The panto wand was waved with real vigour this week as ‘Cinderella’ began its two-week run at The Maltings in Berwick.
Having spread plenty of cheer with the likes of ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in recent years, the pressure was on Bespoke Theatre to once again bring bucket loads of sparkle to the festive season.
With a great musical score, a charismatic cast and fantastic junior chorus of local children, they got off to a flying start.
‘Cinderella’ is often mooted as the greatest panto of them all and Bespoke do enough to ensure its crown won’t slip anytime soon.
In the title role, Ashley Tucker is everything you’d want from a fairy tale damsel in distress. As well making a stunning princess when she finally gets her happy ending, Ashley puts in a real beauty of a performance.
In her first panto appearance she hits the ground running, also turning in fine vocal moments in the likes of ‘Skid Row’ from ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and Usher’s ‘Without You’.
The latter is a duet with fellow debutant Finlay Bain, from a land not so far away, North Berwick.
The pair show exactly why director Zoe Waterman had faith in their acting and singing abilities, with Finlay’s Prince Charming living up to his title, demonstrating the stage presence of a storybook hero and a singing voice to boot.
The soundtrack boasts some great songs from musical theatre, blended to perfection with chart hits. Finlay’s ‘RSVP’ (a re-working of ‘Call Me Maybe’) is a slice of quality cheese.
For those not entirely in tune with Noughties Top 40 smashes, some classics are also thrown into the mix. Bonnie Tyler might well have been ‘Holding out for a Hero’ back in the 1980s, but fast forward nearly 30 years and Cinderella’s ugly sisters Melody and Suki would settle for any takers.
Yes, when it came to dames this year Bespoke offer us two for the price of one and by gum do we get a good deal. There is double the cattyness, double the innuendo and double the outfits that the orangest of Geordie Shore girls would shy away from.
Dan Smith goes from resident villain to dame quicker than a slap of the thigh, while first timer James Peake throws himself into some fabulous frocks with camp gusto.
The cherry on the cackling cake is Natalie Ball’s wicked stepmother Davina. Last seen wreaking havoc as Carabosse in 2011’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Natalie is back with an acid tongue and icy glare firmly in tow.
Thankfully, there is plenty of light to be cast on the evil threesome’s shade.
As well as choreographing the show, Alan Bowles slips back into his cheeky chappy shoes as Buttons. Getting Tuesday’s audience of school children on side from the off, Alan brings laughter to every scene he is in, the confectionary-inspired sketch with the ugly sisters proving a particular favourite.
Louise Grantham’s Fairy Godmother is also on hand to raise a smile. In her second panto stint at The Maltings, Louise lights up the stage with all the bubblyness and warmth her role required and also proves herself a super singer with ‘A Moment Like This’ and ‘One Night Only’.
Last seen in ‘His Dark Materials’, Berwick’s own Ross Graham returns for the fourth year in succession as Dandani and Mozzarella, once again showing off his skills as a puppeteer.
‘Cinderella’s’ junior chorus also do the town proud. Tuesday’s audience were witness to the enthusiasm and energy of the show’s blue team: Georgina Faed, Erin Hindhaugh, Amy Jo Kearton, Carl Laidlaw, Corey Learmonth, Meghan McIntosh, Ewan Steady and Amy Wallace, Sarah Wallace and Scarll Watson. I’m sure the red team – Mickael Alexander, Eden Anderson, Shannon Blackhall, Carys Bruce, Mary Davenport, Patrick Davenport, Sophie Reilly, Sam Rogers, Susie Ward and Chloe Wightman – are also stars when they take their turn on stage.
When it comes to costumes and special effects I don’t want to spoil things for those who have yet to see ‘Cinderella’. All I will say is they are top notch. And keep a keen eye on the ugly sister’s wardrobe choices!
Everyone knows panto is as part and parcel as Christmas as Slade, novelty socks or an ‘Only Fools and Horses’ repeat. The ‘Cinderella’ cast and crew make sure the tradition is upheld in fabulous fashion.
○ ‘Cinderella’ runs at The Maltings until Tuesday, December 31.