Nottingham Theatre Royal’s 2019-2020 pantomime Cinderella, billed as The Fairy Godmother of All Pantomimes, is a big success with the Nottingham panto going audience tonight. It has many ingredients that make it one of the better TRCH Christmas shows of the last five years. The lack of a 3D projection in the second half is actually a real blessing. The 3D scenes in the past few years have seemed like a tacked on indulgently spectacular aspect too far. It often scared the little kids a bit too much and didn’t really do anything to enhance the story. Sometimes a less cluttered interpretation works out the better. Even in the simplified world of pantomime storytelling it is important to tell the story without too many distractions otherwise we lose what little plot there is.
The top bill cast this year include Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre as Ugly Sister dames Michaela and Phelina. Both of them gallantly work their stripy stockings off for the sake of the pantomime and manage to amuse us with their antics despite the paucity of actual funny lines and situations written for them. The audience love it when McIntyre’s wig falls off during a vigorous musical comedy number in the second act and it is this ‘dealing with the unexpected incident’ aspect that panto audiences adore. Both Dennis and McIntryre excel at this. The costume choice for McIntyre’s character to be initially dressed like an angry pink poodle is whimsically questionable. Such is the OTT nature of the British Pantomime and its outlandishly costumed dames.
Gareth Gates as Prince Charming is well, charming – and very lovely of voice and tremendously funny in the falling off the wall scene with Cinderella (Hannah Grace Lawson) and Buttons (Richard Cadell). Gates has a delightful charisma on stage that is all the more winning as it seems to come from a genuine position of humility and self-deprecation. Gates also has a solid hard-won grounding of musical theatre credibility. This Nottingham audience love him in his role as Prince Charming and he is well partnered by Jack McNeill as a very likable Dandini.
This reviewer confesses to a little pre-show scepticism regarding the validity of Sooty the puppet in a live show. But Richard Cadell and Sooty win us over right left and centre throughout the ‘Izzy Whizzy – Let’s Get Busy’ whole pantomime. Sooty and Sweep (yes Sweep does appear) has that nostalgic appeal to the parents and grandparents in the audience and wins the younger folk over too. Cadell, his clever magic tricks and his totally natural winning personality are darned good reasons to purchase tickets to this pantomime at Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Kimberly Blake makes a fabulous Fairy Godmother and gives her all confidently and vocally to the role. As Cinderella herself, Hannah Grace Lawson is winsome and vocally impressive and offers us a strong degree of bubbly charm.
The nature of commercial star led pantomimes tends to depend on the telly value box office draw of their familiar names, big glossy sets, recognisable yet often clichéd routines and the ever present spraying of the audience with a water gun. Whilst all this is genuinely good family fun it would be nice, sometime in the future, for the creators and writers to consider offering up a pantomime that had a decent story line and characters whose personalities weren’t sourced, and constantly referred to, from who they once played in a television soap opera or two. Oh yes it would – boys and girls.
In terms of mass appeal, the Nottingham Theatre Royal version of Cinderella still has broad entertainment value and getting a couple of sweet children up on stage with Buttons certainly brings a smile and tugs on the heartstrings.
The various backdrop sets, effects and costumes for Cinderella are superb; the flying coach and horses are miraculously theatrical and The Theatre Royal Babes help to fill the stage with professional wonder in what is, a very enjoyable and colourful evening at the theatre.
Cinderella runs at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 5th January.
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