Cinderella (Harrogate Theatre)

A classic pantomime story and the return of some familiar faces ensure Harrogate’s seasonal offering is “doubly traditional”

Harrogate Theatre‘s pantomime is doubly traditional – and all the better for it. It may be low on slosh scenes – though audience members in the front row may disagree – but everything else is in place. Audience participation is insisted upon, the chosen front row victim faces an evening of unrelieved mock-cruelty, singalongs are energetic and demanding, the Fairy Godmother gets her lines of not very good verse – and the magic is suitably magical, notably in a lovely transformation scene.

© Karl Andre

But this Cinderella is also traditional in a different way, as the latest in a tradition of Harrogate pantomimes. This is the sixth successive pantomime that David Bown and Phil Lowe (also the director) have written for Harrogate and they know their audience. So, too, does Tim Stedman, correctly described in the programme as "Harrogate Theatre pantomime’s much loved buffoon character" – and on his 15th Harrogate panto! As Buttons, he is as knowing as he is silly, unrelenting in his demands on the audience who respond to him with cheesy chants and groan happily at his cheesy gags. The cheese theme (mice and suchlike) is aided by Buttons’ role as official photographer!

Harrogate Theatre clearly favours continuity and, of a main cast of seven, five are returning to the scene of past pantos, but the other outstanding performance comes from a newcomer, Maxine Fone, as the Baroness of Boroughbridge, aka the Wicked Stepmother, very funny, with a pitch-perfect ear for her changing accents, and eminently booable. Philip Stewart and David Westbrook don’t strike me as belonging naturally to the school of pantomime dames, but as Harrogate veterans – albeit in very different roles – they know how to make the most of the Ugly Sisters’ set-pieces.[[search]]

Katy Dean[[/search]] carries off a stylish double as the Fairy Godmother and Dandini, Colin Kiyani is appropriately princely and looks after the bulk of the serious singing and Lucy-Jane Quinlan, unaffectedly sweet in the title role, has fun as Stedman’s collaborator in bullying the audience through "Flash, Bang, Wallop!" – a word, too, for the self-possessed 10-year-old recruited to bash the bass drum!

Perhaps Cinderella could do with losing 15 minutes or so of its running time of 2 ½ hours plus interval, but, aided by Nick Lacey‘s vigorous accompaniment (amazing how much noise three musicians can make!), a well-drilled ensemble and Foxton’s clever designs (count those clocks!), it never flags. It’s described as a family pantomime and adults of mature years seem as happy to join in the songs, warn hapless innocents or take issue with the villainess ("Oh, no, you’re not!"), as are the children in the audience.

Cinderella continues at Harrogate Theatre until 18 January 2015.