Cinderella in itself is the perfect pantomime title; a double dollop of nastiness with the ugly sisters, plenty of magic from the good fairy, some comic moments from the hapless Buttons and of course a love story. Unfortunately despite all the promise of the title, the delivery of this piece was lacking.
Chris Maloney (X Factor and Celebrity Big Brother) gets lead bill in the show as Prince Charming and its fair to say his vocals are possibly the best you will hear in panto land this year. There is a danger they could be the only vocals audiences hear though, as the volume and strength of his singing does tend to drown out his fellow cast members in any duets. His all round performance is as cheesy and at times cringeworthy as it ever was on the X-Factor, but that can be excused in a pantomime. Maloney is clearly at ease when signing and delivers a true highlight of the show with his rendition of ‘This is the Moment’. Inevitably his acting skills are far less impressive and real work needs to be done to try and create a sense of believability in his love of Cinderella, which felt as cold as a winters night!
There was an overall real lack of chemistry amongst the cast, despite its small nature of only seven adult performers. Dean Winters’ character Buttons was reduced to some age old jokes that have been carted out for years. The children did laugh along but there was never any true hysterics. There was a definite need for some better routines and material. The Ugly Sisters were equally lacking and needed to be a bit more rotten and horrid as a duo. It felt at times like Paul Tate (Elsa) and Chris Ponka (Anna) were going through the motions with a laboured and lazy performance that barely interacted with the audience to bate the “boo’s!” Sometimes pantomimes can provide too much filler, but that’s not true of this show that actually could do with a little more padding out.
The true highlights of the show were the musical numbers, carefully selected to appeal to wide audiences. You will enjoy songs from musical movies ‘The Greatest Showman’, ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘Hairspray’ along with a Queen Classic and a bit of vintage Dolly Parton. Another highlight was the standout performance from local star Gary L Johnson as Dandini. He shone last year in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and did so again with his comic and enthusiastic take on the role. My only groan is we don’t see enough of him in the show as he worked so hard to deliver his performance in the true spirit of panto; which others lacked. Maybe next year The Castle will give him the star billing. Catherine Millsom also needs a special mention in the role of Fairy Godmother for her belting vocal on Disco Inferno and the four teams of hardworking young dancers who make up the cast.
Overall this was an easy watch with some notable highlights and will tick many audiences panto boxes this Christmas. Some work is needed to really deliver the overall experience and part of that comes in the chemistry between the on stage performers, which at the moment is rather tepid. Cinderella is a great title but with it comes a higher expectation against other pantomimes and at the moment this show doesn’t quite deliver.
Cinderella is performed at The Castle Theatre, Wellingborough until 29th December 2018. Bookings can be made online at: https://www.parkwoodtheatres.co.uk/castle-theatre