DESPITE its smaller staging, The Epstein’s production of Cinderella should by no means be treated as the ugly sister of our seasonal shows.
You have Scouse royalty centre stage with 80s pop queen Sonia as the wicked Baroness Hardup. There’s the ubiquitous soap starin the form of Philip Olivier – Tin Head from Brookie – playingButtons.
Then you’ve got the new panto must-have, a reality TV star. Here it’s Nikki Grahame from Big Brother 7, as the Fairy Godmother. There’s even a couple of live Shetland Ponies.
It might not boast star names like Pamela Anderson, but it knows to deliver what the audience wants – fun!
Producer and choreographer Lee Kelly fills the stage with energy and holds your interest for the couple of hours’ running time with the right balance of song, dance, slapstick for the kids and bawdy jokes for the adults.
Cinders is played with grace and fine voice by Alison Crawford, an alumnus of both Liverpool Theatre School and Hope University. Newcomer Stuart Campbell, just 18 and studying drama at Liverpool Hope, here cuts his teeth professionally as the Prince.
As should be the case with a good panto, the two leads are peripheral to the japery of the dames, and the Ugly Sisters here give rise to a great double act. As Stacey and Tracy Hardup, actors Brian Dodd and Michael Chapman (the latter, also the play’s director) easily steal the show.
The gags come thick and fast and the script is genuinely amusing, though perhaps satisfying the adults more in terms of laughs. The intimate feel of the theatre brings performers and audience closer and helps make this Cinderella a winner.