Panto highlights arrival of Christmas

Jack and the Beanstalk

Sheffield Lyceum

If you could bottle the magic of the Sheffield Lyceum pantomime, it could be used to bring the UK out of recession, solve the world’s food shortages, end wars and maybe even help the England cricket team beat Australia...

Well, maybe the Ashes win is a little far fetched, but nevertheless this annual offering has carved its own niche in Sheffield’s festive calendar, covered it in tough varnish and thrown in a few metal rivets just to be sure.

Damian Williams has had an unquestionably massive part to play in this success as, quite simply, I now can’t bear to think of my home city panto without him. Sheffield Theatre bosses seem to feel the same too, given the ubiquitous flyers scattered around the Lyceum, depicting our Dame-ian in the 2014 panto Dick Whittington, which will be his seventh consecutive outing.

However, I have been guilty in the past of laying nearly all the success at Mr Williams’ feet, and while that might well have been the case before, the Steel City pantomime machine has now become so slick that there are no creaking weak links for him to carry.

Sarah Earnshaw was an earthy and aimiable Vegetable Fairy, Andrew Fettes a pint-sized but perfect boo-inducing villain as Hefferlumpenstein, and Madeleine Leslay, as Princess Tamara, and Ian H (from Steps) Watkins, as Jack Trot, suitably straight-laced as the love interest.

The couple perform the vast majority of the serious singing well, but for me it’s Ms Earnshaw, swapping her wand for a microphone, who dazzles with her powerhouse vocals.

Pete Dunwell, who I lauded in last year’s Doctor In The House production at this theatre, almost gives Williams a run for his money with a consummate comical turn as King Eric, but the last word must go to Williams. Pantomime is tailor-made for his enviable talents and, as usual, he slips into the Dame Trot role with the same effortless ease as he does his many larger-than-life costumes – one of which, by the way, sees him in a ‘skimpy’ white outfit swinging in on a wrecking ball a la Miley Cyrus (or Smiley Virus, as Williams proclaims).

Brilliant. Christmas has arrived. Now where’s that flyer?...

Dean Mellor