Director: David Samuel
Musical Director: Chris Huntley
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
It’s a stormy December night at England’s most easterly panto but inside the Marina Theatre its warmth and smiles another new generation of future theatregoers gets its first taste of live theatre
The Marina may not have the world’s largest stage but that doesn’t stop it pulling out all the stops when it comes to spectacle.
In an age when TV talent shows have turned the rags-to-riches story into everyday voyeurism, Cinderella still holds a strong grip on Pantoland. It’s probably one of the strongest stories of our season offerings and here the narrative is delivered with clarity but without sacrificing any of the fun, slapstick or audience participation that makes this an annual family treat.
Prince Charming falls instantly in love with Cinderella after a chance encounter in the woods and engineers a lavish ball to meet her again. Poor Cinders however has nothing to wear apart from her workday rags and her two ‘beautiful’ sisters, Lav and Lou, are determined to snare the prince for themselves. Cue one Fairy Godmother, one lost slipper and the ultimate round of speed dating.
Paul Holman’s production mixes the traditional elements with just enough modern references to keep all age ranges happy. There’s a mix of spectacle (including an impressive transformation scene), song and dance that entertains but it is the performances that make the show sing out.
Amanda Barrie clearly revels in the rôle of slightly scatty Fairy Godmother, mixing her rhymes and basking in the audience reaction. It’s a canny performer who manages to weave plugs in for her back catalogue of Carry On DVDs into the script. Mike Newman Jnr serves as narrator and orchestrator Buttons, a performance filled with comic buffoonery and easy charm. Newman copes admirable with the obligatory children on stage scene, including a somewhat truculent participant.
As the star crossed lovers, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Suzanne David and Graeme Kinniburgh work well together, with Kinniburgh in particular impressing with his vocal performance.
The night though does undoubtedly belong to ‘gorgeous’ Lav and Lou, played with monstrous relish by Dean Horner and Oliver Gray. Towering above the cast in vertigo-inducing high heels we’re treated to an endless parade of over the top frocks and headwear that would send Gok Wan into cardiac arrest. The dastardly duo match the stunning couture with impeccably pitched performances that have the entire audience united in rooting against the evil sisters and the men in the audience uncomfortably trying to avoid their roving eye.
It’s not an entirely perfect production. Sound balance issues mean many of the lyrics in musical numbers are lost and a couple of scene transitions do need tightening but these are issues that are easily resolved during the run.
As Lowestoft recovers from the flooding of recent weeks, Cinderella proves to be just what needs to lift its spirits. As the audience spills out onto a cold, wet and windy December street, the smiles and excited chatter prove that the spirit of panto has worked its magic once again.
Runs until January 4