Paul T Davies reviews Cinderella, The Rock N Roll Panto at The New Wolsewy Theatre, Ipswich.
Cinderella, The Rock N Roll Panto.
The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.
4 December 2018
The annual New Wolsey pantomime has become as traditional as Christmas itself, the house style is Rock N Roll, and has provided many a glorious evening of entertainment. The very first one that the New Wolsey presented was Cinderella, and they have gone back to the story. It pains me to say that, although there are some modern tweaks to the tale, it all looks a bit dated. Part of the problem, for me, is the set list, with the emphasis very much on old school Rock and Roll, and much as I love Motown and soul, there is little that youngsters will recognise or sing along to. Jesse J and the Black Eyed Peas are popular songs, but the tunes performed are years old, and there is nothing from the biggest selling artists around now, not even local (ish) lad Ed Sheeren makes an appearance. If the jokes are carbon dated they would be pre- Arthur Askey, (Google him young ones!), and, even though, (SPOLIER), Cinderella initially rejects Prince Charming’s marriage proposal, this modern outlook is overwhelmed by the persistent references to the Ugly Sisters as a “pair of dogs”. That doesn’t sit well in the current climate.
I’m aware I’m probably over analysing things, and maybe getting in touch with my inner Scrooge too much, so let me balance that out- the major strength of this show is the insanely talented company of actor musicians, and the design. There is no Dame, which is a little disappointing, and the role of naughty grown up leading us through the story falls to Steve Simmonds as Baron Hardup, a tremendously energetic performance, engaging perfectly with the audience. James Haggie is a show stealing Buttons, and, although I’m still not sure why he speaks like the Gingerbread Man from Shrek, he gets loads of laughs from his perfect comic timing. The villain of the piece is Rubella De Zees, a wonderful performance from Susannah van den Berg, and she is matched by her “daughters”, Sean Kingsley as Hernia and Adam Langstaff as Verruca. The show really sparks into life when they appear, and their version of It’s Raining Men- with “men” raining down onto the stage- is a particular highlight! Lucy Wells is an excellent Fairy Godmother, local lad Chris Vance a charming Prince Charming, Mark Newnham is very good rocker as Dandini, and Daniella Piper a perfect Cinderella. I also thoroughly enjoyed Sheridan Lloyd bigging up his part as the Royal Messenger!
What these performers have in common is the astonishing ability to pick up any instrument- seemingly with ease- and sing any song and make it look effortless, they are a terrific ensemble, and the production sounds so good. The design by Barney George reveals treat after treat, including cute mice and chandeliers coming out into the audience, and by the encore it’s clear that this is a crowd pleaser. I can’t see there NOT being a Rock N Roll panto here in the near future, so maybe it’s time to shakeup the format a little bit and bring this particular festive highlight up to date.
Until 2 February 2019