In an uncertain world of Mr Trump, Brexit, Boris and pre-Christmas general elections at least you can always rely on the Young Portonians to spread a little joy with their annual panto.
And Cinderella certainly didn’t disappoint – featuring perhaps the single strongest top to bottom team of truly talented singers the Portos have ever fielded for one show.
It was music to the ears of the crowd who dragged themselves away from election news and all the jibber jabber to lose themselves in the pure entertainment and escapism that graced the Grangemouth Town Hall stage.
In fact to my old ears the most memorable vocals of the night came from a member of the chorus – Lucy Gray – whose haunting rendition of Lewis Capaldi number Someone You Loved added more gravitas to a montage scene about the search for a foot to fit a shoe.
There was a slight opening night hiccup with the mics on first number Let Me Entertain You, but after that it was astonishing performance after astonishing performance.
Ingrid Hunter gave a real star turn as the title character and her first solo number Say Something – with just her standing in the spotlight on the corner of the stage – blew the audience’s combined mind.
She certainly looked the part, whether as the wee serving girl Cinders – who practices her dance moves with an old broom – or as blonde Disney Princess Cinders – who rides around in a disco ball carriage.
Her love interest for the evening was Shannon Ure’s dashing Prince, who nailed the tune Higher Love on his search to find the foot that fits the slipper.
Backing the Prince on his footwear challenge was ever faithful Dandini (Paige McGinlay), who was all boots and sparkling swagger as she put would-be suitors in their place and protected her princely pal from facially challenged sisters Gertie and Maud.
When these twin towers of repulsiveness, played with relish by tallest Young Portonians Darren Wilson and Taylor Lewandowski, were not at each other’s throats they were trying to catch the eye of the Prince, or in Maud’s case, any human being with a pulse.
Taylor, reminding some of a young Grado, was insanely over the top as Maud and his partnership with Darren, who might want to give the Glasgow drag scene a go, made for great comedy – the pair’s Peter Crouch-like robot dancing moves and Stephen Hawking vocals turned Madonna classic Material Girl into a number Kraftwerk or Gary Numan would have been proud of.
The sheer growling fury with which the two of them attacked Pink’s Get the Party Started kicked off the second half of the panto and scared a number of young audience members back into their seats.
Talking about scary, the resemblance between Squire Sowerface and a certain long serving Grangemouth councillor was almost uncanny and Josh Fyvie, sporting a fetching wee beard, was certainly imperious – if not a little deluded – as he tried to convince anyone who would listen that his daughters Gertie and Maud were proper lookers.
All Pantomime’s need a dame and Aimee Malloy cracked jokes, traded insults with Gertie and Maud and sung up a storm in a succession of colourful candy floss-like wigs as Dame Daisy.
Her cheeky chappie son Buttons, an impish Brooke Smith, carries a major torch for Cinderella, but is happy to be just friends as their dance routine to that well know six pal sitcom showed. Brooke also pushed all the right sympathy “buttons” with a top rendition of McFly’s Obviously.
Just as the dame is a vital part of pantoland, the fairy godmother is also integral to provide a bit of magic, fairy dust and, in the case of Ellis Keay, safety instructions about fire exits. Ellis, a vision in white, was a big hit with the wee girls in the audience, who couldn’t take their eyes off her whenever she appeared.
As with every Porto Panto there were a ton of big song and dance numbers, all expertly choreographed by Lynsey Mitchell and Anna McIntyre and performed with enthusiasm and pure elation by the smiling Portonian chorus.
The Thiller skeleton dance was particularly effective and even the teeth grindingly annoying Baby Shark was given a Porto twist that actually made the tune bearable. Other highlights included Maud and Gertie being pushed through the audience in Asda shopping trollies, and a guest appearance from Batman, Superman and – in a rare DC/Marvel crossover moment – Spider Man as Dame Daisy’s backing band on Holding Out For A Hero.
The scenery was great and Cinderella’s flying dress and the Jools Holland Hootenanny countdown clock to midnight were nice touches.
Director Marion Marshall, musical director Colin Scott and all the backroom gang deserve as much praise as possible for allowing these young stars to go out there and just enjoy themselves to the max.
If the Young Portonians and their manifesto for music and mirth were up on the general election ballot come December 12 they would win by a landslide.
Cinderella – Ingrid Hunter
Fairy Godmother – Ellis Keay
Dame Daisy – Aimee Malloy
Butttons – Brook Smith
Maud – Taylor Lewandowski
Gerti – Darren Wilson
Squire – Josh Fyvie
Prince – Shannon Ure
Dandini – Paige McGinlay
Charlie Franklin, Darragh Lees, Grace Newton, Emily Reid, Olivia Wilson
Beth Begen, Hollie Brodie, Emma Couper, Chloe Couser, Mia Evans, Ruby Forsyth, Emily Fraser, Logan Galloway, Iona Gillies, Clark Godfrey, Emma Godfrey, Lucy Gray, Olivia Gray,Caitlin Kemp, Aaliyah Henderson, Elisabeth Lyons, Jackson McConville, Megan McCroary, Ellie McGeever, Jodie Miller. Alyssa Morrison, Brooke Morrison, Summer Noe, Beth Rafferty, Katie Raplh, Becca Rutherford, Erin Simpson, Isla Snedden, Olivia Stewart, Ryan Watson, Iris Wilson.