The Christmas dinners may be long gone, and most of the decorations may be packed away for another year, but the festive season isn’t quite over yet. Up and down the country, pantomimes are still being performed well into the new year and this year, Plymouth audiences are being treated to Cinderella. Put together by the masters of Pantomime, Qdos Entertainment, Cinderella has all of the glitz and glamour expected of a huge scale show, without losing the old-style charm and traditions of a good old-fashioned pantomime. It’s a family friendly affair, with jokes that fly over the children’s heads, plenty of sight gags and some songs that are guaranteed to become stuck in your head for hours after the curtain comes down.
With ugly sisters, a charming Cinderella, a handsome prince, a hilarious Buttons and a magical fairy godmother, this production has every you would expect of a classic fairy tale pantomime. It has all of this before you even mention a magical carriage, audience interaction, adorable children and tap-dancing pumpkins. With beautiful sets that are wonderfully larger than life, light effects that cover the entire auditorium and a truckload of sparkle, it is hard not to be impressed by this pantomime. By merging pure comedic moments and big song and dance numbers with softer more touching moments, this production has something for everyone and never once loses the story, something that other pantomimes sometimes have trouble keeping hold of.
Taking some time away from his role in 9 To 5 in London’s West End, it is Brian Conley who is this year’s big celebrity name and he more then lives up to his title of King of Panto in the role of Buttons. Full of energy, brilliantly funny both in his scripted scenes and in the ‘anything could happen’ audience interaction moments, not to forget the moments where things don’t quite go according to plan. It was clear that the audience were loving every moment that he was on stage. The leading role of Cinderella is played by Sarah Vaughan here and she is incredibly suited to the role, instantly lovable with some lovely vocals, especially when paired with Will Richardson as Prince Charming. Fresh from the touring production of Les Miserables, Richardson takes to the role of a handsome prince like a duck to water, showing off some impressive vocals and a natural flair for comedy in a brilliantly choreographed fight scene with Conley.
Ben Stock and Neal Wright had the audience in stiches as the ugly sisters Tess and Claudia. Even though their ‘janner’ catchphrase got more than a little bit repetitive, their interactions with each other and the audience made up for this. With some wildly over the top costumes and an obvious delight in bullying poor Cinderella, these were the characters that you just loved to hate. Ed Wade impresses as Dandini, the princes right hand man, bursting with energy and an endless sense of excitement, all whilst throwing in some great one liners for good measure. The ensemble handled the multiple costume changes and high energy dance numbers with an apparent ease, effortlessly going from townspeople to ball attendees to magicians assistants in the blink of an eye. It was a pleasure to see Rhodri Watkins on stage again since loving his performances in Flashdance back in 2018, and he even get’s his own James Bond moment.
I’ve seen some big pantomimes over the years, including the offerings of the world-famous London Palladium, but I always look forward to returning to Plymouth pantomime. It has flair, it has glamour, it has the big sets and the big costumes, but it also has those traditional things that we automatically associate with pantomime. It has the audience interaction, the song sheet with children from the audience, it has the recognizable songs. This is a traditional pantomime that has something to amuse everyone in today’s audiences. This is a pantomime that you really don’t want to miss.