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Mickey in a real festive cracker

SUNDERLAND Empire has a festive cracker of a pantomime with stellar pulling power.

Cinderella at the Sunderland Empire until January 6

SUNDERLAND Empire has a festive cracker of a pantomime with stellar pulling power.

For this is no ordinary production – it stars a Hollywood legend, no less.

And the man of the moment is Mickey Rooney, who has starred alongside Spencer Tracy, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland and was once married to Ava Gardner.

And he’s really here in Sunderland, making his panto debut!

He may be 87 and very diminutive, but he’s still a big shiny star. The moment he stepped on stage he got a huge round of applause.

To be honest, he could have stood and grinned and got a standing ovation, he’s held in such affection.

But he does far more than that, of course. As Baron Hardup he delivers his lines in style, tells gags and sings, including a fab duet with wife Jan Rooney, who plays a wonderful Fairy Godmother.

Legendary actors aside, this is a must-see show, with cast and audience having a ball. We have a glam leading lady in the shape of homegrown singer Michelle Heaton, of Liberty X, a very handsome Prince Charming, who also happens to be her husband Andy Scott-Lee, and comic talent in the shape of Les Dennis as Buttons.

And let’s not forget two of the cutest white ponies for that “you shall go to the ball” transformation scene.

There are lots of laughs. The Ugly Sisters, played by Chris Dennis and Richard Pocock, are a scream.

The inevitable Newcastle v Sunderland banter was entertaining and in one scene their OTT black and white gowns “designed” by Alain Shearer and from the Toon Army boutique, had the audience in fits of laughter.

Les Dennis had the audience in the palm of his hand from the word go and Michelle Heaton sang some power-packed numbers.

Not to be outdone, Mickey and Jan did a gorgeous take on the old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers number, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.

This was an evening when you felt you’d been properly entertained – a show with real wow factor.

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