Bradford audiences it seems, cannot get enough of Yorkshire comedian Billy Pearce – the pantomime legend is back at the Alhambra theatre appearing as Buttons in this lavish, enthralling, and entertaining production of Cinderella.
You can understand why Pearce is booked every year to star in the pantomime; as soon as he appeared on stage with his catchphrase of “Hi ya, kids” a warm glow seemed to surround the auditorium. Even risqué or political jokes seemed to flow naturally. And though you may have heard some of his older jokes many times before, his years of experience of entertaining Yorkshire audiences was a joy to behold.
Cinderella starts from stage and screen
Emmerdale star Samantha Giles soon settled into her role as the evil and conniving Baroness Voluptua Fortuna with her two ugly daughters Manipulata and Vindicta played by Wendy Somerville and Larissa Alexandrovnia respectively. I have to confess, the wicked stepsisters looked far too glamourous than I imagined them to be though.
John Whaite from Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off excelled in his dual roles as Faerie Godfather and Dandini, whilst Huddersfield-born Sarah Pearson gave Cinderella a strong Yorkshire accent that was totally unexpected. The chemistry between her and Dale Mathurin as Prince Charming was a delight and totally believable. Mathurin is an excellent singer too, with his version of the Queen hit Somebody to Love being right up there with the Freddie Mercury version.
Ingeniously, the Petula Clark song Downtown was re-worked into being an ode to Bradford and the surrounding area, whilst Abba’s Gimmie! Gimmie! Gimmie! (A Man After Midnight) was fittingly used, as was the more recent Dua Lipa hit, Dance the Night.
A magical touch
North Yorkshire illusionist Phil Hitchcock brought a magical touch to the panto as Baron Hardup, though the scene where he produced a multitude of flowers seemingly from nowhere felt oddly placed in the storyline, in an otherwise fast paced and engaging production.
The scenes that worked the best were the tried and tested ones. The tongue-twister scenario and a later one where Pearce invited younger members of the audience up on stage were hilarious, proving that sometimes it is the simple things that can generate the most laughs.
Add to that thrilling special effects and the return of the Bradford Sunbeams after a four-year absence and you have a magical pantomime where the Alhambra’s reputation as being the best panto in the north, remains intact. Grab yourself a ticket to the ball, you will not be disappointed.
Cinderella runs at the Bradford Alhambra until Sunday 21January 2024.