Paul Holman Associates and Worthing Theatres family pantomime presenting Ian Waite (Dandini), Naomi Wilkinson (Cinderella) and Mark Read (Prince Charming) was a joy to watch and delivered all the wonderful elements associated with this classic story in true Panto style. The audience were thoroughly enjoying themselves and laughter was heard throughout. The cast also appeared to be having a lot of fun but not to the detriment of the production which can often happen in this style of theatre. An upbeat, current script with some great one-liners and no political references was a breath of fresh air. The staging was simple but effective and beautifully sketched backdrops left us in no doubt as to where we were in the story. All of the costumes were excellent, particularly those in the finale; a shame we didn't get to see them for longer. The music choices were clever, modern and refreshing. Suede's "The beautiful ones" during the ugly sisters entrance was a highlight and Cinderella and Prince Charming's "Shallow" duet beautifully performed. There were a few Christmas songs included which added to the festive feel. The ensemble and junior dancers were of a very high standard - extremely well choreographed with great attention to detail and acting off the line throughout. A very talented group of young performers.
This was a very strong cast and it's not often the straighter characters can hold up alongside the more colourful, however on this occasion they certainly did. Ian Waite was a wonderful Dandini and from his first entrance (and pirouette) engaged beautifully with the audience. Not just a great dancer, he also displayed a wonderful singing voice and excellent comic timing. Mark Read as Prince Charming was warm and typically cheesy and his relationship with Dandini came across very well. His successful singing career shone through in the vocal sections. Katie Pritchard was a cheeky, geeky Fairy Godmother who also displayed a very good singing voice and her bashful relationship with Buttons was delightful. Nicole Faraday as the Wicked Step-Mother was everything this character should be. Brash and sneering with wonderful facial expressions. And an exceptional singer with a powerful voice spanning many ranges. Naomi Wilkinson as Cinderella was beautiful, sweet and sensitive. Her interaction with Buttons was lovely and her reaction when he confessed his love for her (one of a few unexpected twists in this tale) was very well delivered. A long, very believable laugh which didn't leave us hating her for letting him down. Not an easy task with a Buttons loving audience. Oliver Broad and Jack Snowdon as Ivanna and Anita the ugly sisters were hilarious. Their boudoir scene while getting ready for the ball was loud, pacey, clumsy and very funny. A great double act which was made even better by the most outrageous foam wigs. Mark Jones as Buttons was absolutely brilliant. This character is always a favourite but can so easily be hammed and overplayed. Not in this case. This performance was a delight to watch and his interaction with the audience, and particularly the children, was warm, funny and executed beautifully. He worked really well alongside everyone in the production and never upstaged them. The front of curtain scenes can often feel a bit long and strained, however this Buttons made sure that wasn't the case. We were all entranced.
A definite highlight for me was the 12 days of Christmas performed by Buttons, Prince Charming and Dandini; cast in the stalls with the audience, water guns, foam and the funniest true love gifts - 5 toilet rolls!
This was a thoroughly enjoyable show by a very talented company and I would recommend it to anyone wanting escapism, interaction and a really good laugh. It is a while since I've seen a panto and this was one with many surprises and unexpected plot twists and these subtle changes very much added to the overall enjoyment of the production. An old British tradition still delivering in the modern day. Let's cherish it.