Writer/Director: Keith and Ben Simmons
Reviewer: Jenni Dixon
In true fairy tale style, the Pantomime at Worthing’s Connaught this festive season is that of Cinderella (Naomi Slater). Baron Hardup (John Lyons) remarries when his wife, Cinderella’s Mother dies and gains two more daughters called Hannah and Montana (Roger Darrock and Stephen Howe)! Cinderella is forced to do house hold chores and bullied by her heartless and unkind ugly sisters. They stop her from going to Prince Charming’s ( Richard Hurst) magnificent ball at the palace; until of course, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Amanda Barrie) steps in and saves the day along with the help of the Baron’s trusted servant Buttons (Ian Jones)! The beautiful pauper girl falls in love with Prince Charming but is forced to cut short her night of fun before everything the Fairy Godmother has created for her disappears midnight. The Prince vows to find the girl who misplaced her glass slipper (Cinderella’s as she ran away!) and marry her! After much searching, and attempts to thwart the Princes’ mission by the ugly sisters, he finds Cinderella, marries her and everyone lives happily ever after!
I have never been to a Pantomime because the thought of a room full of screaming kids, un-funny slapstick and one liners filled me with dread. For the sake of my son this year, I held my breath and entered the theatre with anxious trepidation. Confronted with a big glittery covered curtain, I have to admit I felt a twinge of festive cheer.
Amanda Barrie as The Fairy Godmother narrates the whole show in rhyming prose; she’s perfect for the role with her warming cheeky “granny” grin, over the top poufy glittery dress and huge sparkly wand. Mr Lyons as the Baron is also well cast. His powerful booming voice matches his lordly presence but is equally loveable. Cinderella and Prince Charming come across as young, fresh professionals with amazing singing voices and competent dance moves. Darrock and Howe were hysterical as the Ugly sisters. They returned to the stage for every scene in a different ridiculously hilarious costume, great timing and were loveably evil with a splash of comedy for children and adults alike. The star of the show though has to be Buttons played by Ian Jones. He is a mixture of all the best bits of Lee Evans and Frank Spencer. Jones controls the show in the best possible way. Funny, cheeky, charming and along with the rest of the cast has an instant connection with the audience.
The Senior and Junior dancers can be really highly commended for polished routines and scene enhancing presence.
The set design was fantastic. It was really bold and enchanting, so much better than I could ever have anticipated and the amount of scenery that was changed throughout the acts (very smoothly) was also an eye-opener. Live music from the band pulls the whole show together with impeccable timing and not a bum note in sight. Truly fairy-tale-esq!
We saw the show on opening night but it felt like they were already half way through their season. So comfortable in their roles, ready to adlib, throw in a non-scripted joke and do everything they could to make sure the audience was involved, comfortable and happy. If they were this good now, they can only get better. Cliché maybe, but there really is something for everyone.
I beseech anyone and EVERYONE in the Worthing area and beyond to not spend a tenner on some rubbish present for the office Secret Santa but go to the theatre with your family and friends. I came out a complete Panto convert and am already planning a second visit. It was an amazing feel good, laugh a minute show with some fantastic music, singing, dancing and jokes. This is a night both my son and I shall remember for a long time for the pure feel good factor. Magical!