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Review: Cinderella at Richmond Theatre

Review: Cinderella at Richmond Theatre

Jenny Booth reviews Cinderella at Richmond Theatre: “magical and Christmassy moments.”

Image Credit: Craig Sugden

The word debonair seems invented specially for Anton du Beke. Strictly’s doyen of ballroom dancing brings his gentle brand of romantic comedy to Richmond Theatre’s panto, and his disarming niceness sets the tone for this year’s charming Cinderella. His Fred Astaire-style dance number in top hat and tails at the start of the second act is a high point of the show. So infectious is Anton’s all-round good egg-ishness as Buttons that even the ugly sisters – a priceless pair of bullies, expertly camped up by Darren Bennett and Bobby Delaney in some killer frocks – start to fall under the Anton spell and become progressively nicer and less abrasive as Act 2 goes on. This blandness is not entirely a good thing. Panto needs a bit of abrasiveness and coarse humour to keep everyone guffawing, and the closest du Beke comes to abrasion is calling someone “me old sausage”. His gleaming and benevolent smile stays so firmly in place at all times that the audience finds it hard to believe that Buttons is actually heartbroken when Cinderella rejects him, and he has to keep prompting us to say “Aaaah!”

Oonagh Cox turns in a tuneful and hard-working performance as Cinderella in one of her first roles since graduating from drama school this year, while Edward Chitticks makes a dashing if two-dimensional Prince Charming and Jonny Weston a frenetic Dandini. The other standout performance is by Rosemary Ashe, whose Fairy Godmother has a louche, seen-it-all kind of poshness, like a duchess slipping out for a fag, and who deploys her operatic voice in a kind of multi-octave shriek.

ATG has brought in experienced choreographer Alan Burkitt, who has worked on Strictly and on Anton’s solo shows, to create the dance numbers, and the result is some very stylish routines from the small professional ensemble.
The show over-runs in length, and director Stewart Nicholls might want to think how to tighten the timing towards the end of Act 1 and mid-Act 2 to get it down below two hours. On opening night some of this was due to under-rehearsal and fluffed lines, and the action will naturally speed up as the run progresses (if Covid permits). This Cinderella provides some magical and Christmassy moments, particularly in the Act 1 finale when two tiny white ponies are shown harnessed to Cinderella’s coach and an actual shower of snow begins to fall over the audience.

Read our interview with Anton Du Beke here.