Writer: Eric Potts
Director: Pip Minnithorpe
Reviewer: Iain Sykes
Pantomime season is upon us once again, and this year’s big offering at Manchester Opera House is Cinderella. Written by Eric Potts and once again produced by First Family Entertainment one expects a big, brash colourful helping of glitz to accompany the corny panto one-liners, and this Cinderella doesn’t disappoint in that aspect with big songs and sharp dances from the very outset.
The marquee names here are the 1984 Winter Olympic ice dance gold medallists, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who deliver their lines well but in the main wisely stick to their strengths, gliding around the stage on ice skate style roller blades as the other-worldly Queen Juniper and King Crispin, Cinderella’s Fairy Godparents, leaving a strong cast to bring feeling to the fairy tale. And with no other “names” in the cast, the story can be brought to the fore in what is, in the main, traditional pantomime style.
Eloise Davies brings a naivety to the title rôle that gets the audience right behind her and her romance with Liam Doyle’s extra charming Prince Charming. Stand-up comedian Andre Vincent makes an effortlessly audience-friendly Buttons, even if on this particular night his entrance calls to the crowd really don’t get the responses flowing as they might. The over-the top characters are as ever, the ugly sisters, Rita and Cheryl in this particular version (Dave Lynn and Tim Hudson) who appear in an amazing number of frocks including a magnificent Christmassy creation at the Prince’s ball. But easily coming out well on top in the audience’s affections is Samuel Holmes’ ultra-camp Dandini, never missing an opportunity to break out into a great big cheesy showtune with a wink and a grin.
The more traditional aspects of a pantomime are scattered throughout. The appearance of Cinderella’s magic coach, drawn by real Shetland ponies, draws “ooh”s from the audience, there is an old fashioned ghost scene set-piece in the forest, a fast-talking patter sketch about who lives where is perfectly executed and a creative section set around a selection of sweets doesn’t always hit the mark in some parts but has the audience groaning in others. On the other hand, pantomime purists may find the lack of any real slapstick or even an audience participation sing-along disappointing, with the usual sing-along pre finale slot being given over to some skating. But when you have Torvill and Dean in your show, it’s no spoiler to say that of course there’s going to be Ravel’s Bolero and this, featuring aerial spins and turns alongside their silky smooth skating, is the spectacular show-stopping moment of the evening, on its own worth buying a ticket for.
Runs until 3rd January 2016 | Image: Phil Tragen Photography