Cinderella (New Wimbledon Theatre)
Dallas star Linda Gray, comedian Tim Vine and dancer Wayne Sleep join the cast of this year's Wimbledon panto
In the week of Cats returning to the West End, there was good news and bad news in this big splashy Cinderella about two of the original feline cast: in the good corner, Wayne Sleep (Mr Mistoffolees) is pirouetting and fouetté-ing like mad still as Dandini; in the bad, Brian Blessed (Old Deuteronomy) is booming fatuously (at least he's on tape) in the awful filmic prelude about "historic" pantomime with an ad for Littlewoods.com.
Otherwise, Ian Talbot's noisy, energetic production is moderately true to the eclectic traditions of panto, though Linda Gray (Sue Ellen in Dallas, if that means anything to anyone under the age of 40) as the dipsomaniac Fairy Godmother stretches credulity as a beneficent game-changer; she looks all at sea, smiling broadly, and optimistically suggesting that her "bit of acting" in the forest might land her a part in Downton.
Her onstage rhythm and timing are all to pot, too, though nothing is as bad as Jo Brand was at this address in Aladdin last year. Tim Vine is a totally likeable (though disconcertingly bald) Buttons, indefatigably reeling off one-liners and touchingly inventive in the kitchen scene with Cinders (Amy Lennox), giving her a vegetable necklace of fourteen carrots after the Ugly Sisters have induced her own destruction of her invitation to the ball.
Those sisters, Cheryl and Mel, are played by father and son Matthew Kelly and Matthew Rixon as identical twins with tall wigs and sumptuously vulgar costumes, but their deliberate and weird similarity limits the shadings of grotesquery the roles demand. The best panto perfs, apart from Vine's and Sleep's, are those of Liam Doyle as a not too insufferable Prince Charming and James Doherty as Baron Hardup.
Hardup's petrol business has failed, which cues another line of operation for the Dallas star and materialises in a few yee-haw exclamations and a rash of pink Stetsons at the end. After a brief encounter with Ms Gray in what looks like the gay sauna from DV8's John, we're back on family show track, thank heavens, in a glorious gauzy pink transformation scene with the inevitable song from Disney's Frozen ("Let It Go"), a pair of white ponies and a lovely slow motion snow blizzard.
And Sleep wakes up the second half with a spirited "Putting on the Ritz" number (good choreography by Lizzi Gee), the big climactic ball scene punctuated with a spooky forest scene (on with the 3D glasses) full of flying ghosties and hairy spiders. The physical side of panto is, apart from the dancing, slightly undernourished; Eric Potts's script hits a saccharine low with its sweet-tray punning on chocolate bars (Haribo Stiles of One Direction is up to his old Twix, and so on, not even worth a Snicker).
The breakage of the glass slipper has come back into fashion, though the princely declaration of love is conveniently underpinned by the discovery of a second crystal stiletto. Steve Power leads a five-piece band, and the lighting of David Howe is panto perfect. Not much of a song sheet number, though, and I do think Tim Vine should memorise the names of the four little children he brings up on the stage; something still to learn from the top Buttons.
Cinderella runs at New Wimbledon Theatre until 11 January 2015