Cinderella, The Regent Theatre, Hanley
It was an emotional return for The Regent Theatre’s much-loved Christmas panto as Cinderella swept onto the stage on Friday.
With last year’s panto in Hanley cancelled due to covid restrictions and the beautiful theatre standing dormant for so much of the past two years the actors’ delight to be back in the limelight where they belong was clear for all to see.
Always a lively crowd at the best of times, the people of Stoke-on-Trent and the surrounding areas showed their appreciation from the off to provide the perfect atmosphere for panto’s long-awaited return.
Stepping into Button’s breeches once more, Jonathan Wilkes was flawless as ever with his boyish charm and local connection giving him a unique rapport with the crowd. As he entered the stage to cover Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ the tone was set. Plenty of raucous fun but overlayed with emotion. It’s been a tough couple of years for everyone, but we need to get back out and enjoy ourselves, not least the kids who have missed out on so much, and Cinderella really captures this.
No spoilers, but for those familiar with The Regent’s panto, all the favourites are back again with an update as usual. The excellent Christian Patterson returns as everyone’s favourite pantomime dame, this time as Cinderella’s mother Baroness Heifer Hardup. His larger than life persona, flawless comic timing and general exuberance are a joy to behold, and it is impossible not to laugh along.
Along with Buttons he delivers the annual past-paced song one-liners, slapstick laugh out loud scenes, tongue twisters and, of course, the 12 Days of Christmas. They are joined by the excellent Kai Owen for the latter, who puts in a magnetic, crowd-pleasing turn as Dandini.
Of course, he is in good company as this production is known for its quality and every member of the cast is outstanding. Naomi Slights is perfectly cast as the sweet, likeable Cinderella, while Ryan Jupp is delightfully dashing as Prince charming. Viven Parry and Annie Wensak are gleefully wicked as the evil step-sisters Stacey and Nessa. And recent graduate Olympia Curry must surely have a bright future ahead of her as she put in a spellbinding turn as The Fairy Godmother.
There is always something a little special about The Regent Panto – and this is the costume design, set design and dance routines. These magic ingredients make for a true spectacle, bringing the sparkle and magic that live theatre is all about. There is always a feast for the eyes – sometimes quite literally with the fantastically overblown costumes worn by Baroness Hardup and the ugly sisters.
Expect truly magical moments (one in particular!), lashings of innuendo, pithy political asides, laugh out load moments aplenty and mesmerising song and dance routines. But most of all, expect to go home feeling good. Everyone was up on their feet dancing and to deliver a well-deserved standing ovation, and it was moving to see the glee on children’s faces as they got back into the theatre.
The Regent did a great job of quickly and efficiently checking covid vaccine passports/ test results and while masks were worn by the majority in the theatre this didn’t take anything away from the atmosphere.
As this was the first show since the panto was cancelled last year, the cast was visibly emotional as Jonathan Wilkes paid tribute to the efforts of key workers and thanked the audience for their support.
Tickets are still available, so show your support for this fantastic festive tradition and book now online.