Review: Cinderella– New Theatre, Cardiff * * *

December 17, 2010

[Reviewed for The Public Reviews]

I’ll come clean right away; panto isn’t really my cup of tea. But on a chilly December evening, Cardiff’s one and only pantomime, Cinderella, certainly provided some good entertainment.

It’s hard not to smile when the theatre’s packed out with tiny kids, all excited and waving their glowing fairy wands. For starters, very firmly top-billed Brian Conley really carried the show as Buttons. Although played as though he should be on Ritalin, Buttons was all-singing, all-joking and managed to get the mums and dads on side with a bit of tongue-in-cheek commentary on the production itself. Unfortunately one of the funniest parts was when he tried to solemnly sing She’s Out of My Life, and the audience laughed all the way through it.

Brian Conley as Buttons

Amy Pemberton as Cinders was delightful, with a surprisingly fiery belt and a heart-melting smile, she made a potentially boring role lovable. For the musical theatre fan there are well-known numbers throughout; although shoehorned in at times, we got through You Can’t Stop the Beat, The Circle of Life and Somewhere Over the Rainbow among others. The vocals were strong and slick, and special mention must go to Sharon Cherry Ballard as the Fairy Godmother, who was so Deloris Van Cartier I spent much of Act I expecting her to burst into Fabulous, Baby.

The only vocal crime was giving Brian Conley at least four big songs (including Elvis and Michael Jackson numbers) but leaving poor Prince Charming, aka Les Miserablés alumnus Hadley Fraser, with one half of a mediocre duet.

As with all pantomimes, there was plenty of dallying with the dames, suitably evil ugly sisters Trinny and Susannah (director Brian Godfrey and Darren Southworth), and audience participation to roll things along. The kids in the audience absolutely loved it, and every scene was met with lots of laughter. The set was impressive, with one particularly magical moment at the end of Act I when Cinders boards her carriage, complete with winged horse, and flies off to the ball.

One downfall was that much of the music and singing appeared to be backed up by recordings, with the superbly-dancing ensemble of eight left miming along half-heartedly. The charming children from the Lorri Guppy School of Dance weren’t singing along either, even in the finale, which seemed a shame. I was surprised there only appeared to be one Welsh accent in the entire cast, the cheery Dandini (Leighton Rafferty) who even got in a cheeky ‘What’s occurin’?’, but each main character put their all into every line and lyric to make it a fun family night out.

Runs until 23rd January

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