The Mercury always gives a first class pantomime but this year in a tent, we really weren’t sure that they would be able to pull it off. How wrong we were.
This was the classic Cinderella story with a fantastic choice of musical numbers including those from Pippin, Annie, Jersey Boys, The Wiz and Shrek to name a few and the set was inspirational, so cleverly designed giving a wide range of locations and seamless set changes and the tent itself allows far more entrances through the audience which again adds something special.
Once again The Mercury we’re blessed with Anthony Stuart Hicks and Dale Superville as part of the panto cast and for many seeing them alone is a Christmas Tradition. This year they are both appearing as the ugly sisters. Their bond over the years always ensures some priceless comedy gold and this year was no exception. Anthony has such amazing stage presence in all his dame guises and his performances are always complete to the tiniest detail and delivered with style and aplomb. Dale has far more physicality to his comedy which did on occasions mean the dame styles felt mismatched and I did feel Dale was struggling on occasions to maintain the same levels as Anthony. But, when they are together in true banter mode they are the finest at their craft and a more enjoyable time at a panto I challenge you to find! Mari McGinlay as Cinderella, was as charming as her Prince’s name and did a fantastic job both working with the audience and on her numbers, she worked particularly well with Nicholas McLean as Buttons, who was so very appealing and not only wowed the audience with his beautiful singing voice but really gave us a truly lovable performance.
Prince Charming played by Jack Reitman was a nice change in the characterisation, nervous in front of girls and showing us a real man as a Prince this gave us an opportunity to grow to love him as we witnessed his own growth in confidence in Cinderella’s presence. The character, Dandini played by Nerine Skinner was also a nice twist as a girl in disguise and had a wide selection of fantastic accents up her sleeve giving us lots of great comedic moments and some really strong vocals.
The fairy, Deborah Tracey, was also a solid performer with great warmth and kindness in her portrayal, with the junior chorus featuring heavily as her wood sprites in some truly amazing wigs, there were some great moments throughout.
Genevieve Nicole as the evil stepmother, a cross between Frankenstein’s Bride and Morticia Addams is clearly a very capable actress but I never really understood how that interpretation sat in this production. She is clearly a strong performer who knows how to play the baddy and with the most amazing pair of legs, but it felt at times laboured for her. I think it may be down to a less responsive audience particularly when you keep have to ask them to boo or shout etc or maybe it’s simply that the tent isn’t intimate enough for the audience to feel comfortable joining in. However, the transformations and special effects certainly were first class. Even when you know it’s all done, when its done well it is a magical experience. Quackers transformation and flight had the little girl in front of me, mesmerised.
Everything about the show was spectacular: The costumes; the band who sang and accompanied in one number; the lighting; the front of house staff, they all contributed into another fantastic production for the Mercury and one that Ryan McBride and the team should be justly proud of.