“The fairy godmother of all pantomimes” is what the blurb says, and no doubt about it, that’s absolutely right! Cinderella is a wonderful blend of the traditional and the modern. It uses the old fairy tale, with the essential ingredients of the downtrodden younger sister, the fairy godmother who comes to her rescue and thwarts two horrible older sisters, the handsome prince, the ball from which Cinderella must flee at midnight, the discarded slipper, and so forth. It has stock pantomime characters, in particular the Dame, although in this instance there are two Dames (the Ugly Sisters), and the cheeky underling (Buttons), who pricks any pompous bubbles and takes the audience into his confidence. The jokes too are reassuringly traditional, i.e. smutty, as well as commenting on topical issues. On the other hand, there are some amazing set pieces that require state-of-the-art technology. The carriage on which Cinderella is borne aloft to the ball is quite something.
But the same could be said about all aspects of the show. The choreography is quite spectacular, with Prince Charming turning out to be a particularly energetic dancer. The songs have the benefit of two top-notch professional singers (Cinders herself and the Fairy Godmother). The costumes are both lavish (as in the Ball and the Wedding) and inventive (pumpkins and furry forest creatures included). But if anyone should be singled out, it must be Pete Firman as Buttons. He is the link between the stage and the audience. His patter, much of it ad-libbed, is spot on. His magic tricks are suitably tongue-in-cheek. His banter with individual members of the audience causes them mirth rather than embarrassment. And when he took some children up onto the stage, he (just about) avoided being upstaged by them!
The audience loved it. The New Wimbledon Theatre was packed when I went to see the panto, which was not bad for a Tuesday evening. And no wonder. There is plenty of spectacular action and knock-about buffoonery for the kids to enjoy, and plenty of verbal virtuosity and quick-fire one-liners for the adults to appreciate. The New Wimbledon Theatre has done it again! Last year they put on a super production of Aladdin (with the same writer as this one), and before that there was an excellent Jack and the Beanstalk…
When are they going to put on a dud one?
- By Alan McHugh
- Directed by Michael Gyngell
- Musical Director: Barry Robinson
- Cast Includes: Samantha Womack, Lesley Garrett, Melody Thornton and Pete Firman
- New Wimbledon Theatre
- Until 5th January 2020
- Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes. Including interval