Nicky Cummins’ direction of the 29th Portlaw Musical Society Panto – Sinbad The Sailor, was a happy, laugh-along, gloom dispelling, doom destroying, recession-busting extravaganza.

The night I attended was as foul as a septic duck and you wouldn’t put a cat or a critic out in the torrents of rain. The welcome was as warm as Christmas and PRO, Pat Maher, Nicky Cummins, Faith Mulcahy and cast star Paul Kelly, were greeting their guests, sponsors and public. Before I sat down I was laughing and Steve Bailey and Band played a 15 minute prologue to set a glorious mood.

Laughin’ was the order of the day and with Laffan’s onstage and Ann Laffan on the make-up team, you knew you were in for a rare old time.

Dick Meany’s script suits community shows and the tiny tots from Mulcahy-Bible Dancers pumped up the Awe-factor with a snazzy Another Opening. Nicky Cummins is a real panto and entertainment star – a legend with class, and his use of a slice of Tops history with Q Waterford Quay, was a gem.

Anthony Power as Muscles, set the mayhem Rollins and Lillian Keyes impressed with one of her fine solos in River Deep. What an exciting voice she has and she wowed the audience in the splendid finale with Hallelujah.

The two outstanding funsters of the evening were Stephanie Maguire and the excellent Freddie Kelly. But there were fine comedy cameos and capers throughout this show, James Walsh was a howl as Sultanacake, Kieran Laffan made every appearance of the Chamberlain a cameo and Hayley Fitzsimons as Boxer and Paul Kelly as Coach were a scream. In fact Kelly delighted in several cameos and caught the mood of Joe Dolan in a superb Mime routine.

Bryan Flynn uses these mime/chases to great effect but in this panto Nicky Cummins (who was starring in pantos when Bryan was in nappies) surpassed him with a local/topical cascade of jokes and characters. Nicky again kept the traditional trends and made a great Video sequence that all the most modern pantos now use. Again this was slick and very entertaining.

Ann Nolan was a traditional Fairy of the Ring and sang a fine I Have A Dream as well. Darren Foran impressed as Jack. David Walsh was on-the-money as a villainous Count Draculation.

Jamie Power was every inch the leading man as Sinbad and sang and duetted with leading lady Selina, Niamh Doherty with verve style and attractive confidence. It was a nice touch to have them in Waterford colours. Darren Butler, as Prince Rory, was a star, he has confidence, vocal style and is an all-round entertainer.

It was the father and son team of Derek Laffan (son) as a splendid Captain Colombo and long-serving father, Freddie Laffan as Dame part Salubria, that were the creme de la creme, of this wonderful panto. It is indeed a privilege to see Freddie Laffan (and Freddy Kelly) year-in-year-out work panto magic and send an audience out happy into a winter gale.

Pat Maher resplendent in a three-piece-suit led the wonderful chorus in a rousing finale of Don’t Give Up Till It’s Over.