The Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime usually runs its own variation on the standard theme. This season's "Cinderella" keeps up the tradition.
We're used to seeing "Cinderella" in vaguely 18th century guise. Richard Gauntlett – veteran pantomime writer, director and performer (this year he swaps a Dame's frocks for Buttons' bell-boy uniform) – and his design team (Penny Richardson, Dulcie Crickmore and Natalie Armitage) locate the story to that well-known coastal resort Norwich-Next-The-Sea and the period to the Flapper era.
That gives choreographer Dee Jago the chance to devise some smart chorus routines with charleston and bunny-hop elements. The six-piece band under David Carter enjoys the rhythms which go with the dances – what a difference a proper musical ensemble makes! – and they suit the energy displayed by the company.
Baron Hardup (Christopher Ryan) runs a hotel which has seen better days – and many more visitors. Not that his daughters Candy (Ian Belsey) and Flossie (Graeme Henderson) – as nasty a pair of rock-sticks as you could hope to avoid licking –take account of any financial shortfall. Staff is reduced to Buttons as the baron's youngest daughter, Cinderella.
Ruth Betteridge as Cinders offers us the put-upon drudge but also the sparky girl with a keen sense of right and wrong bound to attract male interest. As well as Buttons, this comprises Prince Charming (a strong-voiced Matt Milburn) who's on a walkabout in the town, supervised by his somewhat supercilious attendant Dandini.
Jack Richardson, who was parachuted into the role at very short notice, inhabits the part perfectly and comes into his own with a second-act dance sequence with the men of the ensemble. Also making an impact is Fairy Godmother Sheila Ferguson, all slinky glitter and vocal sparkle as she sets the plot into motion.
Her cabaret turn in the ball scene (it's a masked and costume affair) is spectacular, offset by a comedy dance routine (involving life-sized puppets) for the Ugly Sisters, the baron and Buttons. And, you may be wondering, in what sort of a vehicle does Cinderella travel to the ball? Suffice it to say that it does involve a pumpkin and white mice, but...
The seaside and period setting allows for some fun involving bathing-machines, beach-huts and the bathing costumes of the 1920s. The traditional visual gags are kept to a minimum in Gauntlett's production, though the custard-pie one (albeit in ice-cream guise) features, as does the song-sheet (complete with gestures). It really all works very well and adds up to something to satisfy both children and their elders.
Cinderella is at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 19 January.