Review | Cinderella at New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth: 'A top quality show with a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust'

Cinderella has always been a story about the underdog.

Friday, 17th December 2021, 8:53 am

And that’s kind of the position the New Theatre Royal has found itself in.

The city centre theatre – understandably given its circumstances at the time – didn’t even attempt to stage a Christmas show last year in the thick of the pandemic.

Meanwhile its Southsea neighbour The Kings has cleverly marketed itself as hosting The Pompey Panto.

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Cinderella (Emily Day) rides the magical coach

And Mayflower Theatre over in Southampton also launched its own spectacular version of Cinderella earlier this week.

So it is that the NTR has re-entered the fray, teaming up with renowned panto specialists Jordan Productions, for what is the venue’s first traditional panto in more than 50 years.

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There may be no celebrity casting to help draw in the punters, but what this cast does have in spades is talent.

Buttons, and the show's director, Michael Burgen

There’s not a weak link among the principals – from local girl Emily Day’s winsome, but not twee Cinders, to the Cockney Fairy Godmother Alice Redmond and her rhyming couplets, and Elizabeth Fullalove as Dandini.

It’s also nice to see a principal boy, with Lucy Andic having fun as Prince Charming.

But it’s Harry Howle and Chris Aukett as the ugly stepsisters Flora and Marj, respectively, who steal pretty much every scene they’re in. A pair of hilarious grotesques, they stomp and flounce all over the stage in their quest to find a man. Their Lady Gagas are a hideous hoot. And pity any poor man who sits in the front row, naturally.

The production values are also high throughout – particularly during the scene where the spell is cast to turn the pumpkin into a coach to take Cinderella to the ball. The effects work well, and the flying coach certainly impressed my kids.

Cinderella (Emily Day), with Prince Charming (Lucy Andic)

The scene in the health club also had my boys squealing with delight – especially the musical workout skit, and the ugly sisters in the sauna.

There’s also ghosts (and why not?), some fine dancing at the ball, and wonderful singing. A nod also to Naomi Gibbs and her team in the wardrobe department for some impressive outfits.

Buttons is played by Michael Burgen, who also directs, and he’s certainly working hard up there. His jokes are the usual mix of silly, slightly topical and sometimes local – suggesting a singsong to Oh When The Saints goes down predictably…

This is a top quality show with a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust, creating a suitably magical effect on its audience.

Ugly stepsisters Marge and Flora (Chris Aukett and Harry Harry Howle)

Until December 31.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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