All Saints Dramatic Society have sparked what could be a popular new tradition of an April Fool’s Day pantomime with their postponed production of Cinderella.
The show opens with a lively full ensemble song in which the cast make use of every inch of the moderate stage size at the Corpus Christi Parish Centre in a unified dance number which has the audience clapping and sets a great tone for the rest of the show.
We meet Cinderella, played by Renée Claude in what the programme notes as her first stage role, not that you’d know. After a slightly nervy start, she really comes into her own as the titular character, shining a beaming smile in all directions and capturing the audience’s hearts with her sweet singing voice and moments of tenderness when she is put in her place by her nasty older sisters, Gracie and Gertie Stuckup.
James Webb (Gracie) really stands out, not just because of his fabulous glittery beard, but the silly mischief he brings to his performance as an entitled and pompous ugly sister. His interactions with the other characters were effortlessly funny, even when in the background of a scene. Mj Jones (Gertie) is an ideal yin to James’ yang, dialling pretentious up to a nine and sharing great comic timing between the two of them – particularly when playing out the abundance of puns the script has to offer.
Their mother Lady Cynthia Stuckup (Victoria Leichti) is faultlessly imperious throughout, but shifts into delightful warmth towards her favourite girls with great aplomb, making her likeably dislikeable.
The comic relief duo Mick (Director Jon Sivewright) and Mack (Charles Smith) are presented as likeable villains with a nice rapport, though many of their jokes were dated. After a short-lived attempt at an artwork heist, the pair become admirable life coaches for Sir Cecil Stuckup.
Brian Foley plays the downtrodden husband Cecil and is endearing in his portrayal. This character’s arc was a real highlight for a pantomime role often underused. Together with Buttons (Jon Cockeram) a touching friendship is formed between two characters down on their luck which connected well with hard times of late.
Jon’s high energy and amusing goofiness in the company of Cinderella is reminiscent of a young Lee Evans, and he is a lovely singer too. A fun and friendly character to the audience in the first act, Jon shows great range by becoming less likeable, bemoaning his entitlement to Cinderella’s affections as a reward for simply being nice to her and thus proving not all ‘good’ characters are perfect.
There’s plenty for a juvenile cast of all ages to get involved with in this show as villagers, mice, skeletons, ghosts and even unicorns! They were all fantastic in the ensemble, in solo dances, and some even had lines which they delivered clearly.
The costumes (Sue Josey and team) are stunning, with special mention to those worn by Prince Charming (Maria Hood) and Dandini. Surprisingly, it’s Dandini who gets the lion’s share of the lines of the two and Nori Fitchett clearly had a lot of fun in the role (and with her pole!) which made her a joy to watch on stage.
The live band (led by Tony Robinson*) provided a strong musical backdrop with a variety of upbeat favourites from musicals such as Hairspray and Grease, but also an ambience to scenes and of course a ba-dum-tish or three.
It was clear to all that the entire cast revelled in being back on stage with a positive and energetic opening night. The show runs until Sunday 10th April.
(Editorial: Performances: Thursday & Friday 7.30pm; Saturday 2.30pm & 7.30pm; Sunday 2.30pm; NO performances Monday – Wednesday)
(*Editorial: Alistair Hume Musical Director for original performance dates in January 2022; with re-arranged dates, Tony Robinson leads the band in April 2022)