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Cinderella (New Wimbledon Theatre)

December 10, 2014

(Seen at the afternoon performance on 6th December 2014.)

With a heavy jolt, I suddenly realised that I’d not seen a professional pantomime since, er, gosh… 1981! John Inman in “Mother Goose” at the Victoria Palace Theatre, since you ask. Partly it’s down to those “difficult teenage years,” partly the fact they don’t do “professional panto” in my area so it means going across London to more enlightened and better equipped theatres.

Also, I wanted a really “traditional” panto – not some PC “we wrote the songs and went all-inclusive” effort. Nope, I wanted traditional jokes, proper pop songs mixed with famous stars and real ponies drawing the coach on stage. The old and loved “it’s behind you” routine and the odd gag which the adults ‘get’ and that leaves the kids wondering…

… Family First Entertainment at the New Wimbledon Theatre delivered the lot. In spades. More stars on a single stage than the West End usually muster, a script that keeps young and old entertained  – without a single smutty joke – for over 2 hours, and it looks good all the way through.

amy and mike
Amy Lennox is not just a “fairytale pretty” (with a little ‘edge’ to keep her interesting too) Cinderella, she also finds a lovely optimistic outlook in the role and proves a safe pair of hands to carry the show. Her extensive West End experience shows, particularly managing to make the inevitable “Let It Go” sound fresh and actually improve on the original. A delightfully giggly admission that “I’ve forgotten my line” while dealing with the constant trauma of microphone failure just proves how endearing a leading lady she is.

Around her, Liam Doyle as her Prince Charming does everything expected of him, including a superior duet and some nice comic timing when required.

Star billing, though, goes to Linda Gray who makes her panto debut as Fairy Godmother. No doubt her lines will come more easily as she gets used to the part, but already the joy in her face when the audience reacted was lovely to see. Hooked on panto by the end of the run, I think.

tim wayne
Already hooked on panto, Tim Vine as Buttons, Wayne Sleep as Dandini,

mathew and team
and father and son act Matthew Kelly and Matthew Rixon as Ugly Sisters Mel B and Cheryl (yes, really!). Also worthy of note is James Doherty as Baron Hardup – who really should take the advice of changing the name of his oil company to BP, perhaps…

All deliver the class which can only come from years of experience. Vine’s one-liners and comic adlibs (one shocked little Sleep, plus one joke that I’m sure won’t be told again in the run) win out over the groan-inducing puns; moreover,  he knows a great sequence when he gets one, and is generous enough to share it with those setting it up (I’ll say no more, for fear of spoilers).

Supporting a pair of spectacularly nasty ladies, the chorus and children (Blue team, my show) fill the stage, with the young page announcer doing a noticeable sterling job. Her confident younger sister, Olive, also made a stage appearance (I know this because I happened to have bought the seat that was beside her rightly proud mum!) and charmed everyone – helping Tim Vine deliver a neat pre-finale.

Some amusing pre-show projections and (rather last-decade, really) 3D effects reminded us that panto evolves, but most of all the noise of everybody joining in reminded me that when panto is done properly, in fact, done to the highest standard it is here, with an experienced and eager to entertain cast, it’s like nothing else in theatre.

Will I be leaving it another 33 years? “Oh No I won’t.” Will I be booking for the 2015 panto as soon as tickets go on sale? “Oh Yes I Will.” And should you see this right now? The only place the queue for tickets should be is… behind you!



(photo credit, throughout review: Craig Sugden, used by kind permission).

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