Writer: Al Morley and Matt Crosby
Musical Director: John Donovan
Director: David Grindley
Reviewer: Flip Miller
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the annual visit to the Cambridge Arts Theatre traditional family pantomime. This year sees the welcome return of Cinderella – the original rags to riches to rags story.
The story is a tried and tested one. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl but doesn’t know it. Boy loses girl again only to find her again and fall in love. Throw in unrequited love and some very uncomfortable bouts of bullying it all makes for quite a story.
Cinderellaherself is played Suzie Mathers, her portrayal of the heroine much stronger than audiences are used to seeing from the rôle. Mathers plays her as an upbeat and emotionally strong character and her costumes, even her Cinders outfits, are much more glamorous than the traditional rags.
The Ugly Sisters, Kim and Khloe Hardup, are played by Justin Lee Jones and Daniel Goode. Despite being the understudy Jones performs the part exceptionally well. There are no signs of nerves and he makes the part his own. The interaction with his fellow Ugly Sister, Goode, is excellent, and you can be forgiven for thinking this pairing was meant to be right from the very first rehearsal, and not just with Jones in a stand- in rôle. Being a dancer, Jones really is agile and brings a certain mobility to the part. The bullying sequences do make for some uncomfortable viewing but, as is usual in pantomime, they do get their comeuppance.
Steven Butler, as Buttons, plays the part with just the right amount of stupid. His hangdog expression and idiotic grin really endearing him to the Cambridge audience. Another great pairing is Butler with his boss, Baron Hardup (Richard Earl) with Butler giving due reverence to the bumbling Baron.
Pairings are very important in this version of Cinderella. There has been some superb casting and there is a great rapport between Dandini (Jennifer Potts) and Prince Charming (Laura Dalton). The pair look alike and at times you could be forgiven for getting them mixed up.
The final scene at the end of Act One is an amazing piece of theatre. The transformation to Cinderella’s coach is worth a trip to see the show alone – although it does appear to look a tad familiar.
The kids team (Team Buttons on press night) really steal the show and are used a lot for the dancing and singing set pieces. Some of the kids are given lines and one really steals the show with his reply to Khloe’s request to “Give me a double Whopper”. This proving the point that the chorus are just as, if not more, important than the principles.
There are, as usual, loads of local references to keep the audience engaged. Morley and Crosby have written a very modern script and kept up to date with some of the jokes referencing very recent events.
The mix of old and modern songs works well, although the bias is on more recent hits like Uptown Funk and Billsto name but a few. The music at times tends to drown out the singers, so it is hard to hear all the words.
As a traditional family pantomime, Cinderella at The Arts in Cambridge is the place to go. If you only go and see one pantomime this Christmas make it this one.
Runs until Sunday 17January 2016 | Image:Richard Hubert Smith