Runs: 2h 45m, one interval, till 29 01 12
Review: Alexander Ray
The best ever, the best anywhere.
If anything, this year’s pantomime at the Birmingham Hippodrome is more spectacular than ever. Though interestingly, it’s more traditional too – the spectacle is in the lavish sets and costumes – and in a delightful originality in interpreting traditional elements of the story. Cinderella’s carriage to the ball isn’t pulled by the traditional Shetland Ponies; but by a much more fabulous horse. And then there’s Button’s mode of transport . . .
There are a pile of positives for this production. Among them is the cracking pace. From the opening number, to the nearly opening number of the fab Ugly Sisters and onwards, the pace never lets up. Scenes are short, dialogue snappy.
Brian Conley (Buttons) must be on a diet of Weetabix and Shredded Wheat or maybe intravenous glucose to sustain the energy he injects. He builds and sustains a truly easeful relationship with us and power-drives the show along. Lynda Bellingham (her first panto by all accounts) is a graceful and knowing Fairy Godmother.
I enjoy the irreverent wit – double entendres fine, but there’s more. The traditional love duet between Cinderella and Prince Charming is hilariously undercut by love-smitten Buttons as they all sit on a wall.
Martin Ramsdin and David Robbins match the outrageousness of their costumes with their performances, and Kathryn Rooney and Matthew Goodgame (Cinders and Charming) ensure there is charm galore but no saccharine sentimentality.
Sharp and strong dancing from the Ensemble ensure complete success. And, oh yes, an appearance by the most beautiful horse you’ve ever seen – Charlie in the Hardup stables. His connection with the plot is tenuous, but who cares . . . that’s part of the fun too.
Buttons: Brian Conley
Fairy Godmother: Lynda Bellingham
Baron Basil: Basil Brush
Cinderella: Kathryn Rooney
Ugly Sisters: Martin Ramsdin, David Robbins
Prince Charming: Matthew Goodgame
Dandini: Dan Burton
Ensemble: Curtis Angus, Dane Bates, Louise Butler, Andrew Carthy, Sinead Chandiram, Ben Harris, Sara Hill, Sam Stanley, Nadine Stolycia, Jenny Wickham
Babes: Birmingham Stage School
Producer and Director: Michael Harrison
Choreographer: Paul Robinson
Set Designer: Ian Westbrook
Lighting Designer: Ben Cracknell
Musical Director: Robert Willis
Visual Special Effects: Twins Worldwide Ltd
Sound Designer: Orbital Sound Ltd
Sound Operators: Piers Archer, Andy Yiannaki
Production Manager: Peter Kramer