It's Christmas season once more and of course that can only mean one thing here in Derry. PANTO time again. It's the sixteenth annual Christmas panto at the Millennium Forum, Derry and is continuing the Forum's tradition of producing outstanding quality and indeed value-for-money entertainment for everyone at this festive season. William Caulfied (Buttons) told me when I caught up with the cast last Tuesday that, "Pantomime is a child's first experience of theater and if they enjoy it, they come back." After tonight's performance there will be quite a few children returning to theater.
Pantomime is a show filled with acting, music, jokes, innuendo, slapstick comedy, colour and more. But there was something different (or maybe just extra) about this year's Derry pantomime. It's a fairy-tale and it's one of the most timeless of tales at that. Perhaps it's because we all like to see good win in the end, but this show showcased so much tonight.
'Once upon a time' started the show. In reality all our lives begin as 'Once upon a time'. Orla Mullan as always excelled in her role, and this year the Fairy Godmother warmed everyone's heart, both young and old. She really did explore the lesson of 'beauty being on the inside', and reinforced the message throughout the night that, 'You are special'. Her role was one which allowed everyone in the theater to feel good about oneself and take that message home.
As always William Caulfield won the heart of every child, man and woman. Buttons gained our sympathy and our love. This man owns any stage he is upon and this year's pantomime was his stage yet again. You can't help but love him.
James Lecky and Keith Lynch were the terrible twosome...the ugly sisters...Kim and Kourtney Hardup (distant relations of the Kardashans!) We all loved to hate them, but a little piece of us all secretly loved them. The guys told me on Tuesday last how much they love doing the Derry panto. They both admitted that they "love coming back to do the panto and the Derry audience always welcomes us home." There were a few tonight who wanted to send them packing at times!! They also told me of the importance of Panto in Derry. "It's a tradition and a real family occasion." To say
Chamberlain, Conor O'Kane, was brilliant in his performance tonight. I felt his pain when being attacked by those uglies. Chris Grant equally so as Baron Hardup.
Kathryn Rutherford was a stunning Cinderella, and won all our hearts from the beginning. Her voice, like her fellow actors, blew us all away throughout the performance tonight. Cinders really did go to the ball, and deservedly so. Kathryn told me during the week that, "Cinderella is a magical fairy-tale and there's a nice message behind it: Beauty is on the inside." What a truly wonderful sentiment.
But tonight wasn't just about the acting for me. I was totally blown away by the music which really brought this fairy-tale into the 21st century. Green Day, Cold Play and Dirty Dancing had my feet tapping and my toneless voice, singing. God love the folk sitting around me. I didn't care. The music lyrics were so apt and I was transported to another world!
But still this fairy tale had more. We all know the story of Cinderella, but sometimes forget the morals incorporated within. I brought home a reminder tonight to always 'believe in myself' and that 'beauty really is within'. It's never what's on the outside that counts, it's what's within. Also, a lesson I continually teach my children is the importance of friendship. Buttons shows us how it can hurt at times, but also that it's important to have a friend, and also to be one. And of course, Good always does win in the end. Cinderella really did win her Prince.
And as for that Prince Charming, Mark Lamb, what can I say? I have to admit, he stole the show for me tonight. I spoke with Mark on Tuesday and discovered that he is a young man in his first year at drama college. He told me, "It's an amazing experience for me." This role is his first professional one. I really can't imagine the talent he will be on completion of college. At just 20 years of age (soon to be 21) he really is a talent in the making. His acting, his very presence on stage, and his outstanding voice, was the highlight of my night. Mark
you are a treasure, a real gem.
Tonight I had the pleasure of bringing my friend Louise and her two children with me to see the Panto. Colm (12) and Eleanor (8) both loved it, and agreed that it was truly magical. As for their mother, Louise came home with sore hands and a sore throat!
And I finally got to take part in a Mannequin challenge! How cool was that?
The stage setting tonight was simply awesome. From the kitchen, to the palace, the forest to the snow clad ground, we really could have been in London's West End or indeed Broadway. Outstanding in every way.
Huge acclaim also to the General Ensemble and the Rainbow School of Dance Junior Chorus. You all nailed it at every turn.
If it's one treat you give your family this Christmas, do make it the Derry Pantomime, Cinderella. It runs at Derry's Millennium Fourm until December 31st. You really won't regret it. It's magical in every way possible and Cinders really does go to the Ball.