Panto Review: Cinderella at the London Palladium ✭✭✭✭

London Palladium

14th December 2016: After a break of nearly 30 years, Pantomime has returned to the Palladium stage with a festive feast for all the family.

The last time Cinderella was on stage here was in 1985, and the final panto was Babes in the Wood back in 1987... so it is about time we got the razzmatazz back into the West End.

Big name stars are the order of the day here for this production, but these names also have talent to go with the celebrity status.  I must start off with Natasha J Barnes in the title role of Cinderella, who was recently appearing in Funny Girl at the Savoy theatre. What a fabulous voice she has, and boy does she belt out a few lines throughout the evening. Pair her up with Lee Mead as Prince Charming, and you are all set for some fantastic duets... It's just a shame they weren't on stage together much to show off this winning potential.

Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin and his puppet Sam make a very likeable Buttons and sidekick. Zerdin has good comic timing and the audience warmed to him instantly. Some funny routines which include audience members are second to none, and his interaction with the kids in the audience at the end is hilarious.

Nigel Havers' Lord Chamberlain is also funny, he is often coming on to the stage asking to be in each scene with others, and gets the sympathy vote and loud cheers constantly. Count Arthur Strong as Baron Hardup isn't seen as much either, but does muck in with various routines when asked upon and offers good belly laughs.

Suzie Chard and Wendy Somerville play delightfully vile Ugly Sisters Verruca and Hernia, getting many a boo from the crowd, and the ensemble of dancers are fabulous throughout too.

Amanda Holden is the Fairy Godmother, swishing her wand and singing away in her usual imitable style, whilst flying around the stage.

This leaves me with two more people - Paul O'Grady as Baroness Hardup is in fine form, giving an evil lick and twist to the character - think Cruella De'ville and you are on the right lines. Strong musical numbers especially at the end of the show are great to see, showing off O'Grady's stage presence in style.

For me though, Julian Clary as Dandini is a show stopper. The way he delivers his lines and ad-libs are pure genius. The double entendre one-liners are edge of the seat risky at times, and we all love it. A lesson in comedy acting is being shown here, and hats off to Clary, a master.

Extravagant costumes for O'Grady and Clary designed by Hugh Durrant are a huge hit, big musical numbers such as Downtown and I Will Survive  have had their lyrics re-written for the show which work well, and throw in some original numbers from Gary Hind and Alan McHugh and you are singing all night long. The set design from Ian Westbrook looks wonderful, and is beautifully lit by Ben Cracknell.
The band under direction from Greg Arrowsmith are tight and sound good, Gareth Owen has once again done a fab sound design making this show sound great.

Michael Harrison has directed a fine panto indeed here, with Andrew Wright choreographing some delightful numbers, including tap dancing pumpkins! Add to this a flying fairy, a coach and animatronic horses, a flying vespa and bundles of laughs along the way, the creative team have pulled out all the stops for this years extravaganza. But, at just under three hours long which includes the interval, it is a bit too long for a panto - knock half an hour off here and there and it will be sublime. For me the magic of Cinderella is all about the transformation scene, and the use of animatronic horses just lost it a bit for me - Im an old traditionalist and prefer to see real horses on stage, but hey, you can't have it all.

You better go and buy a ticket before the clock strikes midnight, as this is a great show and not to be missed. Roll on next year, as hopefully this will become a yearly tradition back in the West End.

Four stars ✭✭✭✭

Images by Paul Coltas and Steve Williams


Theatre:                           London Palladium, Argyll St, London W1F 7TF
Dates:                              10 December 2016 – 15 January 2017
Press night:                       14 December 2016 at 7pm
Box Office:                        0844 874 0667 (no booking fee)
Prices:                              from £19.50, all ticket prices include a £1.50 Theatre Restoration Levy
Twitter:                            @Cinderella_LDN