Finally I feel my Christmas has started! On Friday night we were invited to the opening night of Cinderella, this year’s Regent Theatre Panto and it was precisely what I needed to get into a festive frame of mind. I don’t think I even realised just how much I missed panto last year but I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a little tear of joy as the curtain went up. The Dame whizzed onto stage on a mobility scooter and a magnificent red and white dress and for two and a half hours things just felt normal again.
We normally go to a few pantos each Christmas and I have to say the one in Stoke on Trent is always my favourite. The much loved and talented cast return each year and clearly share a huge passion for the show and the city. It shines through and really does make the performance extra special.
They’ve pulled out all the stops this year, the sets are amazing, there’s a spaceship, flying effects and a little bit of magic sprinkled over everything.
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The Cinderella Panto
Billed as the Fairy Godmother of All Pantos, we all know the story of poor Cinders, her ugly stepsisters and a lost glass shoe and the panto version sticks loosely to this story. But it’s the bits between the story that we all love the most. Adorable Buttons, unlucky in love as always, the resplendent dame, Baroness Heifer Hardup, this year Cinderellas mother and Dandini, Prince Charming’s loyal man servant. It just wouldn’t be a panto without all their comedy capers.
There are innuendos galore but nothing you’d worry about the kids picking up on. There are plenty of fart jokes to keep the little ones happy. Yes Cinderella ends up with her prince, the ugly sisters get their comeuppance and of course the show ends with wonderful wedding.
As always all members of the cast were outstanding. Jonathan Wilkes plays Buttons and expertly keeps the whole show flowing. Just like previous years he delivers a hugely lovable, hilarious and regional performance much to the delight of the audience. Lines are sprinkled with Ay Up Me Duck and Port Vale references. He is cheeky, he is funny and at times emotional. His short speech at the end of the show, thanking the audience, the city and the return of the panto had me wiping away yet another tear. Stoke really is lucky to have him.
Christian Patterson directs and performs again this year. Playing the hysterical Baroness Heifer Hardup. The costumes as you would expect are glorious in their gaudiness and jokes are whip smart and current. Think mask jokes, political Christmas parties and even a nod to Ant and Dec.
Kai Owens as Dandini is another regular and his love of Stoke and the wonderful community shines through his performance. He is hilarious, cheeky and the perfect sidekick to Ryan Jupps Price Charming.
The onstage chemistry between these three is just a joy to watch, they bring you with them at all times, not stopping for breath unless it’s to deliver some perfect comic timing.
I need to also mention Annie Wensak and Viven Parry who play the ugly sisters. They are sensationally mean, delivering some over the top excellent tunes with fabulous costumes.
My favourite parts of the Regent Theatre Panto
Well where do I start, it was a total mood boosting extravaganza from start to finish! I think for me the traditional, predictable, much loved scenes were my favourite. There really is something so comforting about the formulaic. The twelve days of Christmas had me crying with laughter, Kai, Jonny and Christian’s tongue twister was seriously impressive and the audience singalong had us all up on our feet dancing, singing and absolutely living our best lives. The real joy of a good panto comes from the enjoyment of the cast and they all really did seem to be ecstatic to be back on stage.
The audience reaction
So what did everyone else think? From watching the rest of the audience I think it’s safe to say everyone had a roaring good time. As the curtain went up you could feel how excited everyone was feeling. The whole audience joined in singing, dancing and howling with laughter. At the end of the show everyone was on their feet giving the cast one of the most emotional standing ovations I’ve seen.
Safety Measures at the Regent Theatre
This year pantos have more restrictions than usual. Performers are not allowed to go into the stalls or have things thrown around the audience. If you’ve been to the Stoke Panto you’ll know about the infamous toilet roll scene. Don’t be disheartened, they’ve come up with an ingenious way to make up for it. The show must go on after all!
Before you enter the theatre you’ll be asked to show your vaccine certificate or a negative LFT. You may also have your temperature checked. My heart dropped when I saw the queue outside the Regent but we were all in super fast.
You will need to wear a mask at all times in the theatre apart from when you’re eating or drinking. Please do adhere to these rules. They are there for your safety and it would be absolutely devastating for the cast and crew to have to cancel early due to an outbreak. You can read more about their safety measures here.
Tickets for the Regent Theatre Panto
The Cinderella Panto at the Regent is running from the 11th December until the 2nd January. Tickets start at £13 and they still have availability for most days. If you’re looking for some brilliantly festive family friendly entertainment in Stoke then book your tickets quick to be sure they don’t sell out.
A huge thank you to the Regent Theatre for inviting us to press night. We received 2 complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
Read about our visit to the Sleeping Beauty Panto two years ago for more.