THE Theatre Royal may have pulled off a coup in landing superstar David Hasselhoff for this year's panto - but it was the lesser- known Ben Nickless who stole the show.
The comedian, a product of 2006 BBC TV talent contest Let Me Entertain You, was never far away from all the best bits of this Peter Pan. Playing good-natured pirate Mr Smee, his sweet-toothed version of the erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey was the innuendo- laden highlight of an entertaining panto.
He had the perfect foil in Hasselhoff for other side-splitting moments, including a marvellous section where he and his troupe of twerking pirates repeated everything 'the Hoff ' said.
There were also some amusingly smutty misunderstandings when Smee stored a telescope in his trousers as well the bikini-clad pirate's own must-see tribute to Hasselhoff 's hit show Baywatch. Ironically, it fell to Smee to give the legend that is the Hoff a suitably over- the-top introduction when the television colossus joined proceedings 25 minutes in.
Smee converted to boxing ringmaster to introduce the 'Baywatch bruiser' as he was wheeled on to stage in a bright red chair adorned with the legend 'The Hoff '. Hasselhoff, whose appearance has helped spark record-breaking ticket sales, was a villainous Captain Hook and more than willing to poke fun at himself and his TV back catalogue, with a couple of nods also given to Knight Rider.
He can sing a bit, belting out songs, including a barnstorming 'Hoff Stuff ' which had the audience dancing in the aisles. He wasn't the only great singer. Isobel Hathaway (Tinkerbell), Billie Kay (Tiger Lily) and Hannah Nicholas (Wendy) were more than capable of holding a tune.
Hathaway was a multi-talented fairy, also whizzing about on rollerskates.
Her fairy was a big hit and also popular, of course, was the city's own Su Pollard, celebrating 40 years in showbusiness with her role as Mimi the Mermaid.
Audience participation arrived with Pollard as she reprised her famous TV role of chalet maid Peggy with a hearty 'Hi-de-Hi' just after coming on stage in a huge disco ball. 'Absolutely average," she teased as the audience responded with a subdued 'Ho-de-Ho'.
While other members of the cast perhaps needed to let their lines breathe a little, to allow time for the hisses and boos, Pollard's panto experience showed as she engaged with the audience, including a flirt with a man near the front.
And he wasn't the only one in the firing line. If you're in the front rows, prepare to get wet, be dragged on stage and, hilariously, join in with the Pan-Hook fight scene.
Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood, in the title role, rounded off a stellar cast, flying high over fabulous sets and expertly ad- libbing his way through a glitch as one of his safety wires failed to hook up.
Peter Pan runs until Sunday, January 12. .
Were you hooked? Peter Pan was very good but I really liked Smee. He was very funny. We've watched a panto for the last three years now, Marie Johnson, 40, Radcliffe -on-Trent, who watched the panto with six-year-old daughter Evie. Wendy was my favourite character. My favourite bit was when Captain Hook pulled a telescope out of his pants! Daisy Spiteri, 5, of Mapperley, who watched it with her parents Karen, 37, and Simon, 35.
It was very good. Smee was hilarious and the kids loved it. We come and watch a panto most years and we'd give this one ten out of ten, Jim Smithurst, 38, of Swanwick, watched with wife Helen, 38, and sons Daniel, 9, and Sydney, 3.
It was magical for the children. We always have a box in the dress circle. It was a real family day out for us, Maureen Walters, 69, of Kirkby-in-Ashfield.
Cinderella at The Palace Theatre: Page 29
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