Falkirk Community Trust took a bit of a risk when it announced it was putting on the town’s first professional pantomime because traditionally, in December, FTH has belonged to its famous children’s theatre.
So despite this being a first for Falkirk it had some big shoes to fill.
But those who chose to go along – and the hall was packed for the matinee I saw – were more than willing to give it a chance.
As pantos go, Imagine Theatre’s production has all the classic ingredients you’d expect to bring families and friends together for a festive treat – there’s a baddie to boo, songs to clap along to, a dash of romance, warnings to shout and, most importantly, more than a few laughs, thanks to some lively performances and Alan McHugh’s cracking script.
There are magical moments too – in particular, the young audience were spellbound as Cinderella’s carriage whisks her away to the ball, with a wave of Fairy Babs’ wand.
The biggest name in the cast is Sally Howitt – better known as River City’s Scarlett – whose every arrival is heralded by spectacular thunder and lightning and who revels in provoking boos.
Fairy Godmother Barbara Bryceland, in her first panto role, looks slightly out of her comfort zone. That’s a shame because – as you’d expect – she has spectacular vocals and there are flashes of that huge personality just waiting to burst through.
Wobbles aside, the local audience has her back and wants her to do well so she can only grow in confidence from here on in.
But fear not! This is Pantoland and there are plenty of other performers ready to steal the show.
John Winchester is an adorable Buttons while Scott Watson, who shines as Dandini, absolutely owns the stage. And if it’s laughs you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed in the hilarious duo of Senga and Sadie (Derek McGhie and Craig Glover) who are fabulous Ugly Sisters; a riot of tasteless costumes and corny jokes, they have the audience shrieking with laughter. By the end, we’re rooting for the lovely Cinderella (Christie Gowans) and her handsome Prince Charming (Adam Morgan).
There are some stars of the future too with several young members of the ensemble coming from the district and Team Cinders and Team Buttons to help create the spectacle.
And it’s all directed by a veteran of Falkirk Youth Theatre, Stuart Bird, who has made sure that Falkirk’s first professional panto is worthy of the youngsters who proceeded it.