Fairytale Ending to Panto Season

The Grand Opera House celebrates record audiences making it to the ball for its recent Cinderella production

Last month we wrote about the timelessness of panto and why, in spite of the constant forward motion of other artforms, not least theatre, audiences never seem to tire of the Christmas show's traditional tropes.

Year on year venues are filled as local stars and some from further afield transform themselves and the stage into surreal extensions of familiar tales, and giving those in attendance all the participatory cues they've come to expect.

All of this appears to have been further reinforced with the Grand Opera House announcing record numbers for its recent production of Cinderella. Over its six-week run, which comprised 74 performances in total, close to 75,000 people turned out to see May McFettridge and Gareth Gates, amongst others, bring the age-old fantasy to life.

The show saw John Linehan's McFettridge reprise her crowning role as Belfast's Queen on panto, playing the Fairy Godmother alongside Gates as Prince Charming and Jayne Wisener (Sweeney Todd, The Inbetweeners) as the title character. 'With bucket-loads of glitz and glamour, audience participation, costumes and telly names, it's got it all,' reported Culture's NI's Jane Hardy.

Cinderella GOH 2016

Opening with a panto in 1895, Grand Opera House chief executive Ian Wilson attributed the generations of annual enjoyment to the historic building's unique characteristics as well as the no expense spared approach to creating memorable experiences.

He said: 'The intimate nature of the Grand Opera House’s auditorium, which allows the audience to be close to the action on stage, combined with top-drawer production values, spectacular special effects, and stunning sets and costumes ensures theatregoers continue to come back to our annual pantomime extravaganza year after year.'

The source material proved a popular choice at other theatres around the country too, with the Millennium Forum, Market Place Theatre and the Belfast Waterfront also taking audiences to the ball with their own, original versions.

And 10 months ahead of opening night, the Grand Opera House's 2017/18 staging of Peter Pan has already sold over 22,000 tickets. It seems panto lovers aren't interested in growing up any time soon either.