REVIEW: CINDERELLA (London Palladium) ★★★★★
You shall go to the ball (oh yes you shall)!
Once considered the home of panto, after a 30 year break, the London Palladium finally opens its gates to the traditional Christmas celebrations again.
The anticipated comeback is lead by a star-studded cast with Lee Mead as Prince Charming, Paul O’Grady as the Evil Stepmother, Amanda Holden as fabulous Fairy Godmother, Julian Clary as flamboyant Dandini, Nigel Havers, Count Arthur Strong as Baron Hardup and Natasha J Barnes as Cinderella. Qdos Entertainment, famed pantomime producers, manage to blow the classic up to a full three hour spectacle.
Impressively, the show succeeds through its variety act style to keep the children’s attention…and that of the grownups, for that matter.
The – at times mindblowing – pure theatre magic keeps the audiences young and old capitivated – yet the performance might not be suitable for the littlest ones.
It is very much a Panto for the adults, with an almost constant smutty repartee between the ex-lovers Dandini and the Evil Stepmother. The bawdy, racy fun may entertain but the jokes, as well as the manifold celebrity inside jokes, will fly over the children’s heads.
Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin as Buttons makes sure however that everyone is getting their evening’s worth. Paul O’Grady is a properly hiss- and boo-worthy villain and ensures this pantomime lives up to its name and carries off the Evil Stepmother with glamorous grace. Generally, O’Grady and Julian Clary are stealing the show, and even the titular character pales against their banter and costumes. It is unfortunate that the main romance and storyline somewhat drowns in the smutty dialogue, as Natasha J Barnes’ voice is beautiful, and the duets with Lee Mead seem to be unnecessarily cut off.
What makes this show one of the most outstanding I have ever seen is the beautiful set design, which in itself is already worth the trip (Ian Westbrook), the costumes that are so flamboyant, colourful and sparkly their glitter has burnt itself onto my retina (Hugh Durrant) and last but certainly not least, the visual effects. The Twins FX have outdone themselves. I do not want to give any of the magic away as it should come as a surprise, but I am still so stunned I simply cannot find words for such wonder. As they sing in the play: if you believe, anything is possible!
You’d have to be an ugly sister not to have an amazing experience at this glitzy extravaganza.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
Photos: Paul Coltas & Steve Williams
CINDERELLA plays at the London Palladium until 15 January 2017. Tickets