‘Cinderella’ review

Theatre, Panto
3 out of 5 stars
Cinderella, New Wimbledon Theatre, 2019
Photograph: Craig Sugden

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

It’s a bit by the numbers, but a game cast pretty much sells you on this year’s New Wimbledon panto

As her ex-bandmates reunite as the Pussycat Dolls, Melody Thornton finds herself in pseudo-medieval dress pining to go to the ball in Wimbledon. She’s starring in pantomime juggernaut Qdos Entertainment’s ‘Cinderella’.

Qdos – responsible for the Palladium panto and innumerable regional extravaganzas – does these kinds of conveyor-belt-slick festive productions in its market-dominating sleep. Like a single-minded Santa, it delivers shiny packages of celebrities, just risqué-enough jokes and adapted pop songs across the UK. This one, with its blandly cheery cookie-cutter ode to Wimbledon at the start, is no different. Director Michael Gyngell basically winds it up and lets it go. Everything whips along at a kid-friendly pace, with boxes ticked for dancing and an impressive pre-interval flying carriage.

Like the generically colourful, picture-book set design, Alan McHugh’s script, with extra material by Pete Firman, doesn’t bring anything new to the story’s traditional panto beats. If any of you were hoping, in a post-‘Frozen’ universe, that Cinders might have a bit more gumption, you’ll be disappointed. Thornton smiles and sings nicely.

As Prince Charming, Edward Chitticks is stuck with a similar placeholder role, so it’s up to the supporting players to bring the sparkle. Singer Lesley Garrett's Fairy Godmother appears on stage heralded by fireworks and opera puns. Meanwhile, Samantha Womack (Baroness Demonica Hardup) gamely cracks jokes about ‘contractual obligations’ as the doof-doof of the ‘EastEnders’ theme plays. She has good stage presence, hitting the right notes of vamp and camp.

There’s also a really funny turn from Will Jennings as Dandini, Prince Charming’s fretful manservant. It’s not a big part, but Jennings frequently spins comedy gold (sorry, wrong panto) out of a handful of lines while turning small moments into nicely observed physical humour. As the Ugly Sisters, Leon Craig and Bobby Delaney contribute a refreshing amount of gruff, droll British drag to the proceedings.

But what holds everything together, what breathes some life into this enjoyable but devised-by-committee affair, is Firman as a particularly down-to-earth Buttons. He’s a consummate compere, switched on and wisecracking effortlessly with the audience while chucking out cheeky ad-libs. He’s also great with the only truly unpredictable part of the night: the bit when they bring kids on stage.

By: Tom Wicker

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