Review: Harrogate Theatre’s Cinderella simply magical

Harrogate Theatre's production of the Cinderella pantomime. (Picture by Karl Andre)
Harrogate Theatre's production of the Cinderella pantomime. (Picture by Karl Andre)
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The classic rags-to-riches fairytale of Cinderella has been transformed with zest, wit and a whole wardrobe of sparkling new costumes for this year’s pantomime at Harrogate Theatre, writes Katie Oxtoby.

It promises everything the audience has come to expect from this annual production: familiar faces, a wealth of local references, slapstick humour, jokes for both young and old, the classic ‘It’s behind you!’ scene, and the lovely feeling that the festive season really has begun.

It may have only been the first weekend in December, but already there was not a spare seat in the auditorium when I watched the matinee on Saturday with my two daughters. If the panto is a benchmark of Harrogate Theatre’s success, then it really doesn’t get much better than this.

The panto is written from scratch each year by the ‘dream team’ of the theatre’s chief executive David Bown and director Phil Lowe, and this year’s script is a fast-paced take on a familiar story, with some great local references thrown in. Everything from the Tour de France to Jamie’s Italian is mentioned and, often, gently mocked.

Tim Stedman returns for his 14th year in the role of the dim-witted sidekick, this time as Buttons, who is hopelessly in love with Cinderella.

Stedman has honed his performance over the years into a perfect blend of fool, comedian and the glue that could be said to bind the whole show together.

The humour didn’t just come from Buttons, but he was involved in a very funny take-off of the classic Morecambe and Wise and Shirley Bassey sketch. Although the reference was lost on the children, it was nevertheless enjoyed immensely by everyone.

More modern references came from the songs, which included possibly the biggest hit of the year among children, Let It Go from the Disney film Frozen.

Other familiar faces returning to the Harrogate Theatre panto were Katy Dean as the Fairy Godmother and Dandini, Lucy-Jane Quinlan as Cinderella, and Philip Stewart and David Westbrook having a whale of a time as the Ugly Sisters.

Maxine Fone and Colin Kiyani were fantastic additions to the cast as the Baroness of Boroughbridge and Prince Charming respectively.

As panto is aimed at the children in the audience - while being throughly enjoyed by the adults too - the final part of this review will be handed over to my two daughters to give their views on what, in my opinion, was a glittering and magical show maintaining the high standards expected of Harrogate Theatre’s panto.

Faye, age 7:

“I liked all of it. The best bits were when Prince Charming was doing a dance at the beginning and he looked at me! My favourite character was Cinderella because she was really pretty, especially when she came out at the ball as Princess Mysteria.

“The funniest bit was when the Fairy Godmother had no wings and she turned round and there was a sign on her back saying ‘Wings Woz Ere’. Another really funny bit was when Buttons was trying to say ‘I love you’ to Cinderella and he couldn’t get the words out.”

Lois, age 5:

“My favourite bits were the songs, especially Let It Go, and the troll, who was really funny. I also liked the bit when Cinderella becomes a princess and is in her carriage and the horse is riding to the palace.

“My favourite character was Buttons because he was really funny, and the Ugly Sisters because they wore really silly dresses. I also liked the dancers.”

Cinderella runs at Harrogate Theatre until January 18. For tickets, call the box office on 01423 502 116 or book online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk