Review: Having a ball with Cinderella at the Harlow Playhouse

Entertainment / Fri 9th Dec 2022 at 04:01pm

EFFERVESCENT, electric, exciting and ecstatic. That is what we thought of this year’s pantomime at the Harlow Playhouse.

We went to see the production of Cinderella on their special Gala night.

Not only was there a large number of dignitaries there but also friends and family of the cast and crew.

To add more pressure, this was their third performance of the day but you know that even after what was already a twelve hour day, the whole team wanted to do their very best.

What they did produce was a dazzling spectacle of comedy, dance, theatre and good old fashioned feel-good show-biz.

It also felt big again. From the spectacular front curtain to the pink border lights, this looked so glamorous and dazzling.

From the opening number with Fairy G (Kate Playdon) the scene was set for a traditional romantic journey.

But sometimes it is the little production values that stay in the memory. The red petals falling on Cinderella (Amy Goodwin) during her first song. Or a sight gag with the (only) £4 programme.

Fairy G gets two of the best jokes of the night when she answers her phone. Never thought we would hear the words Rapunzel and Matt Hancock in the same sentence!

But pantomimes have song and dance at its centre, so it is vital that you get it right. The Harlow Playhouse pantomime has always had “West End” values and that really shines through in the faultless dancing choreographed for the tenth year by Claire Cassidy.

But they also have terrific singers. Our favourite was Prince Charming (Jonathan Dudley) who held the theatre in the palm of his hand each time he sang.

At this point, hats off to Buttons played by the Ben Parsley. Ben really is the glue that binds the panto together. Never a showy or grandstanding Buttons, he just works the whole stage and includes the whole audience to make it such a great adventure. I am sure audience member Anna feels the same!

He even delivers just a throwaway gag with such charm. One involving Archie the post man really tickled this reviewer.

We must mention again, Amy Goodwin, who brought such joy to the role of Cinderella. She radiated joy and love.

Grace Chapman also shone as Dandini. She was a marvellous foil for Buttons et al but also a very fine singer and comedic actress herself. And judging by the tweet below, a great heart and passion for theatre (both regional and west ned).

This was also a pantomime that the audience loved. We sat right in the heart of the audience. An audience, that in difficult times, have paid good money to see. They just loved every minute of it (especially Leigh sitting behind us!).

We brought our grandchildren and they are no pushovers but they also loved it. They felt engaged and involved all the time. It was not a panto performed at them but with them and for them and they can feel that.

Then we have the ugly sisters played by Tom Pepper and Jimmy Burton-Iles. Again, you kept thinking. This is their third show of the day. How many costume changes has that been.?

Remarkably, they were brilliant with that beautiful balance of malevolent wit and camp comedy. Whether it was a stuck door or legendary balls, they were masters/mistresses of the double entendre.

But another factor was there were times when they were all on stage and all the cast looked like they were enjoying themselves. And that joy was infectious.

The second half began with a bang as Hip Hop Pop, celebrating twenty years stormed the stage. The four members were soon joined by the cast (inc Buttons). This was buzzing with energy as the panto went towards the “shall go to the ball” stage.

This was also the time when the stage sets, the colours, the staircase, all came into their own. It wasn’t just about the story heading to a climax but a real uplift and sense of joy from the show.

We had more ghosts and ugly sisters, we had more great use of the trapeze swing and more great songs including “sweet pantomime”

The final numbers had the audience on their feet and clapping warmly. They knew they had seen a wonderful pantomime.

Well done to all the dancers, musical director Jack Breeze and his band.

We once again praise Director and Writer Daniel Bell for not just his show but all five shows across the country.

Click below for details of tickets


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