Now that we know all is still securely fun-tastic in the StirlingStella region of the Pantosphere, we can admit to our fears. Would there be cries of "wh-e-e-e-re's Johnny?" when the driving force behind the MacBob's five successive years of hit pantos didn't sashay on stage in something outrageous. Well Johnny McKnight, still the writer of this Cinderella, and all ticket-holders can breathe easy – though the latter will probably be breathless with laughter. From the opening scene, where the learner fairies – played by local youngsters – are given the task of making Ella's dream of romance come true through to her happy ending with a Prince who is totally in step with her Dirty Dancing footwork, this production (updated by McKnight and directed by Julie Brown) doesn't miss any of the inbuilt tricks.
Richard Conlon and Jonathan Holt, as Fou Fou and Fi Fi, dame it as to the McKnight manner born. Conlon is all front. And bum'n'tum. A walking visual gag, especially when skinny-skliff Holt is beside him and both are in full-on rapid patter mode, gallus and raucous and saucy but above all in synch with the split-second timing that makes even a pause into a punch-line. If Angela Hardie's delightfully fresh Cinderella deserves her Prince, we have to spare a wee sigh for a live-wire, lovelorn Buttons (Ryan Fletcher) who definitely breezes into our hearts. As do Team Fou Fou, the youngsters who add character and style in various roles before – all too soon it seems – it's the now-traditional chorus of All I Want for Christmas is You. Ain't that the truth, StirlingStella?