Cinderella – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Cinderella – Review
Bradford Alhambra, December 2017
by Sandra Callard
Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre has a well deserved reputation for producing the best yearly pantomime in the county, if not the country. This year they are giving us the ‘The Fairy Godmother of all Pantomimes’, which is, of course, the evergreen story of Cinderella.
Reactions to pantomime cover the full gamut of emotions from careless boredom to exquisite joy. I have no reservation in saying that I fall into the latter category, but only when Billy Pearce is in it.
For nearly twenty years he has played the lead in every Alhambra pantomime, and he consistently brings the house down. His technique is unique and elusive, and he possesses that god-given gift of making you laugh before he actually does anything. He is a true clown, and a clever one, as he holds and manipulates the audience into helpless laughter.
Pearce, as you would expect, plays Buttons, and can hold the stage on his own, but has good foils in the support cast. Singer and now TV presenter, Colleen Nolan is a good-natured Fairy Godmother, and shows she can take a joke against herself in good part. Her son, Shane Nolan, plays Prince Charming’s aid, Dandini, and their mother/son repartee is quick and clever.
The Ugly Sisters live up to their name with terrifying certainty, and have the children booing within minutes. Graham Hoadly and Jack Land Noble make ugly look good, and the costume and make-up people have brilliantly brought the Ugly Sisters into a new dimension of garishness.
Cinderella and Prince Charming are nicely brought to life by Sarah Goggin and Sam Barrett, and they have an hilarious scene with Billy Pearce as they battle for the attention of Cinderella, and keep knocking each other off a wall. I am aware that this sounds somewhat pathetic, but it is comic genius and I laughed my socks off.
The show uses the creeping technology which is infiltrating our shows of late, to astounding effect. Cinderella’s coach (with the help of special glasses for the audience) is a magnificent sight, with white strutting horses, a pumpkin-shaped glittering coach, and Cinderella in all her newfound beauty. The coach glides through the sky and over the heads of the audience in an astonishing and graceful way which had the children on their feet and cheering.
“Gets better with the years”
An earlier scene in the Enchanted Forest is slightly unnerving as nasty beasties thrust themselves towards the audience, producing screams – and not only from the children.
The Alhambra Theatre has always had a troupe of local children singing and dancing in all their pantomimes, and The Sunbeams are here again in force. They improve year on year, and are now a superb supporting team, who even add a little acting to their repertoire.
The whole cast are strong supporting struts to the main man, Billy Pearce, who gets better with the years. I entered the theatre on a downward spiral. I’d had a tough day, and it was snowing. I left with a silent gratitude to these wonderful people, on and off stage, who can lighten the heart and make you laugh like a drain.