PANTOMIMES do not get much better than this. What ever fairy dust director Jane Joseph sprinkled over this show, it worked.
It charges along at a great pace, looks wonderful, has a witty script and, above all, boasts a cast without a weak link.
As a package it ticks every pantomime box from the traditional routines (“It’s a ghost!”) and song and dance numbers to topical references often based on television shows.
It has also been geared to Liverpool audiences with its settings in the village of Fazakerley-By-The-Forest, Scouse Forest and Fazakerley Hall plus many local performers.
While there are some well-known names in the line up, this is very much an ensemble piece with everyone getting a fair chance to shine.
Coleen Nolan gets star billing, surprisingly making her return to the stage for the first time in 23 years. As the Fairy Godmother arriving in the traditional pantomime flash she’s on first and you know immediately you are in safe hands.
Her chirpy personality comes through the rhyming couplets and she is in strong voice. And, yes, later she does get to sing the Nolans favourite I’m In the Mood for Dancing.
Liverpool’s Liz McClarnon, the ex-Atomic Kitten singer, takes the title role in lively fashion and also gets to sing. Indeed, the song and dance routines in the show are one of the many high spots.
Another pair of locals play the Ugly Sisters, comedienne Pauline Daniels and radio presenter Pete Price and they are hilarious. Pauline uses her comic Scouse accent and has perfected a snorty laugh while Price actually does an acting job to great effect. With over-the-top costumes, the result is a perfect comedy team.
Liverpool actor Shaun Mason, a familiar face on the local theatre scene, is a wonderful Buttons with his comedy voice and numerous impersonations.
He also takes part in one of the funniest scenes, a three way new interpretation of the classic Abbott and Costello Who’s On First routine requiring enormous vocal dexterity.
Joining him for this are veteran stage performer Billy Boyle as Baron Fazakerley and Kieran Jae as a down-to-earth Dandini, both excellent as is Edward Griffith’s prince.
An added bonus is the appearance of young Liverpool ballet dancers Tayluer and Elliott, aged 11 and nine respectively, whose wonderful pas de deux have won them fans on television and stage. They are amazing.
Executive producer Kevin Wood supplied the beautiful sets and costumes, all silver and glittery and picture book style, while pantomime expert Eric Potts provided a great script (apparently with some local input).
After the show, many people were saying that this was the best Empire pantomime in years. I can only agree.