★★★★★

A panto is not my first choice of entertainment and I usually get a headache when watching one from constantly rolling my eyes.

So it is with shock and delight that I can reveal that Cinderella at Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, was a rich feast of glitter, girl power and gallivanting heroes and heroines.

The production was perfectly balanced between the old and the new, keeping classic ruses such as “he’s behind you” but remastering the concept for the 21st century with a dancing skeleton (you kind of have to see it for yourself).

Whether you’re new to panto appreciation or a die-hard festive fan, the play will transport you on a magical journey that will leave you feeling full of good tidings and joy – whether you want to or not.

With so many great things to mention it will be a struggle to get everything in, but I must start with Natasha Lewis, who played Cinderella, or Ella to her friends.

The character is normally portrayed as a drippy do-gooder but the actress played her as a ballsy, busty female with phenomenal trombone-playing skills.

It could have gone horribly wrong but it was a welcomed dynamic which added gumption to the proceedings.

Natasha has almighty stage presence and with her co-performers, created entertainment that would be at home in the West End.

The high-calibre act was enhanced by meticulously cut costumes, including Ella’s Frozen-inspired dress which glittered so vibrantly that I had to remind myself that the Fairy Godmother couldn’t do “real magic”. The set was equally ascetically pleasing and I have never seen so much glitter in one place.

As well as the melodious harmonies, audience participation, stunning vocal from every single cast member, witty one-liners and powerful chemistry between the Prince and Cinderella, the theme at the heart of the play blew me away.

It wasn’t the magic dress or carriage that enabled Cinderella to go to the ball, but the act of believing in her self-worth and having confidence.

Yes, she met the Prince and had a lovely time, but she also saved herself, whilst retaining the romance and traditional features audiences know and love.

Packed with jokes – including a funny Brexit one – love laughter, talented and brilliantly deadpan ugly sisters, the Recorder awards Cinderella five stars – and glittery ones at that.

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