★★★

With long-running residencies at the Watford Palace and London’s Greenwich Theatre, writer Andrew Pollard has plenty of panto experience. Packed with audience participation, obligatory gimmicks and jokes of Christmas-cracker quality, his Cinderella is rowdy, loud and thoroughly traditional.

Director Martin Berry winds the production up to an intense, unwaveringly enthusiastic pitch. Though the pacing is uneven – starting slowly and taking some strange detours in the second act – the show is held together by familiar set pieces and plentiful musical numbers.

In a neat conceit, each of the leads plays an instrument that complements their character, even if they are occasionally drowned out by the better-amplified band. Manic Fairy Godmother Etisyai Philip plays a piccolo that doubles as a magic wand, and hits a hell of a high note when the magic happens. Natasha Lewis’ relentlessly cheerful Cinderella belts out tunes on her trombone while soft-hearted “Prince Charming of Chelmsford” Jamie Noar strums along to Michael Bublé on an acoustic guitar. It all pays off in the final confrontation – a high-speed battle of the bands.

Meanwhile, Ugly Sisters Carl Patrick and Simon Pontin resemble a pair of pound-shop Lady Gagas, kitted out in outlandish, matched outfits suggesting handbags, cocktails or lampshades.
Mark Walters’ sets are encrusted with glitter, twinkling cheerfully under the lights. There is a ballroom drenched in gold, a forest hung with icy stalactites. Behind all the glitz, though, there are prettily painted backdrops as simple as pictures in a children’s colouring book.

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