Sunday, 11 December 2022

REVIEW: Cinderella at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The Fairy Godmother of all pantomimes is back at the New Victoria Theatre Woking for the festive season, and it is a true Christmas treat for the whole family. It's the well-known rags-to-riches, magical pumpkin, glass slipper story set in Woking and full of panto magic.

This cast are just fantastic. Sarah Vaughan plays the title role and brings a graceful beauty to it. Samuel Wilson-Freeman's Prince Charming is suitably dashing and has great fun on stage; his dance break in the Act 2 opener is awesome! The Fairy Godmother, played by Jenny Gayner, ties the story together and brings festive magic. Her aura and sparkle shine through, and her levitating trick had the whole audience guessing.

Brian Conley is this production’s star vehicle as Buttons, and producers Crossroads really get their money’s worth from him! Conley must perform 6 songs in the show, from full numbers to comedy ditties, adding the expected comedic flare to the numbers. His timing and wit, as evidenced over the last forty years, is utterly brilliant. Whether interacting with the audience or performing comedy magic, Conley had us in the palm of his hand from the moment he entered the stage.

No pantomime would be complete without a good villain, and the Cinderella story spoils us with two equally menacing baddies; the Ugly Stepsisters. Ben Stock plays Tess, with Neal Wright as Claudia, and it’s a match made in heaven (or maybe hell)! Stock and Wright bounce off each other and are synchronised to a tee. This is, no doubt, helped by the fact that Wright is also this production’s Resident Director. Match this wonderful duo with a plethora of outrageous costumes from the mind of Mike Coltman, and Woking panto has a winning formula.

Jane McMurtrie’s choreography utilises a very talented ensemble, and never treads on the toes of the glorious vocal work from Musical Supervisor Gary Hind and Musical Director David Lane, which I have seen all too many times in pantomimes. Kathryn Rooney brings her award-winning direction to the New Victoria Theatre this year and has created an inventive and slick show, which rattles through the laughs and keeps up the pace throughout. I did find, however, that the script lacked a narrative drive throughout a lot of the show. This may have been lost at the cost of laughs and improvisation, but the story tends to jump from key moment to key moment without a defined through-line. There’s even a Woking’s Got Talent section which puts a huge pause in the action.

All in all, Woking Panto has everything you could ever need; catchy songs, dazzling costumes, plenty of laughs, and a stunning cast. I left the theatre smiling from ear to ear, aching from laughter, and full of Christmas cheer!

Review by Max Topliss

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: G4 | Price of Ticket: £41.50

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