Watching Cinderella – The Pantomime was like stepping into a wonderful world of magic where your inner child could run free. This panto is the third one to be brought to Australia by Bonnie Lythgoe Productions and it looks poised to follow in the success of Snow White and Aladdin. Cinderella was ultimately a light and fun show full of colour and splendour and was an adaptation of the classic fairy tale and rags-to-riches story.
Pantomimes are traditionally a mix of music, theatre and dance and they typically encourage the audience to interact with the actors. The latter often break down the fourth wall and encourage everyone to boo and hiss at the bad guys and to support and cheer on the good guys as well as keep a watchful eye out for ghosts and the like. The show is traditionally pitched at children but there are enough jokes and fun things so that it can appeal to anyone aged 3 to 103.
Jaime Hadwen — who recently starred in Xanadu at the Hayes Theatre — was beguiling as Cinderella. She was humble, kind and showed real heart, even when her father Baron Hardup (Peter Everett – Ready Steady Cook) decided to remarry and chose an evil witch of a woman.
Gina Liano (The Real Housewives of Melbourne) made her stage debut as the horrid and manipulative stepmother, but she was also frequently drowned out by her cast mates, especially those who had a background of performing in front of kids. Craig Bennett and Josh Adamson were the mean stepsisters and were dressed in drag and acted in a very over-the-top way, which suited their parts. There were lots of risqué jokes about fairies and their characters being like “men” (they even played Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel like a Woman” to introduce them.)
Hi-5’s Tim Maddren was an absolute sweetheart as Prince Charming while Jimmy Rees (AKA Mr Giggle) often held fort as the Prince’s servant. The lovely Lara Mulcahy occasionally spoke in rhyme as the fairy godmother and Kev Orkian was ebullient as Buttons. A “12 Days of Winter” song was mostly held together by Rees, because Everett and the others often forgot their cues or their lines. But the shambolic nature of this really added a silly looseness to the proceedings. The four male leads also performed a popular panto song involving ghosts and the kids screamed as much as the girls did for The Beatles back in the day. They also had some children from the audience volunteer for a nice rendition of “I Am the Music Man.”)
Cinderella told a classic story but it also managed to keep things quite topical and relevant for Australian audiences thanks to its script by Christopher Wood. The jokes were a mix of tongue-in-cheek humour and slapstick and included asides about the Parramatta River, the Shire and Malcolm Turnbull, to name a few. Australian hits like AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” the Vanda and Young-penned, “Love Is in the Air” and Kylie Minogue’s “On a Night like This,” were threaded into the story and sat seamlessly among the gorgeous costumes and the fine scenery.
Cinderella – The Pantomime was an engaging and charming show, which left many guests remarking that all theatre should be delivered this way. This modern day fairy tale with an Australian slant was a charming and glittery rags-to-riches show that was a real joy to watch and experience. In fact, it was so easy to sit back and have a ball!
The reviewer attended the opening night performance on 1 July 2016.
Cinderella plays at Sydney’s State Theatre until 17 July 2016. For more information and tickets please visit: https://www.statetheatre.com.au/show-calendar/cinderella/