Thursday, 13 December 2018

REVIEW: Cinderella - The Opera House, Manchester

A blue carpet, blue background posters, blue lights, blue curtains, and some blue costumes - there was a lot of blue incorporated into this pantomime’s design. However, nobody appeared to be feeling blue as the Opera House’s annual pantomime never fails to entertain the young and old; parents and children alike.

Pretty much everyone knows the story. Cinderella is the classic “rags to riches” story model. Cinders tries to outsmart her very Ugly Sisters (who constantly make demands of her), and, with the help of her best friend Buttons and one very magical Fairy Godmother, hopes to win the heart of the dashing Prince Charming. However, rather oddly, Cinders’ iconic step mother is non-existent in this production. I think it was meant to be set in Manchester in the 17th Century, because of the constant script references to Manchester. Confusingly, the set didn’t include any visual references to Manchester as we know it, in its traditional fairytale-inspired design.

Qdos Entertainment, who refer to themselves as the world’s biggest pantomime producer, produced this production of Cinderella. The typical stylistic elements of a pantomime were present. You had a zealous cast, music, comedy, eye catching scenery, spectacular special effects, good-looking costumes and plenty of opportunities for boos, hisses, and shouting out.

In the title role was Shannon Flynn, who brought a subtle hint of sweetness to the role. When Cinders stood up to her bullying Ugly Sisters, the audience got to experience her strength and resilience. Gareth Gates played Prince Charming, I liked his effeminate and gentle voice adding to his charm, albeit he lacked authority when executing his Royal duties. Sadly, his performance of Unchained Melody at the Royal Ball was underwhelming, considering he was meant to be singing to the love of his life. Gates’ singing voice was effortless but lacked tonal variety.

The Ugly Sisters (Connor McIntyre and Les Dennis) combined with the multi-talented Ben Nickless’ Buttons brought a carriage full of laughs. The whole show was littered with prop comedy and trendy, “down with the kids” humour. It was especially hilarious when they trailed off script and ad-libbed. It was as if “the naughty kid in class” got his hands on the script. The ensemble’s performance of Fabian Aloise’s clear-cut and dynamic choreography enhanced the “feel good” nature of the show. Great to see the local Stalder Academy of Dance get involved as well.

On reflection, there was an effective balance between humour, games, and story. The pacing and two hour running time was just right for the little ones in the audience. The reason why this was only just a good pantomime however was because the morals of the fairytale looked to be pushed aside in favour of the entertainment. The lack of acknowledgement on the personal messages learnt by the characters meant I couldn’t enjoy it for its meanings, I could only enjoy it as entertainment. In summary, this was an entertaining panto for all the family with dazzling lights, spectacular special effects, and plenty of glitter and laughs.

Reviewer – Sam Lowe
on – 11/12/18

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