Cinderella at The Orchard Theatre
Each panto season I always look forward to a production of Cinderella as it combines all the elements of panto effortlessly, from the magic transformation scene, to the dames playing stepsisters, to a panto fairy (godmother) through to the audience friend in the form of Buttons. Whilst I think Cinderella is the perfect panto this always creates some sort of pressure in my mind on whoever is putting on Cinderella this year. This years production of Cinderella that I saw was brought to me courtesy of the Orchard Theatre and it was every bit as magical as I had hoped.
The pantomime was a very traditional one of Cinderella’s rags to finding her Prince Charming however there were enough jokes and impressions to keep it relevant. The moment that everyone wants to see in Cinderella is the transformation scene and whilst I would have loved a more magical costume change the flying carriage worked beautifully for different take to the traditional ponies on stage. I would have liked to have seen a bit more audience involvement in Act 1 as it wasn’t until Act 2 that this really began to happen in earnest and as soon as it did you could feel the excitement of the children in the auditorium rise a notch. I also enjoyed the references to Dartford and the surrounding areas, whilst these jokes are obvious they always really help the audience feel like they are literally at home!
The Orchard Theatre may have slightly fewer household names than normal this year but don’t let that put you off, the entire cast were excellent. The biggest name of the year was Bobby Davro as Buttons and after seeing his performance in Cinderella it was easy to see why he is a panto favourite. He very quickly got all of the audience on side and his natural showman and comedian shone through throughout the show. He knew how to really play to both the younger members of the audience and the adults and his sketch as Kenny the kangaroo was a prime example of this, the youngsters jumping up and down like a kangeroo and the parents laughing at the positions Davro and the kangeroo seemed to find themselves in!
George Shelley of Union J fame was our Prince Charming, suitably assisted by Regan Gascoigne of Dancing on Ice fame was Dandini. Together they bounced off each other well and particularly enjoyed the moments where Gascoigne got to show off his dancing skills.Bobby Delaney and Damien Winchester played the ugly Stepsisters, Verruca and Hernia, they were suitably vile to Cinderella and the audience and their constant parade of changing costumes was a real panto treat. They strike the balance well between comedy and ensuring that they are the panto’s villains for the night.
In pantos I sometimes find that the ensemble can blend into the background (due to no fault of their own) however this was not the case in Cinderella. There was an ensemble of 6 and whenever they were in a scene the energy was noticeable. They were all beautiful dancers and helped ensure that the big song and dance moments were as memorable, if not more so, than some of the sketch’s.
The costumes were also spot on for the show and I enjoyed some of the more unusual ones such as the ensemble that ended up as horses. The ballgowns worn by the ensemble were particularly effective and helped add a sense of magic to the ball. My only gripe was that I wanted Cinderella’s Princess Starlight costume to be even more stunning.
The tag line of Cinderella at The Orchard is ‘The Fairy Godmother of all pantos’ and this production really lives up to that title, with plenty of star quality and a lot of magic dust sprinkled over the Orchard Theatre it is a panto perfect for all the ages.
Cinderella at The Orchard Theatre is running until 31st January. You can find out more and book tickets here.