourite, though I felt there could have been a bit more 'it's behind you' moments to keep them involved.
Of course, it all ended up happy ever after with highlights along the way of a flying horse that takes Cinders to the ball during a snowstorm, which fills the auditorium and covers the audience with 'snowflakes'.
The highlight for me was seeing my old motorcycling mate Gary Walker dragged up on stage as a foil for the man-hungry Ugly Sisters – can't wait to rub that in, just glad it wasn't me!
Panto at the GOH is seen as the pinnacle of the form here, and this show is no exception, being slick and professional.
My only criticism would be that it is in danger of becoming too slick and running the risk of distancing the audience from the performance, which is the antithesis of panto. Sometime those ad lib moments are what makes the show.
More booing and hissing and "over there" opportunities please!
Cinderella runs at the Grand Opera house until January 19.