Cinderella at The Customs House, South Shields, until Saturday, August 12. Written by Ray Spencer and Graeme Thompson, directed by Davey Thompson.

THIS entertaining panto is the way to wave goodbye to a major talent and properly introduce his replacement.

Davey Hopper, who alongside Ray Spencer has been part of the best panto partnership in the north east for several years, is off to play Pumbaa in live action The Lion King in Disneyland Paris. The Customs House’s audience’s loss is definitely Disney’s gain.

So Cinderella says a fond farewell to Davey - or Arbut-tons – and welcomes Glen Richard Townsend (Den-Dini), who will play Ray’s sidekick for the venue’s Christmas panto.

The Northern Echo: Glen Richard Townsend (Den-Dini) left and Davey Hopper (Arbuttons), rightGlen Richard Townsend (Den-Dini) left and Davey Hopper (Arbuttons), right (Image: JORDAN EMBLETON)

This Cinderella is based on an updated Spencer/Thompson script, with added text from Davey Hopper, who also directs. Rebekah Summerhill plays the titular role with Andy Borthwick as Prince Charming. The couple perform well together and both have strong singing voices.

Christina Berriman Dawson is mightily impressive as evil stepmother Baroness Hardup, while Dale Jewitt and David McCarthy are her idiotic daughters, the ugliest of ugly sisters and Cinders’ stepsisters.

Jess Brady is great as the Fairy Godmother – but the real stars of the show are Davey and Glen who work well together and milk an excellent script for all they are worth. The pair have been playing Arbuthnot and Cousin Dennis for years and the partnership is well tuned and highly effective.

The Northern Echo: Ugly sisters Dale Jewitt and David McCarthyUgly sisters Dale Jewitt and David McCarthy (Image: JORDAN ELBLETON)

Davey will be a huge miss at The Customs House. He is a natural performer, charming an audience with an easy smile, a cheeky wink or a glare of feigned innocence. He has an undeniable stage presence, perfect comic timing and a very fine singing voice. Young Glen has size 11 shoes to fill.

All of Cinderella’s songs are well performed; the brilliant costumes outshine the scenery and the young dancers bring plenty of colour and energy to the show.

Highlights are a superb ‘slop’ scene and an emotional final scene in which Arbuttons reveals he has fallen in love with the Fairy Godmother and won’t be returning to Cooksonville.

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Instead he’s heading to Fairyland – could he mean Disney? There are plenty of jokes about the entertainment giant throughout the show.

And watch out for a cameo appearance from a South Shields icon, who injects an extra sense of fun and energy to the proceedings.

Cinderella runs until Saturday, August 12. To book tickets please visit