Written and Directed by: Paul Hendy
Musical Director: James Harrison
Choreography: Sarah Langley
Reviewed by: Ruth Jepson
Ah, Cinderella! Probably the best known pantomime of them all. Surely everyone knows the story by now – a downtrodden pseudo-servant girl is granted a wish by her Fairy Godmother, meets a Prince and loses a very expensive shoe, all set against a quaint village backdrop and the jealous meddling of two ugly stepsisters.
Sheffield has a long panto tradition, and with the quality of their shows only growing year on year, it is easy to see why the seats are packed and they are already preselling for next year. The audience radiates a sense of anticipation and is whooping and clapping from the very first salsa style entrance of Fairy Joanne Clifton (her off Strictly). Clifton is immediately engaging and the running gag of rhyming couplets set to various ballroom dances is a nice acknowledgment of her day job. She leads into the wonderful Evelyn Hoskins singing her heart out as titular Cinderella. Hoskins is an excellent cast, with down to Earth girl next door looks, the ability to make us dream for true love along with her, and a great singing voice (although there did seem to be some flatness to her big This Is Me solo which was a shame). Her back and forth with best friend Buttons (Mr Maker himself, Phil Gallagher) is a particular high point of the show. Gallagher balances secret crush and supportive confidante, and is hilariously witty with his lines and comic timing. Especially when rescuing the Sheffield Theatres annual Pun Off in Act 1 (don’t worry – it’s as quick fire and funny as always!).
And of course, you can’t review a panto without mentioning the dame. Cinderella presents a double whammy of delicious divas in the form of Melania (Matt Daines) and Donaldina (12 year veteran Dame, Damian Williams). These two are a sumptuous joy with their colourful costumes and crazy antics. Of the two however, it is Daines who shines brightest, giving us a variety of Drag Queen style movements that really add to his character, whereas Williams does seem to be relying on his name and status a little too much as he stands on stage just being a bloke in a dress. Maybe it’s time for a new ‘Legend’ (as he is pitched on the poster).
There are also opportunities for a few standout scene-stealers from the supporting cast. Sassy 8 year old Independent Lady Mildred (Tillie Copley) gets huge applause for her ‘Cinderella don’t need no man’ speech; Dancer Lewis Herring is campy brilliance incarnate; and keep an eye out for musical director James Harrison really getting down on his keyboard and keytar.
Nods need to be given to the technical crew, especially set designers Phil Daniels and Michelle Marden for a truly enchanting clockwork carriage, and costume designer Helga Wood for Cinderella’s dress transformation. The look of the show overall is lovely, with a traditional, comforting feel.
It’s almost impossible not to enjoy a good pantomime, and with Cinderella Sheffield Theatres are definitely giving you one of those. Take part in a Christmas tradition and buy your tickets now.
Runs until Sunday 5th January 2020 | Image: Pamela Raith