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Review of Cinderella at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

With a waft of the fairy godmother's magic wand I found myself by special command at the Royal & Derngate for this years Cinderella. Now much like Shakespeare, pantomimes are not my greatest love and in the case of these why should they be, I am not really in their target audience. However in either supportive of the writers/actors or by the aforementioned command, I found myself at this, the second of three scheduled for the 2015 season.

Cinderella is without doubt the biggest, brightest and most expensive looking pantomime that I have seen. You can literally see the pound notes being thrown at the stage as the audience is treated to a visual feast from props, sets and a spectacular auditorium light show (and snow). It has to be said though that its looks are a lot better than the script and performances are. While they are earnest, there is an edge of disappointment from the performances of many of the stars in the cast, and its not all the blame of the script.

The star billing is of course Eastenders star John Partridge, whom I have never seen before, so was able to come with a clear opinion. Once opinion was formed it lay generally at the area that he was sufficient and nothing more in his role as Prince Charming. He was excellent at belting out the songs and had an effortless "charm" in his performance, however for me he didn't really play the role with required panto bigness.

Also a huge disappointment for me was Danny Posthill in that so crucial role of Buttons. Straight from Britain's Got Talent, Danny was sadly for me quite dull as Buttons and seemed only present in the show to do his impressions act. This was fine the first time, but by the time we had got to the ball and we were seeing it for the third or fourth time, it had become a chore. He was at his best rather oddly when he was not doing his act.

Prince Charming's valent Dandini is played CBeebies presenter Sid Sloane and I have to say that I did enjoy his performance much more. Perhaps with the children's presenting background, I felt that he, as well as anyone managed to grasp that oh so important panto style. He was exuberant, fun and lively, everything required. The Fairy Godmother was also played with the required elements by another Britain's Got Talent performer, Alison Jiear. Having recently seen Alison in London in Xanadu, I knew well that she could bet out the songs, and she did did again as well as showing the charisma and stage presence.

It is perhaps quite ironic that the three lesser known stars (and not present on the front of the programme) were the real stars of the show. Rachel Flynn was wonderful in the title role, delightful and effervescent in her performance. She showed great comic timing and performed her collection of songs with tremendous style. Also superb were Ben Stock and Bobby Delaney as the ugly sisters. Huge, bold and brassy and in a seemingly endless series of ridiculous dresses, they were the stars of the show and quite frankly deserved more material. So once again for me, the lesser names were the best performers.

The script itself provided most of the prerequisites of a panto, although I really felt at times that some of the jokes and content transcended the fine balance required for adult content. There were more than one or two that went just too far, and while I am sure it pleased many, I can't help but think that there were a few uncomfortable moments during the scene that culminated in John Partridge ending bare chested.

However not wanting to be a total downer on the show as there were a few magic moments, the wall scene in the woods between Charming, Buttons and Cinderella where they performed Bryan Adams' Everything I Do was wonderfully funny and perfectly performed. There were a few excellent jokes including a very clever "A Shoe" joke (first time I have heard it, but I can only think someone must have got there first?) and the most excellent Narnia joke. Also impressive was the staging, wonderfully bright and big sets and a most excellent carriage and horse at the end of the first act, which was wonderfully realised on stage.

The ensemble and childrens ensemble (from Mayhew School of Dance & Performing Arts) were another highlight and were given excellent pieces by choreographer Gary Lloyd to perform. The children especially in their collection of cute costumes were one of the highlights.

So put simply it was a very fun couple of hours, which perhaps oddly might appeal more to the parents than the children, so perhaps this is where Cinderella falls down a little. The adult innuendo needed toning down a bit and the performances needed bigging up a touch to make this a classic and more targeted at the true target audience. However it is fun and frivolous and I don't like to be a glum at Christmas, but even if I was a huge pantomime fan, I really feel I would have left a tad disappointed.

«««½


Performance reviewed: Tuesday 22nd December, 2015 (matinee) at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

 
Cinderella runs at the Royal & Derngate until Sunday 3rd January, 2016.
Details here: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/Productions/203569/224743/Cinderella15

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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