Oh yes it was a super panto by Gateway

There were more than 3,000 ‘bums on seats’ in Portadown Town Hall for the annual Gateway Theatre ‘Cinderella’ pantomime over its 14-show run which ended on Saturday night – and it has been generally agreed this was one of the best ever.

All performances were packed to the doors for this, the 32nd panto staged by the Gateway, which later this year celebrates 50 years of treading the boards.

And in those 32 pantos, the tradition of the heroes, the villains, men dressed as women (and vice-versa) has been retained since ‘Aladdin’ was the 1984 choice – and it is generally agreed that ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Cinders’ are the two family favourites.

There has, of course, been an attraction of fresh talented young people over the years to join with the experienced ‘older hands’. And this was evident over this year’s production, with the title role taken by the superb young Charlotte McClelland (a member of MADS and the Jacquie Keegan School of Speech and Drama) showing her natural talents.

Her truly-pitched singing voice really added to the emphasis on music in the pantos, and her duets with her Prince Charming (the talented Daniel May) were a real feature.

Excellent producer and director Nigel Dawson and Millie O’Kasili have gathered around them a really excellent troupe, with musical director Ryan Harris and choreographer Deborah Fleming completing a quarter of true commitment and talent to ‘drive ‘the production along.

And what on-stage talent there was! Old hand Eddie Drury (the perennial ‘Dame’ of the pantomimes) has never performed better – he was ‘Ugly Sister’ Maxie Mum, with the attractive Susan McPeake (expertly ‘made up’) a wonderful foil for the well-known postman.

Their on-stage chemistry carried the comic scene scenes brilliantly, a super contrast to the romance and skulduggery of the plot. And brilliantly adding to the tomfoolery was Seanny Roberts whose ‘Buttons’ really connected with those 14 ‘full houses’. And Adam McCaffrey as Dandini evoked the traditional ‘Boos’ from the audience, the just reward for the villain of the piece!

Another sub-plot was the relationship between the seasoned Lawrence Cinnamond (Baron Hardup) and Elaine Hanvey (The Baroness) of the classic hen-pecked husband. And the main players were complemented by excellent performances from Hannah Leckey and Kirsty Fleming (Fairy Godmothers), Marie Tiffney (Major Domo) and Arrianne Cousins (Town Crier). And now forgetting Deborah Fleming’s dancing girls who moved around the stage with great rhythm and ease.

Nigel Dawson thanked everyone at the end of Saturday’s final night, including all the backroom team, the front of house folk – too numerous to mention, but whose effort all subscribed to a wonderful 14 nights out.

It really is a jewel in the crown for Portadown – a great community effort that reflects great credit on everyone who took part. Well done, one and all…