She's the title character, the girl who suffers through no fault of her own before finding true love and happiness. But Jemma Carlisle as Cinderella in this year's Paul Hendy-Bob Golding production at the Alban Arena, St Albans' multi-purpose entertainment centre, has to compete with singing star Gareth Gates as Prince Charming. I'm happy to report that it's a draw.
All the traditional sketches and incidents are here, with Matthew Daines' lanky Beatrice and Sam Rabone's marginally (by the merest sliver of a fraction) more cuddly Eugenie inviting a torrent of boos as they impose on their stepsister.
As has now become customary, a hapless male member of the audience is the recipient of the Ugly Sisters' amorous intentions – you might want to consider this when booking an aisle seat near the front for your party …
If Kirkby's Baron Hardup is powerless to protect his daughter, Laura Jane Matthewson is on hand as the Fairy Godmother to nudge things in the right direction, with the aid of Golding's Buttons and two white Shetland ponies. There's pathos as Buttons finally voices his love for Cinderella in the first kitchen scene.
Gates is in fine voice and acts well, including some smart exchanges with Andy Day's Dandini. Carlisle also sings well and projects a sweet personality which refuses to be corrupted under provocation.
Helga Wood's sets and costumes are good, though I thought Cinderella's ball-gown a little too cumbersome. Paul Tracy's choreography swirls and whirls the characters to the beat of Christopher Peake's musical direction.