Big, bold and booming – there is certainly nothing unpretentious about Cinderella, this year’s pantomime at Derby Arena.
There are colossal voices from Cinders and her Prince Charming, the gorgeously gargantuan costumes of the Ugly Sisters, a tough-guy star from TV’s EastEnders heading up the fun and frolics and of course the cavernous arena itself.
With a stage that size you have no choice but to do things in a grand style and Derby Live and Paul Holman Associates pulled out all the stops to give the city a worthy show.
The star line-up of EastEnders’ bad boy Richard Blackwood as Buttons, Mrs Brown’s Boys’ Eilish O’Carroll, as the Fairy Godmammy and Art Attack’s Lloyd Warbey as Dandini may have had all the best lines, but it was definitely Cara Dudgeon, in the title role, and her Prince, played by musical and opera singer Aston Dobson, who held the show together with a strong presence on the stage.
They belted out their songs, including Queen’s Somebody to Love and Prince’s Purple Rain, with gusto and had an obvious rapport with each other.
Oliver Gray (Lav) and Dean Horner (Lou), as the grotesque Ugly Sisters, vowed to include every cheesy gag in the book into their double act and they didn’t disappoint.
They can officially be classed as stalwarts of the panto scene after eight seasons with the company and they seem to get more jaw-droppingly outrageous every year – pretty much performing their own show within a show.
Always in their shadow is the poor old Baron Hardup but you can rely on seasoned actor George Telfer to put in a great performance, whatever role befalls him.
Expectations were high of Richard as he was definitely the big star name that young and old alike had come to see – well who can resist lure of seeing ruthless TV villain Vincent turned selfless servant in a panto costume?
For that reason he was a great choice for the part and he certainly gave it his all with an enthusiastic performance that delighted the audience.
I suspect that once the whole team have a few more shows under their belts Richard and Eilish will be storming the stage as confidently as the fairytale Prince and Princess. Last night you could be forgiven for thinking they might not have had the chance to rehearse quite as much as the others.
One lesson learned by Richard was that an audience packed with school pupils and their teachers is not quite the same as one with families and their offspring – and ad libbing with children is not as easy as it looks. Even so his second-half scene with youngsters from the auditorium was hilarious.
This is a lavish family show with bucketfuls of slapstick and special effects, beautiful dancers and stunning costumes. What’s not to like? Book your tickets now and go see for yourself.
The Pantomime Dancers are Emily Baker, Connor Cowcroft, Rebecca Adela Fishwick, Heather Parkin, Jack Shelley and Jenna Weller.
The Pantomime Children are: Blue team, Maria Ceno, Maisie Doleman, Niamh Eagles, Abbie Faulkner, Emma Sherman, Skyla Purdy, Anna Rogers, Cherokee Tayler; Red team, Hollie Beastall, Karmen Exton, Lilly Fletcher, Tayler Kerry, Ellie Ledgester, Hollie Stokes, Evie Storr, Libby Thornewill; Yellow team, Poppy Ainley, Anya Babra, Lupita Blackham, Ella Coleman, Daisy Cooke, Maddie Elliott, Megan Foster and Roxie Vickery.
The director is Alan Cohen, choreographer Robert Wheeler, musical director Michael Lovelock, company stage manager Roger Richardson and writers Keith and Ben Simmons.
The lighting is by Alex Marshall, sound Jim Rolley and costumes Eve Wilkinson.
The show is on at Derby Arena until January 3. For tickets go to http://www.derbylive.co.uk