Panto Review: Cinderella, New Wimbledon Theatre

Panto Review: Cinderella, New Wimbledon Theatre

By Jenny Booth

Main image (c) Craig Sugden

Five stars

Rejoice! This is going to be a vintage panto year at New Wimbledon Theatre, if the fab-u-lous press night of Cinderella is anything to go by. With Craig Revel Horwood topping the bill the producers played to his fans by ‘Strictlifying’ things a little, inserting a danceathon scene, naming the Ugly Sisters Tess and Claudia, and casting them as women to allow him to be the only dame. The costumes were particularly sumptuous and glittering, and the special effects team had worked hard to recreate the wonder of panto, with a magical Act 1 finale involving a flying coach and falling snow.

Images (c) Craig Sugden

CRH amply repaid his central billing by stealing the show. His character Baroness Demonica Hardup ratchets up his TV personality a few more notches, lightly treading the line between brutal honesty (or in this case, sociopathic nastiness) and a wicked sense of humour. Whether he was bullying Cinderella, domineering over his doltish daughters, flirting cougarishly with the prince or doing the Charleston, the samba and ‘the cha-cha-chaaa, dahling’ in a succession of dazzling costumes, his timing was immaculate and you couldn’t take your eyes off him. The only person who could match him for stage presence was the comedian/magician Pete Firmin (Buttons), whose tongue was quick enough with ad libs to surprise CRH into a fits of unscheduled giggles – particularly when his hat and wig accidentally flew off in the final scene. Well, opening weeks have their mishaps.

Image (c) Craig Sugden

This is no disrespect to the fine performances put in by everyone else. Solomon Davy and Cassie Compton were charming as the hero and heroine, and funny in the knockabout scene in the Enchanted Forest where they sing ‘Everything I do (I do it for you)’ while falling off a wall. Alison Gear was an upbeat, kick-ass Fairy  Godmother who relished using her wand to blast open a wardrobe; Daniel Norford was an acrobatic Dandini; while Leanne Jones and Catherine Morris as the Ugly Sisters struck a skilful balance between being monstrous and subservience. We like to think we do panto particularly well in SW19. This year, with the show safely in the hands of experienced performers at the top of their game, capable of whizzing through the plot at pace and getting the best out of the formulaic panto traditions, we have a show to be proud of.

Cinderella runs at New Wimbledon Theatre until Sunday 7 January. BOOK HERE