There’s a big surprise in this year’s Marlowe Theatre panto, and it isn’t any of the songs or comedy set-pieces.
It’s Phil Gallagher (best known as Mr. Maker on cBeebies), who plays Buttons. This Buttons is far more than Cinderella’s friend. His unrequited love for Cinders forms a decent-sized part of his character, and Gallagher’s heartbreak is really quite affecting.
It’s a neat addition to a high-class panto that in all other areas does exactly what you’ve come to expect it to.
It’s not the ex-soap stars who get people booking a year in advance, it’s the smart writing by Paul Hendy, the amazing musicianship of musical director Chris Wong, and the phenomenal comic partnership of Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett (this year playing Cinderella’s ugly step-sisters).
That said, it doesn’t mean the ex-soap stars are bad. Sally Lindsay is a great, tipsy fairy godmother, while Harry Reid is an effervescent Dandini. At first, he doesn’t seem like a great fit in Pantoland, but in time his sheer exuberance wins us over and he seems overjoyed to be there (at times he literally bounces up and down).
The Marlowe Theatre panto is usually head and shoulders above its rivals and this holds true in 2018. Cinderella never quite hits the dizzy heights of previous productions, but it is nonetheless a fun show that puts other pantos to shame.