In these straitened times, it is cheering to see that the traditional panto is alive and well at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley
4 Dec 2013
This Cinderella from UK Productions shows no sign of fiscal restraint with a full measure of glitz and glamour.. It has all that one expects, including – a must for any Cinderella worth its salt – real white ponies drawing the coach.
If the volume of screaming from children around you is any guide to the success of the show, then my eardrums have served the cause valiantly. The principals are all excellent, with a plucky heroine from Anna Williamson, an ebullient Buttons by Andrew Agnew, a dashing Prince from Matt Lapinskas and a gawky, camp Dandini by Charles Brunton.
Byron Mondahl and David Ball are a splendid double act as the Ugly Sisters and, in the best traditions of panto, their costumes get increasingly outlandish. When "the girls" arrive at the ball you could be forgiven for thinking that you were watching Simon Russell Beale in Carmen Miranda mode in Privates on Parade and Lily Savage at her shameless best.
In addition, there is a Fairy Godmother (Jessica Martin) whose magic wand doubles as a mobile phone, and who does very passable impressions of Sharon Osbourne and Cilla Black .
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of all is that this production (directed by Alison Pollard) successfully balances all the key ingredients: story, colour and spectacle, appropriate music and choreography, audience participation, in-jokes, a bit of magic and double entendres for the grown-ups.
If we missed the customary kitchen slapstick scene, we had a boudoir routine where the Ugly Sisters get their hair burnt off by hair dryers. Not so much fun, but an acceptable updating.
My only real quibbles are that the plot point of the Prince and Dandini swapping roles goes for very little, with a pretty limp pay-off, and a trick is missed with the final walk-down. The cast all come on one by one – but while singing a final number – so the audience misses the opportunity to cheer and boo; they think it's another song rather than the end of the show. When the final bow takes place it is somewhat anticlimactic.
But all in all, this is a polished and highly enjoyable family show. And it wouldn't be complete without the juveniles from the local dance schools, who are everything they should be: well-drilled, cute and looking as though they're having the time of their lives.