Writer and Director: Richard Gauntlett
The fairy lights are stung, the decorations are up, presents are under the tree, and every day is dull and rainy which can only mean one thing; Richard Gauntlett has got his wigs and circle skirts out again. Also, panto season is here. This year sees the return of the rags to riches story of Cinderella to the stage, as the Norwich Theatre Royal team takes on the godmother of traditional pantos.
The star-studded cast features David Witts of Wicked fame as Prince Charming, playing opposite Kara-Lianne Jones as Cinderella, with the pair taking on a whole host of musical genres together throughout the performance, while navigating flying coaches and wayward farm animals. Alongside them, panto regular David Gant brings his Shakespearian gravitas with a vengeance; regaling villagers, royalty, and trees alike with the occasional verse. All eyes this year were very much on the Buttons/Dame paring, with the theatre saying goodbye to Ben Langley and welcoming Joe Tracini in his place. While Gauntlett takes back his usual role of the dame this year as the Godmother, he is more of a solo act, springing on to the stage in varying combinations of pink and glitter throughout. Tracini brings high energy, genuine heart, and some surprisingly adept ukulele playing to the role of buttons that is sure to make him a quick audience favourite. Something does feel missing in this performance though; while the jokes are still there and the forth wall is still very much broken, there isn’t quite the sense of barely contained chaos that has always brought the biggest laughs and widest smiles as the audience watch at least once scene every year teeter on the edge of breaking down entirely into fits of laughter.
The show-stealing pair this year instead comes from Amanda Henderson as Alexa and Alix Dunmore as Siri, as they take on the roles of the Ugly Sisters. The duo bounce off each other throughout with some excellent comedic timing combined with an outstanding fashion sense to create a pair of villains that you can’t help but like.
Each of the sisters’ costumes are beautifully ugly, merging together colour combinations that belong nowhere outside of a toddler’s finger painting, and the rest of the costume design is certainly on par this year. The quick-change designs in particular work wonderfully to add some extra magic to proceedings.
This show ticks off most of the tropes the regular audience has come to expect from a panto; with the big musical numbers, odd characters, and conveniently appearing plot points (and in this case, footballers), but it does feel throughout that there is a little extra sparkle missing. The jokes are there, of course, and the comic timing is on point but no longer are the jokes rung out for every last possible drop of humour… and then stretched a little further just for fun.
Overall though, the combination of larger than life characters, swirling costumes, and just a sprinkling of magic brings together everything you could wish for in a Christmas panto.
Runs until 19 January 2020 | Image: Contributed