BWW Review: CINDERELLA, Lyceum, Sheffield
Cinderella is the latest Evolution Productions/Sheffield Theatres pantomime - and looks set to be another Christmas crowd-pleaser.
The star of the Lyceum pantos for the past 12 years, Damian Williams, is back as 'Donaldina', one of the ugly sisters, accompanied by Matt Daines as the other, 'Melania'. Whilst Williams owns the stage as ever, Daines provides great support and doesn't allow himself to be overshadowed.
The jokes are distributed well throughout the cast. Ben Thornton's Dandini and CBeebies star Phil 'Mister Maker' Gallagher's Buttons get their share of gags, and supporting cast member Lewis Herring probably receives the most laughs of everyone. Not all of the jokes land, but there are plenty of groans to be had, and a few real zingers (without giving spoilers, my favourites were about presents, presenters and princes).
Visually, the panto looks great. The set comprises a steampunk-esque clock surrounding the stage with some nicely realised backdrops (apart from a wobbly set of stairs in the background!). The lighting is dynamic, and the costumes are fabulous, as is often the case with Evolution's pantos. The show makes great use of the orchestra, which was a real treat. There was an over-enthusiastic snow machine that spent too many minutes spraying unfortunate members of the audience with cold wet foam - a woman near me was covered from head to toe, although this could have been a technical error.
There are some nice set-pieces in terms of the music - including very contemporary nods to Lizzo, Frozen 2 and Everybody's Talking About Jamie, along with a few 90s classics, most notably "Boom! Shake the Room". I could have done without yet another Greatest Showman-based routine ("This is Me") though that's less an issue with this show and more an issue with over-saturation of that musical in general. There's also an aerial show midway from Duo Fusion that is a spectacular highlight, and has been cleverly placed to make the love song the most, rather than least, exciting part of the show.
Whilst all the traditional panto beats are present and correct, it would have been nice to have a few more surprises. Despite the exhortation of "Mildred the extremely confident eight-year-old" (Tillie Copley) at the start that this show has feminist credentials and won't be simply a case of a woman always needing a prince to be happy, it doesn't really deliver on this.
Though the romance is always going to be at the centre of the story, it's a shame that there isn't much else to the character of Cinderella beyond her relationship with Prince Charming (Oliver Watton). A side-plot in which Buttons is in love with Cinderella also feels tonally awkward, especially when some of the audience boo Cinderella for rejecting his advances.
However, there is much more right with this panto than wrong - it's pacy and performed with real verve from the cast. There's plenty here for adults as well as kids, and it's a nice warming tonic in the middle of a cold and wet December.
Cinderella is at the Lyceum theatre, Sheffield, until 5 January, 2020.
Photo by Pamela Raith