Andrew Ryan
Martin Dodd for UK Productions
The Anvil Basingstoke

Keith Chegwin as Buttons
The Ugly Sisters Jamie Morris as Cilla and Tarot Joseph (Sarah) and Cinderella (Sarah Louise Day)
Katy Ashworth as the Fairy Godmother

The Anvil’s Christmas pantomime this year is Cinderella, perhaps one of the best-loved and best-known in the panto repertoire. This magical story of rags to riches produced by Martin Dodd for UK Productions and written by Andrew Ryan has all the traditional festive elements for a great family entertainment.

The delightful bubbly Keith Chegwin plays Buttons and is truly enjoying every moment of his buoyant performance, throwing himself into the character with a passion. He has a wonderful empathy with the audience who joined in with zeal and loved him.

Katy Ashworth, the presenter from Cbeebies who presents I Can Cook, is the warm-hearted Fairy Godmother with many jokes about cooking. She even starts the panto waving a wooden spoon instead of a wand. Her enthusiasm is palpable.

Sarah Louise Day gives a confident, sweet performance as Cinders. She has a good singing voice and captures the hearts of the audience. She does love Buttons, but only “as a brother”, much to his disappointment.

The plot follows the traditional story. Baron Hardup (David Alcock) has remarried and Cinders now has two stepsisters who force her to work hard both day and night and make her life a total misery. The moment when she is forced to tear up her invitation to the Ball is most poignant.

The Ugly Sisters, who enter to “Here Come The Girls”, are superbly played by Jamie Morris (Silly Cilla) and Tarot Joseph as Daisy. They give a masterclass in playing the roles and are consummate performers. They make so many swift costumes changes they must be exhausted by the finalé.

And what frocks, each one more outlandish than the last and even one representing a McDonald’s and fries. They work the audience as true professionals and it’s a real joy to watch, but I did feel for Lance who was the butt of Cilla’s attention.

The transformation scene when the Fairy Godmother turns the pumpkin into a crystal coach that arrives on stage pulled by two white Shetland ponies drew gasps from the audience and is a truly magical moment.

The excellent, talented chorus of villagers and courtiers, slickly choreographed by Sara Louise Day, are augmented by youngsters from the North Hampshire Academy of Dance and Basingstoke Academy of Dance, who work their socks off.

There is bags of good old-fashioned audience participation throughout, groan-making one-liners, lots of local references including a journey through Basingstoke with the audience providing the sound effects, but I did miss a slosh scene.

Musical direction is in the very capable hands of Martyn Cooper assisted by Gordon Goodwin and Dave Cartwright, but perhaps the songs chosen are in need of updating.

Lavishly costumed and with colourful sets, director Michael Gattrell’s Cinderella is great family entertainment with something for everyone and was thoroughly enjoyed by an enthusiastic Basingstoke audience.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp

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