BWW Review: CINDERELLA, London Palladium
After an almost 30-year absence, a star-studded pantomime, mounted by Qdos, returned to the London Palladium last night with well-known names including Julian Clary, Paul O'Grady and Amanda Holden on the bill. A big set with even bigger production numbers had the audience primed and ready for mass cheers, boos and lots of laughs from start to finish in this spectacular return.
Funny Girl favourite Natasha J Barnes plays the title role, joined by Lee Mead as a well-cast Prince Charming, while Paul Zerdin's Buttons worked hard as the anchor of the production, maintaining the attention of the audience - from pulling little ones up on stage to his polished and highly entertaining ventriloquism act with puppet Sam.
Meanwhile, Clary drives the fun along as Dandini, bringing bucketfuls of dry humour and close-to-the-mark innuendo - that thankfully flew over young heads - and the most elaborate, feather-laden costumes of the evening, alongside O'Grady, who offered more than a hint of camp in his 'evil' stepmother role.
An engaging plot follows a formulaic structure with predictable songs, though Andrew Wright's inventive choreography, particularly in the grand ball scene, is show-stopping. The timeless love story is somewhat overshadowed by the starry cast, but nothing is really lost in this panto packed with pink-clad dancing guardsman, a flying Fairy Godmother and tap-dancing pumpkins, while a wonderful orchestra, led by Gary Hind, helps to keep the pace up.
The cast work tirelessly to deliver an over-the-top, rambunctious show, though the grand wedding finale was a little disappointing, ending rather abruptly without so much as a song, and the transformation scene lacked fluidity, particularly in Barnes' costume change and Holden's odd ill-timed wand wave.
However, there is still plenty to applaud in this high-profile production, with a bright, colourful set, current Trump jokes, tongue-in-cheek gags and everyone's favourite repurposed pop tunes - with a little of the unexpected thrown in too, including the spectacle of a flying horse and carriage - Qdos brings every ingredient of a timeless panto to the Palladium stage.
With a strong sense of nostalgia and general silliness, Cinderella offers the light escapism we come to expect from a classic British pantomime at this time of year.
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas & Steve Williams