With a few more days to go, the Grove Theatre’s festive pantomime Cinderella has proved to be a sensation not to be missed. Reporters Bev Creagh and Stewart Carr caught up with the show to give their verdicts.
CREAGH SAYS ... There’s a new twist to this Cinderella story: our heroine has two hilarious ugly sisters - Leslie Grantham as Dirtina Denise and Joshua Pascoe as Benjina Mitchele but - shock, horror - no wicked stepmother . . .
But once you get over this glaring omission - and oh, yes you will! - it’s a glorious romp from start to finish.
And leading the laughter is wickedly amusing Mawaan Rizwan as Buttons. His sense of timing is immaculate and his facial expressions are a joy - going from abject depression when Cinderella rejects his advances to absolute exhiliration when he thinks he’s pulled a fast one on any of his fellow performers.
And in between there are all sorts of comical goings on that had the (mainly young) audience roaring in appreciation.
There’s a particularly funny piece involving a very long stocking . . .
Lucy Reed is a sympathetic Cinderella who sings and dances like a dream. And while Antony Costa makes a dashing Prince Charming, his voice is surprisingly weak for someone who made a name for himself with the band Blue.
Jasette Amos as the Fairy Godmother is a Reubenesque figure belting out her numbers like operatic arias. She can be stern and sweet in equal measure and delivers her rhyming lines with a delicious twinkle.
Baron Hardup’s fairytale kingdom, cunningly titled Charmington-upon-Dunstable, seems to favour the fairer sex - the pretty chorus that dance their way through various scenes and setting are all women.
The only men on stage are Buttons, Prince Charming, his side-kick Dandini and the two ugly sisters (oh yes, they are).
But then anything’s possible in Panto-land.
CARR SAYS ... In a snowy winter wonderland, lit up by shimmering pink and blue lights - Magic Bean’s panto Cinderella is a New Year’s treat that your screaming kids at the Grove Theatre will absolutely love.
I don’t remember a panto where I’ve heard such deafening noise, but it’s no doubt a sign of a brilliant show.
Leading lady Lucy Reed puts in a star turn as Cinderella - with a sweet singing voice and natural gentility. We see the ever-happy Cindy forced into virtual slavery by the mysterious arrival of wicked stepsisters (Leslie Grantham and Joshua Pascoe).
With a 60’s barnet, caked-on white slap and lipstick all over the teeth, Ex-Dirty Den Grantham puts in a good turn as wicked sister Denise, and Pascoe is nothing if not enthusiastic as equally evil Benjamina. While their dress sense is suitably awful, they are not the campest dames.
A missing character that I really wanted to see was the evil stepmother, who would have added a lot more boos from the children ... and a hint of genuine glamour.
She might also have explained how the evil stepsisters were linked to Cinderella!
Blue singer Anthony Costa showed off some impressive acting talons as Prince Charming - veering from received pronounciation to cockney slang in a heartbeat, although his sidekick Dandini was surprisingly a much better singer.
I bow my hat to the absolute star of the show, comedian Mawaan Rizwan as the hilarious Buttons.
Running on and off the stage with boundless energy to a collective roar of “hello Buttons” - Rizwan has his comedic timing down to an art, delivering a line or pulling a face at just the right moment
A troupe of six gorgeous girl dancers fill out the ensemble, but again - like the missing stepmother - a few equally handsome male dancers would have just rounded things off.
Lastly, soul singer Jasette Amos is the perfect modern day fairy godmother (with just a little hint of disco diva thrown in). This is a brilliant show – catch it before it goes!
Cinderella plays until Sunday, January 3. See here for tickets.