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 (See News, 22 Oct 2007). It features songs by film composer Anne Dudley (who won an Oscar for The Full Monty) and is directed by Fiona Laird.
In addition to Toksvig, the cast also features Pauline Collins (as the Fairy Godmother), Madeleine Worrall (Cinderella), Joseph Millson (Prince Charming), Paul Keating (Buttons), Debbie Chazen (the Queen), and Hal Fowler and Mark Lockyer (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.
Times have changed. Hailed as “the first openly gay panto”, Fry’s new version of the classic story has had all the first night critics taking some issue with the “smart, knowing” writing that “puts the ‘rude’ in ‘erudite’” – not unlike Jim Davidson’s Sinderella a few years ago. Leaving that aside, the pantomime features the “neat” pairing of Paul Keating’s “tight-trousered” Buttons with Oliver Chopping's Dandini in perhaps the West End’s first-ever staged civil partnership, which set tongues a-wagging. But even if the show “seems less like family entertainment than the filthiest gay cabaret in town”, it’s still a hot ticket with plenty of talent in the cast – notably, Madeleine Worrall’s “sweet-natured” Cinderella, Joseph Millson's “heart-throb hunk of a Prince” and Pauline Collins’ “delightful” Fairy Godmother.
- by Tom Atkins
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