Cinderella The Panto

December 1, 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Melodious

Church Hill Theatre: Wed 30 Nov – Sat 3 Dec 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Balerno Theatre Company’s Christmas show at the Church Hill is a treat for all ages. Cinderella The Panto is stuffed full of tunes, features some pleasingly old-school pantomime business and is performed with a great deal of heart.

The title of writer-director Audrey Jones’s version of the much-loved fairy tale seems unnecessary, since few would expect a production of Cinderella from a local theatre company at this time of year to be anything other than a pantomime. However, since Balerno’s festive offering last year was a musical, it is perhaps meant to reassure.

A scene from Balerno TC’s Cinderella The Pantomime. Pic Mark McKenzie-Smith

There are certainly enough of the requisite panto ingredients to satisfy most, but somebody somewhere obviously still hankered after putting on another musical – the song-and-dance numbers are numerous, mostly drawn from that genre and largely played pretty straight. They feature some tremendous dancing from the huge ensemble, excellently choreographed by Laura Blair.

This does mean that the focus is more on Cinderella and Prince Charming that might often be the case; they probably have one featured duet too many for the younger members of the audience, but they both impress.

Kirsten Keggie’s Cinders is tuneful and sympathetic without being the drippily put-upon version that the character can become. Michael Davies’s Prince is more cynically self-obsessed than charming, but he quickly forms an easy rapport with the audience, like so many of the cast.

Puss in Boots

The usual audience identification figure in the story, Buttons, is completely absent and replaced inexplicably by Puss in Boots. Quite how Puss fits in is never convincingly established, but Fay Marshall grows into the role as the evening progresses, turning in a performance of considerable comic and melodic presence.

A scene from Balerno TC’s Cinderella The Pantomime. Pic Mark McKenzie-Smith

Jones’s version stays close to the expected storyline, with plenty of crowd-pleasing set pieces. However, there are some other peculiar additions. One of these is an introduction apparently designed to excuse some of the more dated elements, but which merely serves to draw attention to them.

However, the prologue does give an opportunity to Lorraine Kempton’s Granny and to two youngsters, Erin Kempton and Alex Dunlop (who shares his role with Robert Lauder). The young performers (like the others in the production) acquit themselves admirably.

Most of these youngsters feature as a troupe of Haggises in another subplot, but it is unfortunate that their number is one of those when the sound balance is not what it might be. MD James McCutcheon (who arranged the original score of Crawford T Moyes) and his band are indefatigably energetic, but the vocals are drowned out on occasion.

realism

The other featured roles are discharged with skill. Ade Smith’s Baron is beautifully pitched. There is an unusual degree of realism to Jessica Russell’s Baroness, which does have the unfortunate side-effect of the audience seeming reluctant to boo her; overall, the audience interaction side of things could be increased just a smidgeon.

A scene from Balerno TC’s Cinderella The Pantomime. Pic Mark McKenzie-Smith

Tamara Irving’s Fairy Godmother is magically regal, while Scott Wilson’s Dandini (like the Prince, sadly always played by a man nowadays) has an impressive, comically hangdog air. Susanna Kusiak’s Lady Alicia, meanwhile, does a good job of her featured number.

There are some judicious local references, although the topical jokes are few and far between, and seem to be pitched more at an audience a lot further south.

No complaints about the Sisters (Paul Calder and George Mackie), whose command of traditional comic business (and some very traditional jokes) is first-rate. Their closing Twelve Days of Christmas routine with the Baron – which is entirely a stranger to subtlety or to Health and Safety – is an object lesson in how to do a panto set piece.

Jones’s direction is similarly exemplary, with real pace to the production. Good use is made of the LED screen, although employing it to provide a more-or-less appropriate visual reflection of every single song does begin to seem like overkill.

The overall effect is hugely positive, however, as are the results of the sterling efforts of all concerned with this production.

Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 30 November – Saturday 3 December 2022
Evenings at 7.30 pm, Matinee Sat 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here

Company website: https://www.balernotheatrecompany.co.uk
Facebook: @balernotheatrecompany
Instagram: @balernotheatrecompany

ENDS

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