Muddy reviews: Cinderella at the Harlequin Theatre
If you haven’t booked a panto yet, Cinderella at the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill is a real crowd-pleaser. It may even be the ‘one and only’ panto to see this year. And if you had a crush on Chesney Hawkes in the Nineties, even more so.
Ches plays Prince Charming, and what a handsome and charming prince he is. Although has that man been cryogenically frozen and then defrosted just for this show? Because, honestly, he hasn’t aged a day!
The Harlequin staged Cinderella in 2012, and Abigail Welford is again donning the glass slippers as Cinders. She’s charming, graceful and very pretty – basically the opposite of the rest of the cast – but my little mudette and her friend loved her. Abigail is joined again by Simon Bashford and local stalwart Neil Wheatley. Wheatley is bonkers as Cinder’s best friend Buttons. He has panto pro written through him like a stick of rock and the show rollicks along largely because of his pandemonium.
Simon was an ugly stepsister last time. This time, he was the Fairy Godmother, delivering all his lines in clever rhyming couplets in a way that was charming rather than irritating. And those legs… they’re not half bad!
The statuesque ugly sisters are played by Gareth Joyner and Stephen Richards, as proper old-school dames with increasingly garish costumes. As you’d expect, they are nasty to Cinders, and fairly insulting to the audience, who respond as expected. John Lyons plays Baron Hardup as an eccentric aristocrat – with the obligatory Touch of Frost joke. I’m impressed I even got it!
There are the usual adult jokes – most of them teetering close to the edge – but none falling over. The show is brash and energetic, and the audience loves it. It’s a lavish production, there’s a beautiful sparkly carriage drawn by two sweet little Shetlands, a team of Harlequin dancers and three alternating teams of Harlequin children, all dressed in opulent outfits.
But while Buttons is bouncy and brash, and the ugly stepsisters are gloriously flamboyant, it is Chesney who unsurprisingly gets the loudest cheers, and who had the audience dancing in the seats. When he let rip with ‘The One and Only’ the crowd let rip too (sit down people, it’s not karaoke). Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ gets an outing, and Cinders and Prince Charming treat us to their rendition of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s ‘Island in the Stream’, which was actually very good. Abigail has quite the set of lungs on her, and so too, it’s worth a mention, does David Luke’s Dandini.
Cinderella is camp, clever and totally over-the-top – you really won’t go wrong.