Cinderella is one of the strongest pantomimes, and RWP have assembled a strong team to deliver it. A big turn- out for the opening night augured well, and from the opening curtain, the cast threw themselves into the evening’s performance with gusto. Frances Richmond is the musical director, and her substantial experience is vital for this big budget production.
Andy James Michel is billed as writer director, and his skills are tested to the full as he also plays Coco, one of the ugly stepsisters, opposite Jamie Jones (Chanel). These two are the beating heart of the show, outrageous, garish and very funny. Although ostensibly the baddies, they also win the affections of everyone with their energetic performance.
This is a traditional telling, and one which parents can take their children to with confidence. Adults will enjoy the odd double entendre but the target audience, the youngsters, are the ones whose needs are met. Cast members fall over, hapless courtiers are pursued through the audience by desperate man-hunting women, and silly songs are sung.
Not that proceedings ever sink into cliché and smug self-satisfaction. Cinderella, compellingly played by the lovely Katy Gaskin, opens singing a Boo Radley’s number, a fitting showcase for her unusually strong voice, and that off-beat confidence characterises her reading of the role. She gently lets down Buttons , Niko Adilypour, who bears a strong resemblance to Joe Pasquale in appearance and manner, in his love for her. Although Buttons doesn’t get the girl, he does win over the audience from the start, and delights whenever he appears.
Prince Charming doesn’t have to do much other than look handsome and search for Cinders, Daniel Roberts does both well, and is a good foil for Brad Walwyn’s more flamboyant Dandini. who avoids women, and pursues the owner of the famous glass slipper, with equal determination and brio. No Cinderella is complete without a fairy godmather. Maura Judges is the perfect antidote to the brash ugly sisters, her presence and rhyme, reassuring and fine.
Technically, Cinderella delivers, and is particularly well-costumed, but the acid test of any panto remains; “Is it funny?” The answer is an emphatic yes. The children laughed enthusiastically, as did the adults, and the story unfolded at a brisk pace, no scene ever outstaying its welcome. Local references and jokes abound with something for Four Oaks residents and Crazy Purple residents alike! Cinderella runs to Sunday 20th December including a number of matinees.
This review first appeared in Behind the Arras, abridged, where a comprehensive collection of reviews from the best of Midlands theatre, from a range of reviewers, is available.