Fringe Box



Review: Cinderella Pantomime – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 11 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 11 Dec, 2013

by Lynne McVernon

Alice Baker and Tom Senior

Alice Baker is Cinderella and Tom Senior Prince Charming

Cinderella, now running at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, is a rich blend of pantomime tradition and new material, true to the Music Hall roots of panto.

The script by Director Gerry Tebbutt and Victoria Jukes differs from the original in omitting a Wicked Stepmother but thereafter is fairly faithful to the story.

If Hollywood gets away with holes in the plot, so can pantomime. It certainly did not bother the young first night audience who were in full lung if sometimes a little confused over the responses expected of them.

The show opens with longtime favourite Bonnie Langford as a graceful, chummy Fairy Snow visiting Village Stoneybroke on the instructions of the Tooth Fairy (Penelope Keith in voice over).

Bonnie Langford

Bonnie Langford plays Fairy Snow

Her running joke is that she likes eating sweets, a reckless invitation for missiles when there’s a juvenile audience armed to the teeth with them. Happily she avoided injury and, in between doing the usual fairy godmotherly duties to Cinderella, belted out a few numbers with unfairylike zest.

Kit Hesketh-Harvey as Kitty and Peter Gordon as Peaches

Kit Hesketh-Harvey as Kitty and Peter Gordon as Peaches

Guildford favourite, Peter Gordon, as Peachy, teams up with Kit Hesketh Harvey,  Kitty, for a cheerfully malicious Ugly Sisters double act, bandying such well-loved repartee as ‘If I throw a stick will you go away?’

In true panto convention, they sport a different outrageous costume for every entrance, joyously regardless of continuity. After their constant bullying of poor Cinders, they meet an amusing but just comeuppance…

The role of Cinderella is a thankless one these days, saccharine sweet with no ambition other than marrying a prince. Cinders wants, she says, a man with the looks of Brad Pitt, the body of David Beckham and, the brain of Boris Johnson. Hmmm.

But Alice Baker invests the part with spirit and, of course, looks delightful. Tom Senior as Prince Charming appears alarmingly like the young Prince Charles at times but overcomes this with a great singing voice and a determination not to take himself too seriously.

Robert Maskell is a genial Baron Hardup and gives a splendid spoof on Liberace (Liberacne…) at the ball, even if the script employs a couple of cheeky lifts, one from Dolly Parton and another, harder to forgive, from the marvellous Morecambe and Wise / André Previn Grieg sketch.

Will Brekin is a sporting Dandini and the dancers provide a enjoyable foil to the main action in some bright routines choreographed by Jill Francis. Credit also to the enthusiastic child dancers who hoofed it with real professionalism.

However, the star of the evening is undoubtedly the Brummie Buttons, played with gusto and charm by Jamie Brook. His energy and brilliant comic timing help the show whizz along and his rapport with the children is undoubted. His prize for all this hard work is another slight departure from the story but this review is no spoiler!

The production provides the usual audience participation, children on stage, singalong contest and a surprise assault by armed ghosts, delightful sets by Imagine and pretty, colourful costumes including a ravishing walkdown by Jamie Attle.

The choice of songs is a little dated at times (Everlasting Love made famous by The Love Affair in 1968 as the main theme and Beat It by Michael Jackson). While there should be something for the adults in a family show, it could use a few more melodies with which the majority of the audience of under 16s are familiar.

Minor criticism, we know kids like below the waist humour but there are too many toilet, loo and needing a wee jokes. Major criticism, light sabres and fluorescent windmills! Obviously a money-spinner for the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre but intensely irritating if the child in front of you waves one about for the entire performance. I nearly went over to the dark side.

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