Sunday, 4 December 2022

REVIEW: Cinderella at the Salisbury Playhouse

Salisbury Playhouse took a year off in 2021 from Pantomime and therefore Cinderella was their first in the venue for three years. They borrowed the script from the creative team behind last year’s Newbury Corn Exchange Pantomime, Clare Plested, Adam Brown, and Amanda Wilsher with its fresh take on the Ugly Sisters as social media “influencers” Hashtag and Viral and the Prince’s aide renamed Deldini. Curiously and disappointedly, they dropped the character Buttons from the show, a standard of Cinderella for years who usually adds comedy and pathos to the show. This places more weight on the shoulders of the Dame, Uglies, and Deldini with mixed results. For some reason, Deldini, originally written as a Del Boy character with lots of reference to Only Fools and Horses, retains only a few catchphrases like “plonker”, “lovely jubbly” and “cushty” but drops most of the other successful business from last years show including the brilliant bar fall.

Lucy Alston and Fergie Fraser as Hastag and Viral bring a fresh modern infectious energy to the Ugly Sisters full of self-confidence and social media references which will appeal to the younger audiences and their parents frustrated by the kids overuse of mobile technology and social! The comedy is broad and a little one level with the sisters being mirrors of each other in character and dress, but they are engaging and well-delivered characterisations including a good energetic Ball Cabaret routine.

The Dame, Daniel Goode, is full of great facial reactions playing it as a man in a dress (as the best tradition of Dames requires). It Is full on without much variation in tone but gets a good reaction from the audience as does Alex Crandon as Deldini, camping up, breaking the fourth wall, and looking like he is enjoying himself on stage. In another twist, he for some reason falls for the Dame!

The real stars of the show are Jade Johnson as an American Fairy Showbiz whose role has been upgraded with the absence of Buttons and newcomer Jasmine Triadi as the diminutive, sweet Cinderella. Their entrances, the Fairy flown in on a shooting star singing “No business-like show business” and Cinderella in a great opening number with a wonderfully well-dressed ensemble routine get the show off to a brilliant start. Cinders is an inventor, and we see two of her impressive inventions in the boudoir scene and kitchen scene, although the comedy business with both could have been more fully developed. Oddly her meeting with the Prince is reduced to a very short scene and we never really see her relationship with him (George Olney) develop and her stem punk googles seemed curiously out of place, I suppose an indicator of her inventor status.

The music choices by Josh and Aron Sood are excellent including the 1979 hit “We are family”, Kate Bush’s recent rerelease hit “Running up the hill”, the 1996 hit “Champagne Supernova”, “You drive me crazy” and “Oh what a night”. They are all well-sung and create a party atmosphere. The 2020 viral hit “Raining Taco’s” makes a fun song sheet which the young audience adores.

There are good sets by the inhouse workshop team of Tim Read and Daniel Gent with attractive pastel-coloured sets, a fine starburst false proscenium arch, a simple but magical room clean-up scene and a creepy forest (used to give a new twist to the Ghost bench scene with Pitchfork Pete). The big transformation at the end of Act 1 with a somewhat telegraphed ball gown drop and a floating coach lacked the real magic and spectacle of a bigger budget.

As always Salisbury is offering a good family pantomime, well-staged with bright colourful and well-made sets and costumes, a lively young cast that looks like its enjoying entertaining the family audience and this year a good central message about “life is not in there (the mobiles) but out here” and calling for screen-free Sundays which will resonate with so many parents! And the Ugly sisters end up being nice to Cinderella. What is not to like? Lovely Jubbly.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row F | Price of Ticket: £28

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