Reviewed by Alex Wilde
Most families with young children would agree it’s not Christmas without a trip to the panto. This year we drove North to Buxton Opera House for their performance of Cinderella. Historically significant and exuding Edwardian charm, the Opera House is the quintessential venue in which to enjoy the magic and marvel of pantomime.
The evening was full of festive cheer as families and friends were greeted warmly by the army of volunteers that keep this local gem sparkling. We left the cold December night behind and settled into our cosy seats for what was to be two hours of festive fun of the highest quality.
The glittering screen rose and, as is customary, the Fairy Godmother welcomed us to the spectacle. As enchanting as could be, the guardian of the titular character played by Emily Juler was resplendent in both dress and personality. With a beautiful voice and sprightly grace, Emily was the gentle comic to the more rambunctious cast waiting in the wings. Our unbelievably energetic compère for the evening was Cinders’ besotted-best-friend Buttons. Young Glaswegian Ross Barbour was one of a handful of recent theatrical graduates which complemented the stalwarts of stage and screen in this year’s performance. An incredibly talented singer with impeccable comic timing, he introduced us to the first of many pop-hits which raised the roof and spirits. His high-energy quickly established a strong bond with the audience for the inevitable back and forth exchanges embedded in every scene.
Television star Shannon Flynn was clearly delighted to be back on stage as Cinderella, affably capturing the delicate charm of the much-loved heroine. The Village Square of Stoneybroke was full of excitement as she awaited the return of her father, Baron Hardup (Alasdair Baker), with his new wife and her daughters. The austerity hit proprietor of Hardup Hall’s new wife was already in the wind leaving him with two demanding stepdaughters. Although a congenial and commanding man, the double dames of the show had clearly taken their toll on him! Gloriously garish and gravelly, the two darlings in drag were James Holmes as Ivana and Jamie Barwood as Melania. Their cruel quarrelling and double entendres were side splitting – one of the many testaments to the smart writing and excellent casting. Talking of which, as you’ve probably gathered from the names above, there was plenty of topical and contemporary content to keep the humour fresh. Their relationship and physicality with the audience went from strength to strength and they were loved by the children: young and old. The familiar relationship between the stepsisters was quickly established as Cinderella dreamt and sang of a different life. A cute-meet in the Town Gardens introduced Cinderella to Prince Charming in disguise (Ryan Bennett). Having swapped palace life with his consort, Dandini (Connor Hignell), to escape the confines of his royal position. Effortlessly adept at acting, dancing and singing, both actors lit up the stage with their charisma and smiles. Rounding off the ensemble was Hannah Shackell, playing dual roles. her organisation and involvement in the Ball was Strictly splendid.
Complementing the cast throughout the production were a brilliant chorus line of local talent. The young people were fully invested and enjoying their part in the extravaganza; singing and dancing their hearts out. Definitely some future stars in the making! Furthermore, a special mention goes to the orchestral and technical team – stunning staging and costuming, uplifting tunes with perfectly timed sound and visual effects too. Thank you, Yule made it an outstanding night!
Simply magnificent! Cinderella at Buxton Opera House is a wonderful Christmas treat for the whole family. A wish worth granting, grab your tickets before the clock chimes on panto season.
Five Magical Stars!
Tickets cost from £18.50 (booking fees may apply).
Cinderella is at Buxton Opera House from 12 December 2019 to 1 January 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit buxtonoperahouse.org.uk or call the box office on 01298 72190.
Buxton Opera House, Water Street, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6XN | 01298 72190