Friday, 7 January 2022

REVIEW: Cinderella at the Theatre Royal Bath

While many Pantomimes close around New Year’s Day each year, the Theatre Royal Bath’s production usually runs until the following weekend and this year it’s Cinderella closes on the 9th of January. It’s a great time to visit Bath as the streets are quieter and you can appreciate the wonderful architecture of this lovely Georgian City and there can’t be a more wonderful setting for a traditional family pantomime than this beautiful venue. Jon Monie must love this place too as this is his 19th season in Pantomime here and with over 1000 performances behind him, he has the experience and knowledge on how to write and deliver a very well-judged and balanced show. It clearly was enjoyed by the schools’ parties at the matinee I attended but had plenty of cheeky innuendo for the adults to enjoy (with only a joke about Strange-ways Prison overstepping the mark).

His script, in the hands of Director Hannah Sharkey with a very good ensemble cast, is an excellent combination of traditional storytelling, a fresh injection of ideas into some of the standard pantomime business and music choices with new lyrics that flow from the story. The whole production is well-staged in another UK Production set design by Charlie Camm, Jon Harris and Jason Bishop with an attractive practical village scene, a very successful transformation scene from Kitchen to Coach and a clever touch when Cinders is hidden from Charming by the Ugly Sisters. This all adds up into an excellent showcase of the skills of the cast to entertain young and old. 

Jon Monie leads the cast as Buttons and shows he knows how to hold an audience’s attention from his first appearance when as he points out he “asks lots of questions twice!”. He makes the traditional song on a wall with Cinders and Charming seem fresh and fun even getting a stagehand into the action. Indeed, these constant reminders poking fun at the process of making Theatre add significantly to the fun. Instead of the normal “9 carrot” necklace and colander business, he introduces a delightfully silly “Pigs might fly” routine to cheer up Cinders when her ticket is torn up. Even the standard Ghost bench scheme gets a “refresh” to a new tune, “Oh when the Saints” and a hilarious instrumental interlude of farts by those on the bench. 

He is well supported by two very fine Ugly Sisters with Nic Gibney as a West Country Harmony and Duncan Burt as Melody, pronounced “My-Lady”. They get the balance right of being unpleasant to Cinders while still having a cheeky charm and distinctive characters that bounce of each other while remaining two meters from commoners! They add a clever new twist to picking on a man in the audience with some good gags in the “Love Lottery” and a fun sketch of their beauty treatment in the sauna. 

Unusually for modern Pantomime, Cinderella (Elly Jay) and Charming (Josh Rose) get equal stage time and profile, and plenty of songs including “I want to dance with somebody”, “Common People”, “Chase my blues away” and “You’ve got the love” which seem to naturally flow from the story. Dandini (Chris Fearn) also gets his moment at the opening of Act 2 with the upbeat Sweet hit, ”Ballroom Blitz” before the Prince suggests that a “quiet waltz helps my balls go with a swing”!

The best-known name in the show is Dani Harmer who despite being heavily pregnant is perfectly cast as the Fairy Godmother and speaks in a string of amusing rhyming couplets and keeps the storytelling on track. She oversees the smooth and elegant transformation of Cinders into Princess Crystalline and the pumpkin and mice into two ponies pulling the carriage. You wonder why Crystalline is the name but that becomes clear with the Songsheet of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Crystalline” that gets a great response from the audience. 

There are many lovely touches in the staging, a good ensemble of six to support the strong Principals who work as a team to deliver a first-class show and plenty of well-paced and timed comic business. This is a script that I am sure you can see next year in other UK Productions around the country and like Monie’s Beauty and the Beast script at Blackpool Grand in 2018 shows what can be achieved with care and imagination in breathing fresh life in these traditional and well-known stories.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row M | Price of Ticket: £29.50
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