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Children's shows - reviews, Pantomimes

Cinderella – Alban Arena

8 December 2012, 5pm

Aaah – Cinderella – the greatest of pantos in my book and Evolution’s production well-lived up to that billing. It’s a romp from start to finish, incorporating traditional and familiar panto convention with – wait for it – some NEW jokes! I actually LOLLED!

It is full of glitz and sparkle, well-known songs and local references, including enjoyable pops at Harpenden and Luton, and is quite simply a lot of fun with strong performances throughout.

For once, the character of Cinderella didn’t annoy me. Normally I find this character is played as someone who is a bit needy and annoyingly insensitive to Buttons’ unrequited love, but Jemma Carlisle played her in a genuinely sweet way.

Gareth Gates is a handsome Prince Charming and given that he is a singer by trade has many more songs that the part is normally graced with.

But this is rightly so as it reminds the audience of the lovely voice that got him to the final of X Factor predecessor Pop Idol, something which is also made a lot of as characters keep mistaking him for fellow contestant Darius.

Speaking has been a challenge for Gareth in the past due to his well documented stammer but it is clear he has this well under control as he delivered his lines perfectly and even included a few jokes about it.

He forms an excellent partnership with Dandini, superbly played by CBeebies Andy Day, whose appearance sent a frisson of excitement amongst the pre-school viewers!

Laura Jane Matthewson’s northern fairy godmother was warm and funny and encouraged the audience to take part along the way.

The outrageously dressed Ugly sisters Beatrice and Eugenie, played by Matthew Daines and Sam Rabone, were both witty and wicked, just as these roles demand and also brought a lot of laughs to all their scenes.

I think the most impressive performance was by Bob Golding as Buttons who is truly a force of nature, genuinely funny, full of energy and well able to establish an excellent rapport with the audience.

His Bruce Forsyth impression as they recreate Strictly at the ball is a particular highlight. He is the lynchpin who holds it altogether, most appropriately considering he is the director as well and frankly, he devotes himself so wholeheartedly to the role, he must be exhausted by now.

The result of all this is a show that delivers a lot of fun, laughter and sparkle from a cast who genuinely look like they are enjoying themselves.

You simply can’t beat a good panto at Christmas and this one has all the ingredients of great, festive, family entertainment.

Running time

About 2.5 hours including a 20 minute interval.

Age range

A family show. I took my six-year-old niece to this evening performance and she loved it – her highlights being “Buttons and getting a sparkly wand”!

The first half is over an hour and a three-year-old V would have been out of control with excitement and tiredness by the end after a long day so I’m taking her to a matinee later!

Other stuff

A large selection of reasonably priced flashy wands compared to other shows and programmes are £3.50.

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