Cinderella – The Panto 2018

Grandparents & Kiddies Alike will Love the Ugly Stepsisters   

Drayton Entertainment has hit the mark again with a panto that offers lots of fun for the wee ones and enough laughs to keep Mom & Dad or Grandma & Grandpa entertained.  Caroline Smith, the same playwright who brought us the Aladdin and Snow White pantos, is back with her tried and true formula:  a villain you can boo, a sweet love story, and a crazy character who brings the kids up on stage for some audience participation.  And, oh yes, there are guys in women’s dresses, which always adds to the laughs.

This time around it’s Justin Bott and Billy Lake, as Revolta and Atrocia, the ugly stepsisters.  Their unusual dresses and gowns are, well, out of this world, and of course they are beautifully made up.  Indeed, their faces are a salute to the cosmetic industry.  The pair has perfect comedic timing, and they make the most of their sibling rivalry.  They sing “Sisters” – the popular White Christmas tune – adding to the hilarity with their feather fans.  

Tim Porter is Buttons, the character who talks directly to the kids and has the fun of bringing some little ones on stage to chat with him.  Porter is excellent at improv and finds a way to have fun with each child, to the audience’s delight.

Chelsea Preston is a beautiful Cinderella, with a voice to belt out the pop songs.  She has great chemistry with both Buttons and her Prince Charming.  Sarah Nairne is the kind fairy Godmother who is able to conjure up a Lake Huron Sea-doo out of a pumpkin, which gets Cinderella to the ball.  Jamie McKnight as Prince Charming is, well, charming, and has the smooth tenor voice to go with his character.  He is even able to sing while hopping about on a pogo stick.  Matt Palmer makes the most of his role as the Prince’s Footman, having great fun with an Italian accent.  He also has the opportunity to show off his rolling skating acumen.

Ayrin Mackie is the evil stepmother Baroness Notapenny.  She is delightfully nasty, and the kids love to boo and hiss the minute she appears on stage.  She makes life miserable for Cinderella and manipulates Cinderella’s dad, the Baron Notapenny, played suitably in a Caspar Milque-Toast style by Geoffrey Whynot.  The Baron and Baroness live in Downtrodden Abby.

The story follows the familiar, traditional Cinderella fairy tale, with a few funny quirks.  The music is all modern pop tunes, which will appeal to the kids and adults alike.  Atrocia and Revolta sing “Born This Way”, and later their wicked stepmother joins them with “Material Girl”.  The wedding scene wraps up the show with “Today Was A Fairy Tale.”

Mom and Dad jokes are tucked here and there into the show – just enough to hold the adults’ attention.  In one scene, Baroness Notapenny wants Cinderella stopped and yells “Seize her!”  Instead, she is first handed a Caesar salad, and then a Bloody Caesar.

The costumes are excellent.  The audience is led down the garden path – Cinderella has a lovely pink gown of her mother’s that seems pretty enough for the ball.  The audience assumes she is going without the Fairy Godmother’s assistance.  But the wicked stepmother rips it apart.  Finally the Fairy Godmother creates a beautiful glittering turquoise gown for Cinderella, which suddenly appears on her before our eyes. Later she has a beautiful sparkling bridal gown, with the female chorus in gorgeous turquoise gowns. Kudos to Costume Designer Rachel Berchtold.

Two groups of children alternate performances on stage.  They are very well choreographed and are an excellent addition to the show.

Just a reminder – this is a participative panto, based on the Cinderella fairy tale.  It’s not the Disney version, nor is it the Rogers & Hammerstein production, in case you are preparing the kiddies for their theatre trip.  I had the opportunity to chat with three very young men (all under age eight , I am guessing) who thought this was the best Cinderella ever.  They each had a favourite character.  One immediately said Buttons, who is popular with the younger set as he talks to them directly from the stage.  Another said the evil stepmother was his favourite because he liked to yell “Boooooo”.  The third surprised me with his favourite.  He said he liked Mr. Whiskers, the cat.  (Spoiler alert:  Mr. Whiskers later becomes Mrs. Whiskers.)  The cat only speaks in meows, but can be understood by the key characters and helps out as needed.

Grandparents – this is an excellent way to look after the grandchildren during a long, hot summer’s day.  Take them out for some panto fun in the cool air-conditioned theatre. They will love it.

Cinderella – The Panto continues with eight shows a week until July 22 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com

Photo: Right:  Billy Lake and Justin Bott as the Ugly Step-sisters and Company in Cinderella: The Panto.  Left: Chelsea Preston as Cinderella and Jamie McKnight as Prince Charming.  Photos by John Sharp.

Cinderella – The Panto 2018
By Caroline Smith
Orchestrations & Vocal Arrangements by Nico Rhodes
Directed and Choreographed by David Connolly
Musical Direction by Joseph Tritt
Performed by Justin Bott, Sam DiGiuseppi, Kalie Hunter, Billy Lake, Ayrin Mackie, Jamie McKnight, Sarah Nairne, Matt Palmer, Tim Porter, Chelsea Preston, Antonette Rudder, Nathan Sartore, Robin Warwick, Geoffrey Whynot, Preston Wilder and Children’s Chorus.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
July 5 to 22, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

 

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