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Cinderella and The Snow Queen reviewed

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Well you think you’ve signed off for the year, and then whaddya know –  you sit bolt upright at 2am remembering there are two Christmas shows you need to tell your readers about!

If you haven’t booked a panto yet, Cinderella at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre is a real crowd pleaser. It was shockful of, um, celebs, the headliners being Suzanne Shaw and Russell Grant, but as usual the main star of the show, when unleashed during the second half was local stalwart Andy Collins, (below centre) who has Panto Pro written through him like a stick of rock.

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Suzanne Shaw was charming enough, though her delivery became a bit one dimensional and shrill after a while (in fairness she wasn’t helped by a script that kept forcing her into irritating rhyming couplets). Her real worth came in the big number at the end of the first half when she sang Let It Go, with Cinders Holly Brewer. The set twinkled beautifully,  glitter fell from the ceiling, the music soared… was a real spine tingler.

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As so often in panto, it’s hard to balance the two halves of the performance. The first act of Cinderella rattled along well enough but I think the script needs a comedy injection – some of the jokes fell a bit flat. But once Let It Go let rip, things really started to take off, and the second half was fantastic family fun, with a long ghost sequence that had all my kids shouting in their chairs and the obligatory ‘Bra that was made to fit three’ song from Andy Collins. There were slightly too many songs from the charts – Pharrell Williams’ Happy, that John Legend song, One Direction to end –  which threatened to tip it over into karoake territory  but the children all loved them, so I’ll just belt up about that.

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What of the other cast members? Russell Grant is a lovely man who I interviewed two years ago when he was on Strictly but my goodness he’s still milking that appearance like a prize Jersey – given the new series has just ended and he was nowhere near it, it felt disingenuous to be having the theme music and jokes about him and Flavia. Meanwhile Holly Brewer has a cracking voice but (in my humble opinion) could do to smile more while singing and dancing Cinderella – she always looks a little serious, and her dance moves are resolutely 2014, s if she’s threatening to rip her bodice off at any time and perform for the X Factor judges.

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By the way, a big pat on the back for Prince Charming, played by Andrew Derbyshire, who was a semi-finalist in Britain’s Got Talent and was really great – a good comic actor, a strong voice, looked the part, and seemed to be having a lot of fun. The ugly sisters gave good panto too.

Cinderella at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre - Christmas 2014

Between Cinders Aylebury and Dick Whittington High Wycombe it’s a close call actually – Dick Whittington edged the first half and Cinders knocked out the second. Shane Ritchie in Dick was by far the most amusing and replete panto celeb, but Cinderella had fantastic sparkly sets and the better ugly sisters and that’ ghost sequence.

You can’t go wrong with either of them to be honest – I continue to bow to panto as the most fantastic family entertainment, a way to introduce young kids to theatre, and have a real belly laugh together.  Why should you choose? Go and see them both!

PS A quick post-script to say that I also went to Pegasus Theatre last week to see The Snow Queen (7+) with my 12 year old son and it was fantastic.

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Not a panto, but a Christmas play based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, but it’s dramatic, well acted, funny in places (though the thrust is dramatic) and perfectly pitched for children at 1 hr 35 (which includes the interval). The four actors play children acting out the story of Kai, taken by the Snow Queen, and his friend Gerda who goes to rescue him, so it’s a play within a play and we loved it. Obviously much less expensive than panto (£6-18) so if budgets are an issue post-Christmas definitely keep this one in mind.

Cinderella £11.90 – £30.40. Buy tickets

 

 

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