Writer: Alan McHugh
Director: Alan Harding
Darlington Hippodrome makes a welcomed return to Pantoland with this lavish version of Cinderella which may have a small cast, but which makes up for that with beautiful costumes, scenery, lighting and a wealth of talent.
Faye Tozer from Steps leads the cast as the Fairy Godmother. Tozer has a lovely stage presence and radiates charm which makes for less of the traditional matriarchal fairy, and more of a spritely presence that brightens the stage whenever she is on. Tozer gets several chances to show her singing prowess throughout the show and although her choreography is limited (leaving the chorus to energetically dance around her), her vocals are excellent in songs that are admittedly well within her wheelhouse. Having the name star in what is traditionally a small cameo role does upset the balance of the story a little, and the need to have more of the Fairy Godmother does mean that other characters are given less to do than is usual. This is particularly true in the case of the ugly sisters Hernia and Verruca as brilliantly played by Peter Peverley and Phil Corbitt. As expected these are two grotesque creations that parade around in a series of outrageous frocks (including some brilliant creations based on dogs) and are horrible to everyone: jobs that Peverley and Corbitt obviously relish as they deliver memorable and hilarious performances. However they are not on stage nearly enough, although thankfully this is not the case for the show’s real ‘star’: Patrick Monahan as Buttons. Monahan has by far the biggest role and takes full advantage of this with an engaging and very funny performance that is full of energy (and this was a Sunday matinee!). He has an easy rapport with the audience that allows him to lead the way in the majority of the comedy sequences some of which are pure gold (The Trunk of Truth, a routine involving flags and a conversation in which his responses are delivered entirely in musical sound bites)while others don’t quite hit the mark (love poems and a tongue twister) despite him giving them his all.
The rest of the cast show talent but leave little impression although this seems to be due to the script rather than the performers. Tanisha Butterfield is the title character but is given little to do, although her duet with Jacob Leeson’s Prince Charming is lovely, their voices blending beautifully together. Dandini is played by Spin who proves an excellent dancer, if not such a capable singer or actor.
Crossroads Pantomimes has clearly not skimped on the cost of this production which includes beautiful costumes and scenery, as well as plenty of pyrotechnics, a few magical special effects and a couple of show-stealing ponies. The whole thing is brought to life by Andrew Exeter’s superb lighting design which deserves its own bow in the finale. Alan Harding’s direction is strong without being particularly special, and Sharon Harding’s choreography is occasionally excellent (particularly the act two opener). Chris Pugh leads the small band which make a great sound but which frequently is allowed to overwhelm the singers, and Alan McHugh’s script follows the traditional story and a lot of classic routines beat for beat but also includes some funny one-liners and enough apparent new material to keep everything fresh – although more audience participation would be nice.
The audience are on their feet dancing as the show wraps up with Tozer leading the way in a medley of her hits, and missing this show would indeed be a Tragedy.
Runs until 31st December 2021