Paul Hammond Productions
Pavilion Theatre, Worthing
An icy blue wonderland greets the audience as they sit down for Cinderella at the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing. This production has a quaint set, some lively songs played by a three piece band and offers Todd Carty as their headliner.
Carty plays Buttons, Cinderella's buddy, and the audience is pleased to see him, responding to his "Hiya kids" with glee. Carty's Buttons is lovable and has a cheeky grin which makes him resemble Stan Laurel, but it seems to be constantly applied to his face regardless of the emotion being conveyed.
Sweet Cinderella is played by Lucinda Kennard, who is sometimes so sweet it's unbearable. Brian Weston plays her father, Baron Hardup, as a lovable bumbling buffoon and her sisters of the ugly variety are played by Kevin Tillett and Steven Humpherson.
These Uglies, Annie and Fannie, look as though they're straight out of the court of Marie Antoinette or the circus with faces as white as a ghost, red cheeks and block colour above their eyes. They have some comedic costumes, however one with "Sex Goddess" on the hem of their skirts, complete with chains, rubber and studs screams adult panto Sinderella, rather than this family fairytale. Delivering witty lines venomously, it is unfortunate that with singing not their strongpoint, they are given so many opportunities to flex their vocal cords.
A live band is a welcome addition to the Pavilion panto and contributes greatly to the magic, so it is unfortunate that many musical numbers rely heavily on backing tracks to deliver those extra few instruments and vocals. The track is often too loud to be able to hear the live musicians and microphone levels also need to be increased. There are even a few times when male voices appear to be singing the tune, when only female dancers are on stage.
Rebecca Lisewski is a wonderful Prince Charming and it is nice to see female principal boys back at the Pavilion. Her musical numbers are sung and performed well and she does some nifty work on rollerskates at her Strictly Dance Ball, showing off her skills from her Starlight Express days. She is a talented professional with great stage presence and commands the audience's attention on her own merit, not having to rely on her costume consisting of only boots, leotard and tunic.
The productions zips along at a nice pace, but there are some oddities dropped in, such as a Riverdance section as the Prince and Dandini search for the slipper's owner and many musical numbers appear out of nowhere and seem completely superfluous.
A very vocal audience enjoyed being a part of the panto experience, but the cast would do well to listen to their audience more and not ignore their calls of "Oh no it isn't". Neither should they keep delivering their lines when receiving applause or speak dialogue as the audience responds to the panto staples. If the audience feel all their shouting is in vain, they will be less obliged to show their appreciation at the end.
Hammond has really upped their game this year and Cinderella is a huge improvement on previous pantos - especially considering two years ago Aladdin offered a gold painted watering can as a lamp. The transformation sequence is enchanting, complete with real ponies and there is some nice flying out of props in the kitchen scene. Songs are snappy, the stage is nicely dressed and the ensemble dance their numbers well. Acknowledging the audience and encouraging their involvement would improve the production immensely.
Playing until 3rd January 2010
Reviewer: Simon Sladen