Writer: Andrew Pollard
Music: Rebekah Hughes
Director: Joyce Branagh
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
If there is a classic in the land of pantomimes, then it has to be Cinderella. The rags to riches tale of a poor girl, banished to the kitchens by her evil stepsisters, with only the mice and her good friend Buttons for company. That is, until her Fairy Godmother visits and the next thing you know, she’s dancing with the prince at his ball in the world’s most coveted pair of shoes. Whoever said the right pair of shoes can’t change a girl’s life?
The Lawrence Batley Theatre have gone all out on this year’s production. Visually Cinderella is a stunner. The costumes by Glitter Pantomimes are colourful and glitzy with a clear traditional basis. The same company also made the fabulous set which converts smoothly from kitchen to woodland to palace at the blink of an eye. The beginning pop up set pieces are especially good, giving that all-important storybook element to the piece, and the wonderful props of the Ugly Sisters bath scene combine with choreography from Rachel Root to result in an almost wordless but hilariously captivating scene (although Sisters Richard Hand and Michael Hugo are at their best during their Act Two mash up song, which had everyone howling, especially at the hopelessly Yorkshire I Knew Him Reyt Well).
The cast is great. The kids will be impressed by the truly beautiful Nisa Cole as Cinderella. She sings her heart out and has a catchy enthusiasm you can’t help but smile at, even as she shouts her way through the majority of her lines. Audience favourite Buttons (Gareth Cassidy) gurns and gesticulates across the stage like the most seasoned CBeebies presenter. Adam Barlow corpses more than is strictly permissible for a week into a run, but he’s as such an endearing Prince Charming that it’s easy to let him off (and if you can’t fall apart in panto when can you?). But most impressive are actually the second tier characters. Dani (Stephanie Hackett), pretending to be male manservant Dandini – because all the good jobs are for men – adds a clever Shakespearian twist, and Hackett’s manly Italian is an absolute scene stealer. And, leaving the best for last, Fairy Godmother Natasha Magigi sparkles in both dress and acting, and as a result, you will forevermore want all your Panto fairies with a thick Huddersfield accent and Beyonce worthy levels of sass. Although why they cast the same actress as the evil Step Mother is a bit of a puzzler – while the younger children won’t notice, there were definitely some confused faces on the older ones. It’s hard to enthusiastically boo someone who five minutes earlier was one of the good guys. Good job that she is a talented enough actress to win the audience round.
Overall Cinderella manages to infuse a well-known and much-loved classic with up to date yet still typically cheesy humour. It isn’t Christmas until you’ve seen a pantomime, so definitely make sure a visit to Huddersfield’s is on your letter to Santa this year.
Runs until Saturday 31 December 2016 | Image: Andrew Billington