His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

Mary Brennan

four stars

What pantomime can you drive a coach and horses through? Cinderella, of course - thereby creating a moment of true fairy-tale magic! The pumpkin’s transformation into a gorgeous glittering carriage had the HMT audience ooh-ing and aah-ing in delight. Thanks to some cunningly engineered white horses, the coach even flew....oh, wow!

One show-stopping special effect does not make an outstanding family panto, however. That comes with good story-telling, nicely-judged salt’n’sauce sprinkled over pithy, funny banter that’s full of local colour, and a cast who cheerfully channel their individual talents into episodes of ensemble comedy where no-one hogs the hilarious malarkey.

This year Alan McHugh adds directing to his long-standing HMT roles of writer and Dame: as a result, not a trick is missed. With Jordan Young now on-stage at Edinburgh King’s, McHugh has acquired a new sidekick and - like the all-important slipper - Paul-James Corrigan is a sparkly-twinkly spot-on fit. His Buttons has a gallus charm that’s evident from the first rorty ‘Hiya pals!’ and yet there’s a crumpled-up shyness that hauds him back from telling Cinders (Rachel Flynn) that he loves her. Not a smidgeon of shyness lurks anywhere in Louie Spence’s flamboyant Dandini: he twerks and twirls, flounces and strikes knowingly camp poses in glitzy pink tunic and white tights.

But he also joins whole-heartedly, alongside patter merchants McHugh and Corrigan, in the slippery tongue-twisting wordplay of Sushie Susie and he goes an extra mile as the fall guy who gets regularly goosed in the vaudeville song routine.

McHugh’s Baroness Heifer is a gloriously garish Dame who carries all before her, while Joy McAvoy and Sally Howitt are pure dead mean as the Stepsisters. Laura Main is a glamorous Fairy, Paul Luebke a gallant Prince, the musical numbers are bright and breezy - all the panto pieces fit together just so, and HMT scores another hit, ken.