Sunday 1st December 2019 at Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Nottingham Theatre Royal’s 2019 panto offering is a whirling delight of razzle dazzle and charm. Highlights are many and lulls are a grand total of zero – from the dancing pumpkins to the many magical moments to the all-important carriage ride, this is grand scale panto on top form. The show takes the vocation of delivering vibrant Christmassy magic incredibly seriously, pulling out all the stops to ensure that people of all ages leave the auditorium feeling a lightness of step and a renewed love of good old fashioned super-sparkly, super-sized and super-silly panto.
Headliners are plentiful this year as ever. At the centre of this glitter-fest is an excellent coupling which sees the talents of Hannah Grace Lawson paired with Gareth Gates (who benefits from having Jack McNeill by his side as the ever loyal Dandini) as Cinderella and Prince Charming. Both bring cracking vocals to the table and are something of a picture perfect couple with some lovely comedic flair to boot. The wall sequence with Buttons is a definite comedic high point.
While there’s no evil stepmother and we’re down to two ugly sisters sharing the staple dame role, there’s plenty to love about the ungainly double act offered up by Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre as Michaela and Phelina. They bring an unrelenting disgruntlement along with them as if it’s the latest trend, griping endlessly and plotting their next cruel trick. While they’re nowhere in the vicinity of a thoroughbred dastardly panto villain or the melodramatic dame, they certainly entertain as the sour-faced meanies of Cinderella’s life.
Kimberly Blake makes for a fabulous Fairy Godmother, offering a gentle warmth and enthused rhyming narration alongside yet more great vocals. Richard Cadell is the all round super shiny star here though, bringing the classic role of Buttons to life with a real sense of utter relish. His ad-libs are spot on and his general enjoyment of the pomp of panto shines like a new penny fresh from a water gun dousing. The ensemble is of an equal calibre too, from the young cast to the pros, Fabian Aloise’s choreography is delivered in all shades of perfected fairytale embellishments.
What this cast also offers, rather uniquely, is a headliner of the fuzzy kind: Sooty! This timeless hero and a surprise guest make a real mark on the production and bring a combination of nostalgia and innocent charm to the proceedings. I may have had my reservations about Sooty’s abilities on a stage but those contributions are so pure, so mischievous and so thoroughly entertaining in the most wholesome of ways that I would have happily seen him in every scene!
Musical Director Steve Price leads high energy, high impact musical numbers throughout, opening with a ditty about Nottingham and all its wonder and whizzing through the musical numbers from there. Director Guy Unsworth leaves no opportunity for visual flair or drama missed here, crafting a spectacular production in every sense which rests confidently on impressive visuals – ever the undeniable winners on the panto scene.
Set design in particular allows for plenty of grand visuals, conjuring a variety of fairyland settings in whimsical panto glory. Not content with backdrops and fly-ins galore though, Unsworth demands more more more people! Pyrotechnics and classic water larks are offered. Large scale magic tricks reminiscent of Friday night daredevil shows make an appearance and life-sized animal props delight alongside the more classic elements of surprise entrances and exits.
Costuming from Mike Coltman also arrives on an exuberant scale; the bigger, bolder and glitzier the better in this production. Best of all the spectacles to behold here though? The Act 1 closer is just superb (and gorgeously glorified by Nick Richings’ lighting) and well worth the ticket all by itself. It’s a scene with theatrical flair enough to fill hearts of any age with a love of the magical possibilities of theatre.
All pantos need sparkle and shine and this take on Cinderella well and truly delivers – it’s a thoroughly entertaining show with lots of magic, plenty of wonderful spectacle and an awful lot of panto pizazz. Highly recommended. Bibbity bobbity to the Box Office!
Cinderella plays Nottingham Theatre Royal until January 5th 2020 and you can find tickets here.
Images: Whitefoot Photography