Cinderella – Review – Bradford Alhambra Theatre
By Christine Goode, December 2023
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – again – and with that comes the much-anticipated panto season. Bradford Alhambra has outdone itself this year with its dazzling production of Cinderella. Now in his 23rd season, the beloved Billy Pearce makes a triumphant return as Buttons, accompanied by Emmerdale star Samantha Giles as Baroness Voluptua Fortuna and John Whaite, celebrity chef, author, and presenter, as the Faerie Godfather.
As we enter the Alhambra, we are greeted with a festive atmosphere. Father Christmas is in high demand, taking endless selfies with excited children, while a children’s choir sing Christmas carols. Everyone is dressed in sparkles or Christmas jumpers, and children run around with the Panto’s favourite flashing spinner thingamajig. The auditorium is transformed into a shimmering Christmas wonderland with a glittering curtain, beautiful lights surrounding the proscenium, and a glitter ball and projected snowflakes on the ceiling and auditorium.
The music kicks off, and the crowd goes wild as the show begins. The curtain rises, revealing an elaborate set with ensemble dancers in spectacular costumes, singing and dancing as they introduce the much-awaited Billy Pearce. As soon as he appears, everyone cheers and laughs as he tells us, “This year boys and girls, I am called Buttons.” This sets the precedent for the show, as we know we are in for an unforgettable night that is great for both kids and adults.
Pearce’s impeccable timing is on full display as he interrupts jokes before they go too far, causing even more laughter from the audience. His experience allows him to carry on regardless, making extra jokes as actors trip over complicated tongue twisters, which is hilarious. He also displays his ability to coax the shyest of children on stage to join in and have fun, which is endearing.
This year, the Bradford Panto has a slightly different take on the traditional Cinderella story. Cinderella herself, played by Sarah Pearson, has a no-nonsense approach to life as she concentrates on her studies to further an ambitious career, rather than mope around waiting for Prince Charming. Pearson delivers the character perfectly with a strong Yorkshire accent and her get-up-and-do-it attitude, which is a hit with the audience, let alone her triple-threat dance, singing, and acting skills.
This year’s production also features a Faerie Godfather, played by John Whaite, playing a larger role than usual as the fairy godmother. Whaite is fabulous, funny, and fierce, displaying his ‘Strictly’ skills as he shakes and shimmies, leaving us all whooping and cheering. Samantha Giles’s Wicked Baroness is the villain of the piece and has us all booing, a testament to her impeccable acting skills, particularly during the most difficult tongue twister ever heard. She gets a huge round of applause as she finishes, particularly from her fellow cast members from Emmerdale, who are there to support her.
Expect to see the ugly sisters this year, just not the traditional drag acts played by men; the ladies have taken over and are doing a fantastic job. Wendy Somerville and Larissa Alexandrovnia play the perfect annoying and horrid sisters. Dale Mathurin is our Prince Charming and charming he certainly is, with his standout vocals making him one to watch.
To add that extra touch of magic to this production, Phil Hitchcock as Baron Hardup brings us his magical talents – and without giving anything away, he will leave you in disbelief.
The Bradford Sunbeams return after a three-year hiatus due to Covid. They are back with a bang and are utterly delightful.
This spectacular show is a fabulous family night out, filled with thrills, surprises, and enough laughter to leave you with a warm Christmassy feeling and aching cheeks – as only a good old traditional Pantomime can do.
‘Cinderella’ is at Bradford Alhambra until 21st January