Jamie Smith
Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Presents
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

The cast Credit: Simon Annand
Georgie Leatherland, Michelle Gayle and Jamie Brook Credit: Simon Annand
Peter Gordon, Georgie Leatherland and Nick Barclay Credit: Simon Annand

Full of glitz, glam and gags galore the Yvonne Arnaud’s 2018 version of Cinderella whisks audiences into Pantoland for an evening of pure escapism.

Largely following the traditional panto plot, Fairy Sweetness (a bubbly Michelle Gayle) welcomes the audience and in the first few scenes we are quickly introduced to Cinderella, Buttons and of course the Ugly Stepsisters. Whilst their entrance might be in a car, it’s the ingenious appearance of Buttons that really gets the magic started.

Ever the showman, Jamie Brook’s loveable Buttons quickly has the audience on his side and his infectious energy radiates throughout the entire auditorium. He ensures the pace bounces along but isn't afraid to milk an odd comedy line or two.

Ugly Sisters Kimmy (Nick Barclay) and Coleen (Peter Gordon) are joyously grotesque; smarmy and mean with suitably outrageous costumes and easy dynamic. Their version of "Born This Way" followed by "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves" leads nicely into silly beauty parlour antics with Buttons that contrast well with their callous behaviour towards Cinderella.

In the title role, Georgie Leatherland is charming and innocent, pitching her performance carefully, being every inch the leading lady but without making the character too dominant. In the often-tricky role of Prince Charming, Cameron Burt chooses to play it earnestly giving their brief interactions a delightful wholesomeness.

Whilst the romance is sweetness and light, it’s not mawkish however, thanks to the main love song "All of Me" becoming a great comedy number with Buttons muscling in on the act.

The only performance slightly at odds with the overall tone is Kit Hesketh-Harey’s acerbic Dandini. With some great waspish one-liners and a withering stare, he very much makes the part his own, but jokes about the fact he’s taking a year off from being the baddie are lost on the children in the audience. They did, however, enjoy his totally unnecessary but fabulous version of "I Am What I Am" complete with chorus line kicks.

Joining the principles are a talented ensemble of ten who transform from villagers to ball guests and even play a ghost or two. Their presence gives the musical numbers a rounded sound and they execute Katie Beard’s energetic choreography with ease. Without exception they all look out for the junior members of the cast too. The determined junior chorus perform with gusto and are given several chances to shine.

Act I of Cinderella is generally the longer act and in this case is a musical number or two too long for some of the younger audience members. Act II, however, is a whirlwind of laughs with the always hilarious and incredibly boisterous "12 Days of Christmas" (watch out for shaving foam and lots of water!) and the obligatory bench scene breaking up the funky ball and romantic finale.

Jamie Smith’s script is lovingly crafted with nods to classic jokes (“Air, Hair Lair”) but a sprinkling of modern references that sit neatly alongside. Although very much a children’s show, there are also a few cheeky asides that are bound to raise a chuckle from parents.

With a set that literally twinkles, a transformation scene complete with ponies, a plethora of musical numbers and countless opportunities to shout out there’s no pantomimic stone left unturned.

The true reviewers in the audience though are of course the children and Cinderella had them literally screaming with delight.

I was joined on press night by junior reviewer Luna (age 5) who summarised her experience as follows: “my favourite bit was when the Fairy Godmother did her magic and gave Cinderella her pretty dress. My second favourite part was when they sang and fell off the wall. Buttons was really funny and I liked the water and custard.”

She concluded that there wasn’t anything she didn’t like and that it was a 5* show.

A fitting tribute to the late Jamie Barber, this is a sparkling pantomime offering beautifully formulaic family fun.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston

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