She’s the glue who holds the production together - the fairy who grants Cinderella’s wishes and imparts her wisdom and advice to the audience and for local actress Orla Mullan being in the Millennium Forum panto allows her to have one of her own Christmas wishes fulfilled.
Working through the year as a jobbing actress between Leeds and London, her stint on the Derry stage allows her to come home to her native Limavady for the festive season.
And she says that although this is only her second year on the panto stage, the local audiences are ensuring that Christmas is one of her most favourite times of the year.
Last year she made her debut at the Millennium Forum as the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty and this year she returns to make Cinderella’s wishes come true as her Fairy Godmother.
“Cinderella is such a well known and well loved tale,” Orla said. “I’m told it’s the most requested panto at the Forum.
“It’s lovely to be there in the role of the narrator. Not only do I get to tell the story but I also to get involved in working with audience - getting them to cheer the goodies and boo at the baddies.
“It’s a very funny show - with lots of comedy. Not only from William Caulfield but also from the ugly sisters Jim Lecky and Gerard McCabe. They work as very good contrasts to the William’s character.
“Of course at the centre of it all there is a lovely love story - with two great leads.
“It really is a great show - with a very strong cast and loads for the children. Not to mention there is enough there to keep the adults entertained as well.”
Between stints in Derry, Orla has has had an exceptionally busy year.
Orla has since completed a UK, Ireland and Cyprus tour of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, where she played the roles of Quince and Peaseblossom and Fanny Dashwood, Lady Middleton and Charlotte Palmer respectively.
She also continued her involvement in 1916 The Musical, playing the role of Gracie under the musical direction of the Academy Award Nominated Composer John Cameron, work-shopping his new score.
She filmed the role of Sam in the short film entitled Marionette for DMC Films and performed the role of Niamh in Beyond the Pale for Blue Eagle Productions in Donegal Castle.
A graduate of Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts Orla says she likes to keep her career as varied as possible.
While she admits her first love is musical theatre - and her heart leans towards the West End - she enjoys some straight acting as well. She describes her time with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sense and Sensibility as “brilliant” - but she is enjoying the change of pace which comes with panto.
The rehearsal schedule has been hectic.
The entire show has been put together in three weeks - although Orla said this was “quite long” and last week the entire cast performed their first show together in front of a crowd of school kids.
“The reaction was brilliant. The audience really got involved.
“Doing run throughs is one thing but when you get the audience in, and get the children participating, it just brings it all to life.”
Having worked with most of the cast in last year’s production, Orla said coming back to the local stage was a bit like coming home itself. “We just fell into our old routines, which has made the whole thing great fun.”
New to the panto this year is Orla’s co-star, former X Factor finalist Eoghan Quigg in the role of Prince Charming.
Orla describes him as “genuinely lovely and down to earth.
“He’s very open about his X-Factor experience and I think maybe people forget from time to time how huge an achievement it was.”
Orla has her own experience of the X-Factor - sort of.
She featured in the Peter Kay spoof “Britain’s Got the Pop Factor” - which she described as “great fun”. She has also auditioned for the BBC talent show ‘I’d Do Anything’ and while she didn’t make it to the finals she did earn a role in the promotional advertising for the series.
“I don’t think I could ever do a full on singing competition - but definitely something for the stage.”
Orla says her dream roles include Elphaba in Wicked, the Killer Queen in We Will Rock You or the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot.
Those would be my dream come true.”
For now, Orla will continue her run with Cinderella until the new year before returning to the stage in England.
Tickets for the panto can be purchased from the Millennium Forum on 02871 264455 or www.millenniumforum.co.uk