"Harmonious, hearty, leaves faces aglow"
by Jill Lawrie for remotegoat on 09/12/19

With several fine pantomimes to their name, Paul Holman Associates and Worthing Theatres seem to be a winning duo, the festive gift that keeps on giving.

Katie Prichard plays the fairy Godmother, still in training, who struggles to find the rhymes she needs to cast the spells that will change Cinderella’s fortune from a life of servitude to one of happiness ever after. While she’s at it, she perfectly times some classic lines to woo her own suitor, making her as cute as she is hilarious. Her amateurism is silenced though, when she sings one chart-topper (and I wish it were more,) in a stunning voice that would make Beyonce take note.

‘Strictly’ legend Ian Waite plays an energetic and dance-loving Dandini with plenty of physical comedy. The audience will probably recall his dazzling smile long after the curtain goes down.

Much-loved children’s TV presenter Naomi Wilkinson is endearing and resplendent as Cinderella and the story gets told in spite of all the mayhem, thanks in part to some committed acting by she and her Prince Charming, boy-band heart throb Mark Read. The fairy tale feel is enriched by a beautiful hand painted set of the old day’s kitchen, palatial candle sticks and delightful dancers in their villager dresses or snowy white threads.

The inspired casting of two dames as the Ugly Sisters and glam Bad Girl Nicole Faraday as the Wicked Step-Mum, makes for some riotous prop-aided entertainment, staggering costumes and throwback dance routines. Note: All double-entendres have a built-in escape route, so a child’s mind won’t end up where the adult ones are.

Unlike some panto scripts, this one is well-crafted to ensure no character outstays their welcome. It generates heaps of laughs through continuous interplay between the world of the fairy story and the real world the audience occupy.

Buttons, in the form of comedian Mark Jones, oozes personality, genuine warmth and showman experience. Being naturally funny his familiarity and interactions with the audience feel effortless and the most random singalongs feel hard to resist.

With magic, laughter and festive cheer, it’s the Panto-tonic we’ve longed for all year.

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