Written By: Mark Armstrong
Date: December 19 2017
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
The Empire Theatre has always been at the heart of Liverpool’s pantomime scene during the festive season, and the venue delivers another panto-tastic experience for all the family with Cinderella.
The story is well-known: Cinders (Olivia Sloyan) struggles to make headway in her life because of her two wicked step-sisters (Daniel Taylor, who plays Hernia, and James Templeton, who plays Verruca), but a chance meeting with Prince Charming (Duncan James), accompanied by his servant Dandini (Scott Mobley), changes that. Not to mention the intervention of both her friend Buttons (John Evans) and The Fairy Godmother (Jodie Prenger), both of whom help Cinderella to keep her head up and her hopes high for a better future.
That appears to come when the Prince, himself looking for love, announces a grand ball, partly so that he can properly meet Cinderella. Hernia and Verruca do their best to foil Cinders’ chances of attending, but The Fairy Godmother again provides assistance, which allows Cinders to go to the ball. Then … well, you probably know the rest from that point onwards.
John Evans as Buttons is the funniest performer on the show, as well as being the character who does the most work and appears in the most scenes. His first appearance takes on a stand-up feel, but it’s his exchanges with the other characters which really get the big laughs, particularly when the likes of The Fairy Godmother are trying to keep a straight face when speaking to him. Indeed, for the adults at least, John is the performer they’re most likely to remember when all is said and done.
Elsewhere, Jodie Prenger and Olivia Sloyan are very good singers, and of course, the singing is elevated further by the presence of Duncan James, best known away from the pantomime scene for being a member of Blue. Beyond that, certain scenes deliver a lot of laughs, and the deliberately Scouse lingo (with insults like “blurt” and “melt” coming out of nowhere) by Daniel Taylor and James Templeton provide additional unexpected giggles. The production standards are also very high, with extravagant lighting, excellent settings (particularly for Prince Charming’s ballroom), and one particularly memorable scene that takes us into intermission, which I won’t spoil here (hint: it is horse-related).
On the downside, the show started pretty late, and it took a bit of time to get going. Also, some of the lighting was occasionally too strong, with a couple of the lights situated near the front of the stage giving off a blinding effect on more than one occasion. And the younger dancers played an unusually minor role in proceedings. Still, there was a lot more to like about this show, from the hilarious scene where Muddles uses actual song lyrics to describe how he’s feeling to the exceptional costumes donned by all, particularly in the second half.
With Christmas just days away, there is still plenty of time for you to bring the family along to see Cinderella; you’ll have a great time, I can assure you.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good