Flying fairies, wicked queens, winged horses and jolly jokers - you get to be a pretty good judge of what makes a great panto when you see four in five days.
Cinderella at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre is the fairy on top of the panto tree. It goes big on laughs without sinking to crude depths, it has the best singers I’ve heard this season and it also has the irrepressible Damian Williams.
Damian in a man’s outfit in panto is a rare sight - and you’d better make the most of it because next time he’s back in a dress to play the Dame in Jack and the Beanstalk.
Old habits die hard, though, and Damian’s hilarious cameo of Sheffield golden girl Jessica Ennis steals the show in Cinderella.
Elsewhere, he shines as bright as the proverbial Buttons he plays, with wisecracks and ad-libs reducing performers and spectators to fits of the giggles.
He tells Cinders (alias Kate Quinnell) not to marry Prince Charming, played by Jonathan Ansell, warning her that he’ll leave her like he did his opera group G4. However, Jonathan leaves the audience in no doubt about his singing capabilities and is up there with the best of the golden-voiced leading men.
Housewives’ favourite Ben Faulks (from Mr Bloom’s Nursery) plays a lively Dandini and a sketch involving games and toys plucked from a barrow to illustrate sentences is pure genius.
Sue Devaney sparkles as the high-flying Fairy Godmother, her warm northern accent, interaction with the audience and likeability factor make this little dynamo a big hit with the audience.
And aren’t they gorgeous? Ian Smith and Michael J. Batchelor parade a pot pourri of costumes made by their own fair hands in their roles as the Ugly Sisters Lyceema and Crucibella.
Cinderella runs at Sheffield’s Lyceum until January 6.