Review: Cinderella (Lyric Hammersmith Theatre)
Jude Christian returns to write this year's panto offering at the Lyric Hammersmith
The usual culprit for kicking off the London panto season is the Lyric Hammersmith's festive caper, opening in mid-November in west London and always offering a form-twisting yet family-friendly ride. 2019 is no different, and while last year's Dick Whittington was a five-star smash that would take a whole lot of welly to top, returning writer Jude Christian delivers another solid instalment in the festive calendar.
Though beginning slightly sluggishly, all the key plot points from the classic Cinders story are neatly traced – put-upon girl is ostracised by her mean stepmother and unsavoury sisters, before some vermin and an oversized vegetable whisk her away to a shindig where she meets the love of her life all in time for midnight. It's in act two that the charm in Christian's script really shines, particularly with an unexpected yet never overstated romance, a quick drone cameo and a bout of politically-pertinent monarchy put-downs.
The performances dazzle as much as Frankie Bradshaw's brilliantly on-the-mark designs – Timmika Ramsay plays a star-gazing, scientific whizz-kid Cinderella with gusto, winning over the audiences within milliseconds of appearing on stage. The musical talents present are mighty – Jodie Jacobs tackles numbers by the half-dozen with aplomb, sharing a particularly poignant Streisand duet with Lauren Samuels (plays one of Cinderella's less-than-scrupulous siblings, alongside Mairi Barclay). Shobna Gulati is a pretty unpleasant yet rarely malicious Madame Meanie, tailed by her worm-dancing crocodile, while Rhys Taylor has bags of fun as Cinderella's magical protector Fairy Fredbare.
A slickly choreographed and performed rendition of Ed Sheeran's "I Don't Care" (Shelley Maxwell giving the show all the right moves) is perhaps the highlight of the show as the Prince's ball gets into full swing, and director Tinuke Craig always keeps the low-stakes fun to a steadily ticking and pleasant pace. One scene involving a fruit juice farce isn't as much of an outrageous delight as the messy manias have been in previous years, but, regardless, the west London venue has once more secured its standing as one of the fairest evenings in all the land.