Musical Director: Adam Blosse
Director: David McNeill
Choreographer: Clare Kennedy
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
The first performance of a pantomime called Cinderella took place at The Theatre Royal in London’s Drury Lane in 1804, but based on the Italian opera La Cenerentola it was a very different version to the one that audiences know and love today. The story has evolved to enchant young people, and the only characters to survive from the original story are the Baron and Dandini, the Prince’s valet.
The Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds is well-known for its annual panto, and this year’s offering of Cinderella ticks all the boxes for traditional family fun and the audience is geared up for participation from the off. Much of the material is updated, and there are mentions of contemporary topics including the iPhone 7 Plus, checking e-Bay and of course, Brexit.
The cast members are extremely enthusiastic and enjoy their roles immensely. The advertised star of the show is Jai McDowell as Prince Charming, winner of the 2011 Britain’s Got Talent. The jury is out on why he sings Purple Rain in Act One, but his rendition of it is well sung and is visually impressive with some clever purple lighting effects. Returning for his eighth season at the Carriageworks, Jez Edwards plays Buttons as the proper cheeky chappie that he should be. Emily McAvoy is a pretty Cinderella with a good singing voice and beautiful costumes. Baron Hardup (Simon Turner), Dandini (Rob O’Malley) and the Fairy Godmother (Ashley Stirling) are all good strong characters, who play their roles in the traditional style.
The stars of the show are the Ugly Sisters, brought to life by brothers Jim and John Lavelle (could they actually be twins?). Entertaining since 1972, their extensive theatrical experience has been gained through working with Tommy Steele and Danny La Rue, The Black and White Minstrel Show and performing in cabarets, holiday camps and cruise ships.
As befits pantomime, the costumes are outrageous, but maybe a deviation from the norm worn by the dame. The sisters wear Dulux emulsion foundation, tight-fitting leotards, figure-hugging frocks and slinky swimwear, delightedly showing off their long and shiny skinny legs. Some of the jokes are a bit off-colour and there is some toilet humour, so the kids and mums and dads all find something to laugh at. All six adult members of the ensemble are very talented dancers and singers, while the youngest chorus members from SLP Junior Academy do a sterling job; never a faulty dance step and smiles on their faces the whole time.
The sets are bright and colourful, with painted backcloths and almost life-sized white horses with convincingly moving heads to pull the fairytale glittery carriage. The ballroom scene is a Strictly send-up, with all the well-known judges and an effective glitter ball twirling its stuff. We are treated to the ghost scene, but surprisingly no messy pie or water throwing episodes. No one in the audience is singled out for teasing either, and only two small boys get to meet Buttons onstage.
Cinderella does lack some bells and whistles, but pantomime is still an essential part of any Christmas and the magic of this fairy-tale is everlasting. All ages need that bit of nostalgia once a year.
Runs until 7 January 2017 | Image: Contributed