Cinderella and the Lost Slipper – Review – York Grand Opera House, 2018

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Cinderella and the Lost Slipper – Review

York Grand Opera House, 2018

by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow

Being a hardcore Coronation Street fan, when I heard that Ken Morley was starring in panto in York, I didn’t need much of an excuse to attend. Except on Press Night, the man better known as Reg Holdsworth is a no-show. A shame, but the show of course goes on, and what a show it is. Michelle Heaton’s Fairy Godmother has a little mic trouble, getting drowned out at times by the music, but it’s a tiny glitch on a night full of successes.

Martin Daniels as Buttons is the glue that keeps the show together. “Hiya gang!” He bounds on stage every time ugly sister Calpol (Steve Wickenden) goes near an integral key hanging on the proscenium arch wall. Given the vigilance of the young crowd, there little chance of that key going anywhere without a cacophony of boos.

cinderella review york grand opera house december 2018 ken morley

Steve Wickenden and Ken Morley as the Ugly Sisters

The story, of course, is as old as the hills, though has obviously been tweaked to suit the stage, location and cast. I don’t recall the classic fairytale featuring references to local York shops, George Ezra’s gloriously infectious ‘Shotgun’, or the ubiquitous Baby Shark, but who cares when it’s this much fun?

“Multi-generational appeal”

Poor Cinders (Amy Thompson) is of course transformed into a general lackey when the evil Calpol proceeds to make her life a misery at every turn. The singular ugly sister, who for some reason has a habit of dressing in a series of food-themed costumes, chews more scenery than a ravenous T-Rex.

Maybe I missed something, but when he/she dresses as a can of spaghetti hoops, and there’s no comedy pay-off, it seems like a wasted opportunity. Sample missed gag: “Hello kids. I’ve just bought this costume from a shop 10 miles away. I know I look a bit tired. You might say I’m ‘pasta my Selby date.'”

Yes, it’s worthy of a groan, and totally in keeping with the feel of the show, especially when you hear the old jokes on offer.

Some of the gags are a little near the knuckle at times, jokes soaring over the heads of the target audience and levelled squarely at mums and dads. Obviously. That multi-generational appeal with a little innuendo helps balance things out. (I’m sure there were plenty of dodgy gags that sailed over my head in the early seventies when I saw Dana at my first panto).

cinderella review york grand opera house december 2018 martin daniels

Martin Daniels as Buttons

“Genuinely impressive”

The song and dance routines are colourful, fun and there’s plenty of call and response moments between cast and audience. And there’s the occasional moment which is blissfully funny, such as a deadpan Prince Charming (Jack McGill) wondering where his impoverished love is while she sweeps up through a gauze curtain. A little voice yells “She’s behind you!” And the crowd erupts into laughter. Full marks to the Prince for never breaking character.

Then there’s the unique take on ’12 Days of Christmas’, with obligatory references to Brexit and Trump. A breathless routine which escalates into controlled chaos.

cinderella review york grand opera house december 2018 michelle heaton

Michelle Heaton as the Fairy Godmother

The last couple of pantos I’ve been to have been a bit of a let down, so it’s a joy to report that Cinderella is a lot of fun which ticks all the boxes, and a genuinely impressive first act closing scene.

The young cast steal every scene they’re in, each of them hitting their marks with the skill of seasoned professionals. It’s also nice to see ’Allo ’Allo veteran John D Collins doing his thing as Baron Hardup.

“Enchanted masses”

Alan Miller-Bunford’s sets are beautifully old school, and with the aid of a few spotlights and a glitterball, magic engulfs the enchanted masses. Take a bow lighting designer Magnus Leslie.

As much as I liked Kenneth Branagh’s Disney blockbuster version of Cinderella, I’d rather watch this take on the classic, which was probably made for buttons by comparison. Pun intended. And the programme cover by seven-year-old Maisie Scarlett Smart is also a joy, a flashback to those days of pencil crayons and colouring in vast areas of sky and grass.

Thanks to directors Chris Moreno and Alan Cohen, I had a ball. I’m guessing you will too.

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