CINDERELLA by Henfield Theatre Company – A NODA review by Dee Sharpe

It was lovely to meet directors Michelle Edwards and Alice Forward before the production. They are both new to directing (although not to Henfield Theatre Company) and were excited as well as nervous on their opening night. I was very interested to see the results of their directing debut and delighted that the evening was such a resounding success.

This pantomime was stuffed full of all the wonderful ingredients for a banquet of a pantomime with fun, humour, slapstick, jokes and laughs, special effects, romance, goodies and baddies, audience participation, singing, dancing, surprises, wow moments, a community song and a horse. It was hugely funny and fast moving with well thought out lighting and special effects with the odd fizz, bang and sparkle to add extra pizzazz.

The musicians did a great job supporting the many outstanding singers in the cast. This company is clearly spoilt for choice when it comes to professional singing voices as these were not only apparent in the duets and solos, but also in the chorus. The dazzling musical score included Walking on Sunshine, Call Me Maybe, You Make my Dream Come True and Light up My World, with Dance me to the end of Time as a lovely choice for a ballroom scene and Crazy Horses accompanying the pantomime horse in a joyful and hilarious canter about the stage. The dance choreography was well thought out with lots of lovely moments including a ribbon dance.

The backdrops had projected scenes including the enchanted coach, therefore losing the 3D effect of a well thought out set, or the magic of seeing Cinderella in her fairy tale coach, but there was a brilliantly timed ‘wow’ moment when Jack Frost froze the landscape and the ballroom entrance set was created in the traditional way.

The casting of this pantomime was excellent and everyone from the lead actors to the chorus played their parts perfectly with some of the smaller roles adding extra dollops of fun. Stepsisters, Melisande played by Graeme Muncer and Griselder by Tracey Bates had riotous argumentative banter with plenty of slapstick and interaction and glorious facial expressions. The audience absolutely loved them and I particularly loved their cryingly funny duet, ‘I feel pretty’ and also the way they led the community song ‘Baby Shark.’ I did feel that this script could have done with a bit more interaction between the stepsisters and Cinderella due to the fact that this is a key part of the original story, but it did not detract from this dynamic show. Lucy Walker as Cinderella was totally believable, performing some great numbers with her lovely voice. Buttons was a great host, interacting with the audience and performing a great dance routine as well as singing a sweet duet with Cinderella – ‘You light up My World.’ Prince Charming, played winningly by Victoria Barker added an extra wow factor with her stunning voice in the ‘Rule the World’ number. Another fabulous character with a wonderful singing voice was Fairy Godmother Helen Fyles. The ‘It’s a kind of magic’ number with the fairy ensemble was indeed magic. The pantomime horse was a great hit with his various antics, randomly coming on to gallop around to a horseracing theme. As well as the usual characters this pantomime also included Demon Blackheart and Jack Frost. Demon Blackheart was deliciously nasty and Jack perfect as his mischievous counterpart. When Demon Blackheart entered a scene the enchantment froze everyone. There was definitely some real enchantment taking place here because the actors achieved extraordinary stillness.

All the costumes were well thought out but the stepsisters had multiple superlative brightly coloured outfits which bought extra hoots of laughter, especially their ball gowns. Demon Blackheart had a scarily pirate like red and black costume and sported sausage like ringlets while Jack Frost looked stunningly spikey and frosty. Cinderella’s transformation from ragged dress to ball gown was cleverly done and got some ‘ooohs’ from the audience.

The final song – ‘Bring it all back to you’ ended a wonderful evening with a melodic feel-good flourish.