Writer: Jane Joseph and Liam Mellor
Director: Chantelle Nolan
Reviewer: John Roberts
As pantomimes go, if you ask any young girl their favourite, most would probably answer Cinderella and why not? Who doesn’t love arags-to-riches story?
Running just under a hefty three hours, this production could do with a bit of an energy injection and a judicious trim to really make it extra special and really child friendly (the interval coming a little too late for some restless children) but writers Jane Joseph and Liam Mellor (director of Dick Whittington and Idle Jack respectively at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool) have given the well-known story enough original moments to make it stand up and be counted.
A fairy (Flump) played by panto dame and St Helens regular Simon Foster is a great twist on the usual trend as is having two fine comedic actresses (yes, you read that right) play the ugly sisters… it’s also great to find the usually soppy sidekick of Dandini given a sprinkling of menace to give the show a more “real” pantomime villain.
All the ingredients are here; pop songs that get the kids singing along – no matter how shoe-horned in they are to fit, silly routines including a strangely placed yet funny rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas routine, which sits in the slot usually reserved for the song sheet, plenty of audience participation and a crowd-pleasing transformation scene including the obligatory Shetland ponies.
Cinderella, played by Laura Gregory is pleasing enough, but tries a little too earnestly to be likeable – in this case, less certainly would be more. Her sidekick Buttons is played with plenty of charisma and charm by Ben Engelen, who wins the crowd around from the off as does Jack Rigby as a charming prince. Crissy Rock proves the show really does go on and powers through the show with a broken foot is brilliant alongside the many grimacing faces of Charlie Griffiths as the two ugly sisters Kate and Pippa – their Chicago-inspired duet is a hoot.
Coronation Street bad boy Marc Baylis really comes into his own during the second act and surprises with a reasonable singing voice during a panto boy band rendition of Frankie Valli’s Beggin’. A shame that Benedict Relton couldn’t put the same enthusiasm onto the stage as the rest of the cast… never has an actor looked so miserable or out of place in panto.
The ensemble of dancers from Dance-Dynamix shows great skill and passion for the routines choreographed by Nazene Danielle Langfield, and the chorus of juvenile dancers really shining throughout.
Cinderella is a pleasing enough production, one that is bright and bold and, while it may leave your bum feeling a little numb, it certainly puts a seasonal spring in your step.
Runs until 10 January 2016 | Image:David Munn