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REVIEW: Cinderella at Whitley Bay Playhouse


Whitley Bay Playhouse

Until Saturday 6 January 2024

Steve Walls returns for his 13th Playhouse panto, with the ever dependable Daniel Mawston, for a Playhouse panto that goes where they have not gone before. They may have covered the perennial favourite that is Cinderella before but never like this... thanks to the Louie Spence effect, in the most glamorous Playhouse panto yet.

The dancer appears frequently throughout the show. Any excuse for Louie to add his sparkles as Fairy Godfather leads to many twirls and the occasional bit of inuendo. Don't panic the panto is still very family friendly with entertaining the children firmly at its heart but Mr Spence appears to have been given more of a free hand than normal and this has led to the production having a lot of energy and laughs.

The show has a feel of a bigger budget panto than some previous years. The attention to detail in things like the James Maciver (of London Palladium panto fame) designed costumes for the Ugly Sisters to the surprise of how Cinderella gets transported to the ball.

But at the end of the day, Cinderella at the Playhouse is about the story of Cinderella rather than being a variety show with a vague theme. It is about taking the children (of all ages) on the journey from rags to riches - with quite a few laughs along the way. Like all good pantos - this is a show in which the audience are very much a part of the action (as opposed to being a show that is done to the audience).

The Playhouse favourites are there too. The 12 days of Christmas is there (our first of the season believe it or not). Plus the take off scene. Now if you have never been to the Playhouse then you might be surprised by the anticipation and reaction that comes from the arrival of a simple prop but The Bench is given star status for the annual Ghostbusters scene. The atmosphere then goes through the roof as the youngsters go mental shouting "its behind you" and "we did". I swear they get more enthusiastic every year. Gary...stick that bench on the poster! 

Time to discuss the story...

Jessica Lilley appears as Cinderella who has effectively become servant to her step sisters. Her Dad does not put an appearance in during this show. In another first Dame Patsy appears as a bad person to boo as Patsy Hardup gives Daniel Mawston a chance to show another side to his range. He is still funny and engaging even though he is cruel to poor Cinders. He is accompanied by Luke Martin as Idena Hardup who acts as a natural companion to the established Patsy. To be honest - I would liked to have seen a little more of them in the first act.

Then, making his professional debut, comes along Jacob Beresford as the rugged Prince Charming who is looking for love and spots Cinders collecting firewood. He decides to have a ball in order to relocate this lady. At this point there is a change to the usual pattern of the story. Rather than having a single manservant (Dandini), the Prince is accompanied by financial advisors Null (Keith Simmons) and Void (Ben Simmons) who make suggestions that the Prince makes out are his own.

Into the mix is Cinderella's best friend Buttons. Steve Walls invites the audience to join his gang and he keeps the energy, and jokes, flowing. It is down to Steve's skill that he makes this role look so easy. His charming encouragement of the audience and ability to whip them up if they appear to be losing their excitement is natural. It is always a joy to see him work an audience and pull the show together - appearing unphazed as the whirlwind that is Louie Spence pirouettes into the next scene to add his magic.

Around all of the storytelling are the best bunch of young, and professional, dancers we have seen so far this season. Each and everyone of them was so fully committed to smiling, singing and dancing throughout. They youngsters gave it their all and the professionals had plenty of opportunities to show off their skills. Of course Louie Spence got involved too and showed that he still has it.

So far - so good. A great story told in an engaging way in a great looking show. Paul Ferguson's script feels like a local panto. Paul Tate's direction allows all of the ingredients to have their moment to be centre stage without spoiling the overall broth three hours, including interval, this is one of the longest shows out there, though, as we understand it, there will be some edits. We may not have made it to Pantrinis for tea afterwards but it was worth it. Cinderella is having a ball on the coast!

Review: Stephen Oliver


Tickets for the pantomime Cinderella are available from our affiliates Ticketmaster UK using the following link:

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