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Corn Exchange - Cinderella

25th November to 31st December 2016.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News (and a very similar review from the British Theatre Guide).

We're all happy ever after

Phil Willmott's sparkling Cinderella has the Corn Exchange buzzing

Cinderella, at the Corn Exchange, Newbury, until Saturday, December 31

The Corn Exchange pantomime this year is one of the most-loved productions – Cinderella – and Phil Willmott deftly directs his witty script, filled with festive family fun.

The auditorium is festooned with strings of fairy lights, hanging mirror balls and cartoon cut-outs of the characters, creating a truly seasonal atmosphere as boys and girls and their mums and dads took their seats to a palpable buzz of excitement.

All the ingredients for this annual extravaganza are here in abundance, from the colourful set, sparkling costumes, impressive lighting by Guy Dickens and an enthusiastic hard-working cast of mostly new performers to Newbury, determined to ensure we all have a grand time.

This rag to riches story is well-known, as poor downtrodden Cinders, bullied by her stepsisters, finally finds love and marries her Prince Charming.

Richard James-King is the jovial, camp, trumpet-blowing Henry the Herald, who welcomes us to Newbury Bottom with his catchphrase "Do you fancy a tootle?" and we all replied "Don't forget your trumpet..." all great fun.

Making a welcome return is Joshua Coley as naive Spud the farmer, complete with Brummie accent, who gives a splendid performance. He establishes a good rapport with the audience, as we have to guard his pumpkin that's eventually stolen by a gigantic rabbit, Buttons the Bunny, delightfully played by Michael Magennis.

There is good support from Natalie Thorn as part of the ensemble but I did miss the sparkle and warmth of having a youngster troupe of performers. There is some clever energetic choreography by Holly Hughes that the cast embraces with enthusiasm.

Angela Laverick is the ideal Fairy Godmother that everyone would want to have to watch over them and, in a somewhat contrived casting, also plays Lady Hard Up, who has to renew her Fairy Godmother's licence.

Every good Panto needs a Dame and in Cinderella we have two in the shape of the Ugly Sisters, who arrive on stage on scooters. Oliver Broad returns to Newbury as Sister Bella, a tough Essex rogue, determined to beat her sister Stella (Danny Stokes) in finding a husband. The rivalry between them produces many hilarious comic scenes and they are a joy to watch.

The love interest comes from Emma Harrold as Cinderella and Alastair Hill as Prince Charming, both giving exemplary performances – they sing beautifully together.

Also returning is Amy Christina Murray who plays the gothic sulky chav rebel teenager Princess Charmless with aplomb and her tagline "whatever...".

The pumpkin transformation scene turning into a coach is a magical moment and we even had snow falling on the audience.

There are lots of local references, dreadful funny puns, a slapstick scene to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas and oodles of audience participation, including the traditional song sheet and a spirited musical score provided by Richard Baker and Bobby Goulder.

My two young companions really enjoyed the show. Maisie, aged six, "loved when they all got married at the end" and her favourite character was Princess Charmless. Nine-year-old Henry thought "it's funny and creative" and the Ugly Sisters "were super".

This show should certainly be on this year's Christmas wish list.


There is a review from The Stage ("decent music and fine singing in a static and safe show " - 2 stars).