Funnyman and resort panto favourite Steve Royle was on red-hot form as Cinderella opened at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre last night.
The rubber-faced comic’s ad-libs, timing, and improv left the audience – and sometimes even the cast members – roaring with laughter to kick off a month-long run in the town.
Playing Buttons in an adaptation filled with pop culture and local references – which even saw Cinderella’s carriage stuck in Talbot Road traffic on the way to the ball – the Lancashire lad shone as brightly as he ever has in his continuing reign as Blackpool panto king.
He was joined on stage by pop group Union J’s JJ Hamblett, who played Prince Charming, Channel 5 children’s TV presenter Olivia Birchenough, who shone as Cinderella, and Jamie Morris and Tarot Joseph, who played the Ugly Sisters.
Supporting were Gavin and Stacey’s Gwen West as Melanie Walters, David Alcock as Baron Hardup, and Mark Paterson as Dandini, Prince Charming’s valet, as well as the talented cast of extras.
And while the cast had its own strengths, in particular JJ Hamblett’s vocal talent and David Alcock’s acting ability, they struggled to emerge entirely from the huge shadow cast by the genius of Royle.
One particular scene featuring a trio of ballet dancers stood out, as the dancers struggled – and ultimately failed – to keep straight faces in response to the Phoenix Nights Live actor’s seemingly impromptu quips.
The Ugly Sisters, with their flamboyant costumes – which saw them dress as tea parties and even McDonald’s fries – capably bounced off each other and seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the packed-out venue was.
The music, featuring covers of Ed Sheeran’s latest hits, and stage design were as beautiful as ever, with the whole thing leaving me feeling festive for the first time this year.
Cinderella runs until Sunday, January 7. Tickets start from £16.50.
To book tickets, call 01253 290190 or go online to blackpoolgrand.co.uk