It's billed as the best-loved pantomime of them all. ''Cinderella'' at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage reinforces the slogan
This is the second production of Cinderella by Chris Jordan in East Anglia this Christmas. Previously staged on the south coast, it varies considerably from the show at King's Lynn Corn Exchange and works extremely well in its own right. Not to mention "write".
Helping the story along is the Fairy Godmother (Gillian Wright), who makes subtle play with the part in EastEnders with which the adult, if not the juvenile, members of the audience associate her. Certainly Cinderella (Rebecca Tyson) needs all the help she can muster when step-sisters of the Florabunda (Paul Laidlaw) and Marjorie (Dereck Walker) are around.
With the best wills in the world, neither Baron Hardup (Graham James) nor Buttons (Scott Cripps) can do much to remedy the situation. Rebecca Lisewski as Dandini has more character than the role sometimes affords and is well matched with Imogen brooke's Prince, living up to the Charming surname.
Chris Whitehead is the musical director and the choreography (attractive to watch) is by Jo Morris. Shelley Stevens' costumes are tidily 18th century in style and, though Jordan eschews the traditional ponies for the Act One finale, we do get a sky-mounting Pegasus after a fun black-theatre sequence involving mice and other small creatures.
As seems to be the trend nowadays, Laidlaw and Walker spice their comedy with a sense of real threat, both when they make Cinderella tear up her ball invitation and later when they lock her in the cellar just before the prince and Dandini arrive with the glass slipper. Laidlaw is the leader in both these pieces of mischief.
It's therefore appropriate that, for the walk-down and finale, the sisters appear as a pair of crackers. Just be careful how you pull them!
Cinderella runs at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage until 26 January.