Pauline Collins (pictured) will return to the West End stage for the first time in 15 years to star as the Fairy Godmother in the world premiere of Stephen Fry’s new version of Cinderella which also stars Sandi Toksvig as the Narrator (See News, 31 May 2007). The production runs from 9 December 2007 (previews from 4 December) to 20 January 2008 at the Old Vic.

This is the third consecutive year of Christmas pantomimes at the Old Vic, after the success of the past two seasons of Aladdin starring Ian McKellen as panto dame Widow Twankey. Cinderella marks the pantomime writing debut for actor, comedian, novelist and director Stephen Fry, who has “cheekily updated” the fairytale for the 21st century. It features songs by film composer Anne Dudley (who won an Oscar for The Full Monty) and is directed by Fiona Laird (recently seen on TV’s Musicool).

In 1988, Pauline Collins created the title role in Willy Russell’s one-woman play Shirley Valentine in the West End, winning a Best Actress Olivier. She later starred in the Broadway transfer and in the film version. She’s also well known for her screen roles in TV series such as Upstairs, Downstairs, The Ambassadors and Bleak House and films including City of Joy, Paradise Road and Fierce Creatures. Her other West End credits including The Importance of Being Earnest, Rattle of a Simple Man and Shades. In 2004, she appeared with her real-life husband John Alderton in Going Straight on tour.

Sandi Toksvig is a columnist, novelist and prolific television and radio presenter whose recent stage credits include Short and Curly and Big Night Out.

Also in the Cinderella are: Madeleine Worrall (Three Sisters, The Anniversary in the West End) as Cinderella, Joseph Millson (Pillars of the Community, Much Ado About Nothing) as Prince Charming, Paul Keating (just seen in the West End in Little Shop of Horrors) as Buttons, Debbie Chazen (TV’s TittyBangBang) as the Queen, and Hal Fowler (High Society, Me and My Girl) and Mark Lockyer (Restoration, Faust, Vernon God Little, Theatre of Blood) as the Ugly Sisters.

The production is designed by Stephen Brimson-Lewis and choreographed by Francesca Jaynes, with lighting by Tim Mitchell, musical supervision by Neil McArthur, orchestrations by Steven Edis and Neil McArthur, musical direction by Michael Haslam, and sound by Nick Lidster and Terry Jardine for Autograph.

Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey commented on the project: “I’m enormously pleased by the range of talented artists joining us to make Cinderella a truly spectacular event this Christmas. The combination of such British favourites as Pauline Collins and Sandi Toksvig with a remarkable range of young and talented cast from stage, television and film will create something truly special. I can’t wait to see how they all bring to life Stephen’s marvellously witty story and characters to the sound of Anne Dudley’s great new songs. It’s the perfect celebration of the Old Vic’s vaudeville history and a great deal of fun.

- by Terri Paddock