The pantomime production of Cinderella has attracted no doubt intended publicity for the appearance of Linda Gray of Dallas fame as the Fairy Godmother. She has in her career showed versatility both in directing Dallas and in stage appearances as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate. However she is lumbered as Sue Ellen, the put-upon wife of JR, in one of the most popular soaps. That success was 35 years ago and you would need to be 50-plus to recall it. Thus jokes about South Fork fell rather flat. Linda Gray ‘s attempt at an English accent, though not as excruciating as Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, was still off mark . In short her casting might have got publicity but it did little else.
Pantomine acting, as any actor will tell you, is hard. This was her debut, and it showed. You have to give two performances a day, have a range from comic delivery to singing and dancing, work an audience that runs from 4 to 70, inter-act with inexperienced celebrity actors. This production was more Mamma Mia in style than traditional panto. It did have glamorous costumes and some of the choreography was impressive . It had 3D special effects but it strayed too far from the story and traditional panto for my taste .
Perhaps it was our seats in the Gods and a little kiddie kicking the backs of our chairs throughout the production but we – my guests were a mother and her 5 year old – clearly did not identify as they did last year with Aladdin. Then I recall the little boy standing in awe, singing the numbers and of course joining in the “Oh no she is isn’t!” traditional inter-action.
Wayne Sleep as Dandini not only danced beautifully as one might expect but was a more than capable actor whilst Matthew Kelly camped up as the Ugly Sister. At the end there was a mass sing-along in the way of the rock musicals like Mamma Mia. I never early enjoy these. Panto in my view should be traditional: it does need international soap stars but should deliver traditional fairy stories to the younger audience whilst engaging the parents. This Cinderella failed to do so.