Cinderella at Royal & Derngate Review

[AD – Press tickets] I was kindly given press tickets to see Cinderella in exchange for an honest review. Read more in my disclaimer here.

You shall go to the ball this Christmas with this spectacular family production of Cinderella at Royal & Derngate, following on from it’s successful run of Peter Pan last year.

Cinderella is the ultimate magical show that includes all the ingredients that a traditional pantomime offers:

Entertaining, musical, laugh-out-loud comedy and memorable moments.

In this year’s pantomime production, Royal & Derngate audiences will be treated to an all star-studded cast, starring soap and screen icon, Anita Dobson, comedy legend, Bernie Clifton, CBeebies star Sid Sloane and comedian and magician Martyn James. We are very lucky that Northampton has been graced with such stars! 

Anita Dobson as Baroness Angelique. Photo credit by Robert Day

As we sat down in our seats, you can’t help but feel mesmerized by the first impressions of the stage, glitzy curtain and set which was very intricately designed this year and I particularly loved the storybook drawings across the curtain and the effective star lighting designs across the auditorium. 

I loved seeing all the different sets intertwining with each other, from Hardup Hall and the forest, to the grand ball and even the Sister’s Boudoir – all of which transitioned with ease, no obvious fidgeting and complications. Everything looked so visually pleasing and almost 3D like to add to the magic. 

Everyone knows Anita Dobson, who played Baroness Angelique, as Dirty Den’s wife, Angie, in EastEnders; so it was great to see the legend that is Anita on stage portray the wicked Stepmother of Cinderella. 

She was narcissistic, mean and I didn’t realise what a show she could put on with her rendition of “Don’t Stop Me Now” which was a nice nod to her Queen husband and was one of the stand-out numbers of the show. 

The Fairy Godmother, played by Jacinta Whyte was a ray of sunshine whenever she walked on stage.

Her performance as the Fairy Godmother was the perfect mixture of traditional and modern, her motherly instincts towards Cinderella was endearing and it was clear the chemistry was solid between the two characters. 

Martyn James as Buttons. Photo credit by Robert Day

Plus, she always brought a sense of optimism and guidance throughout the whole show. She was such a joy to watch!

Cinderella, played by Charlotte Haines portrayed your classic storybook princess, with elegance and grace and on top of this, was a beautiful singer and actress!

She was Cinderella in my eyes and I only felt myself smile everytime she went on stage. Prince Charming, played by Dan Partridge was suave, sophisticated and reminded me of an almost show-off version of Flynn Ryder in “Tangled”. He also had very dreamy vocals that I could listen to all day!

His romance with Cinderella was perfectly scripted and directed, as it was obvious that the two actors had good chemistry and it was clear as day on stage. I’m glad they didn’t go too over the top and cringy on their love story but were able to deliver it with innocence and flair. 

Charlotte Haines as Cinderella and Bernie Clifton as Baron Hardup. Photo credit by Robert Day

Bernie Clifton played Baron Hardup and honestly, I couldn’t believe the energy coming from him, especially that he’s 83 years old! What a legend. He made me laugh, he made me feel emotional when he sung and he pleased the entire audience when he brought out his Ostrich! His performance was superb!

The two ugly step-sisters were played by David Dale as Claudia and Tommy Wallace as Tess (love the Strictly reference!) I couldn’t help but naturally gravitate towards Claudia more with her eye-popping and hilarious facial expressions, her twisted lips and all-round banter. 

Tommy Wallace was equally as funny, but together they made the perfect pantomime comedy duo! I actually think as a duo, we didn’t see ENOUGH of them! 

Sid Sloane was a big fan with the younger audience in the crowd, due to his popularity on CBeebies. His portrayal of Dandini, the loyal second in command to Prince Charming was funny, confident and it was clear he knows how to please and entertain a crowd – especially the little ones! 

I really enjoyed the segment just before the bows when he brought on two children from the audience up on stage – it’s moments like this which really make Christmas special! 

Tommy Wallace as Tess, Anita Dobson as Baroness Angelique and David Dale as Claudia. Photo credit by Robert Day

My stand-out star of the night had to be Martyn James who played Buttons for his quick-witted remarks and comments that even left the actress playing Cinderella struggling to keep a straight face!

He carried the show in my eyes and I always looked forward to his appearance on stage making minimal things seem absolutely hilarious.

I really enjoyed his magic tricks during the ballroom scene and wondered how on earth he did it!

I felt this year’s ensemble was very strong, especially the young chorus consisting of Mayhew School of Dance and Performance Arts who were some of the most professional and stand out young cast I’ve seen on stage for a while – so big applause for them! 

The choreography was particularly on point this year, thanks to Choreographer, Katherine Iles, as it was exciting and full of variety, from ballroom, ballet and classic Musical Theatre.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the ballet dancing during the show-stopping number “Pure Imagination” sung by The Fairy Godmother. 

Sid Sloane as Dandini. Photo credit by Robert Day

The comedy was top-notch, though I think some of the Brexit jokes were a little awkward as people weren’t sure whether to laugh or sigh! The direction was by David McNeill and with his extensive record of pantomime directing, he didn’t disappoint with his direction of this stellar pantomime! 

He was able to still direct a pantomime that successfully told the traditional story of Cinderella, but with all the gags and comedy acts that only heightened this classic fairytale. 

What I also found eye-capturing and stunning was the costumes, from the rags and cinders of CInderella and the town folk,  to when she transformed into her ball gown (though I wish they found a way to change her hair out of her headband when the transformation happened – I lookout for attention to detail).

But I especially loved the variety of costumes the ugly step-sisters wore which complemented each other and showcased their own individual styles – from traffic lights to bees and even the dressing room table!  

I wasn’t overly keen on the use of Shetland ponies on stage when they pulled the pumpkin turned carriage to take Cinderella to the ball, as I found it more distressing than magical to watch them come on stage; and the smell from the front was not very pleasant either. 

However, I could see how it lit up the faces of the children in the audience, so I guess I can let this slide. 

Tommy Wallace as Tess, Anita Dobson as Baroness Angelique and David Dale as Claudia. Photo credit by Robert Day

I always appreciate the soundtrack that the Qdos Pantomimes choose every year, as it’s always a good mixture of contemporary, musical and modern top 40 hits. 

We couldn’t help but awe over Bernie Clifton’s rendition of ‘Love Changes Everything’, swoon over the Prince’s performance of ‘Sucker’ which felt very fitting and was his soundtrack of the night. 

What I really did appreciate was the nod to Northampton in its very own song beautifully sung and performed by Cinderella and the ensemble. I will have that song in my head for DAYS. 

Overall, we came away with big smiles on our faces and Qdos and Royal & Derngate know EXACTLY how to deliver an extraordinary pantomime; it’s THE family event of the season that is a must-watch before it disappears, just like the magic did after the strike of midnight!

Cinderella will be playing at Royal & Derngate until Sunday 29th December and their relaxed performance will be on Friday 20th December at 2pm.

If you love spreading the magic at Christmas time, Cinderella is the perfect excuse to feel festive and enjoy their family-fun show!

Dan Partridge as Prince Charming and Charlotte Haines as Cinderella. Tommy Wallace as Tess, Anita Dobson as Baroness Angelique and David Dale as Claudia. Photo credit by Robert Day

Rating: ★★★★

Will you be heading to the ball to see Cinderella at Royal & Derngate this Christmas?

Book tickets here!

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