Cinderella, Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Review by Nicola Taylor
FRESH from Walford and discovering the identity of Kat's secret lover (it was Derek!), Alfie Moon, alias Shane Richie returns to Southend for his second consecutive star turn in panto.
This year he plays Buttons in Cinderella, which, as has become the Cliffs Theatre's trademark, is a lavish, high quality production which will appeal to all members of the family.
Ritchie's assured and affable manner carry the panto smoothly. His slick one-liners, rapport with the audience, and set comic sconces, including one with a 'would-be' Pudsey performing dog, are first rate.
His and other cast members' familiarity with the theatre and its audience (Carly Day who plays Cinderella and Peter Piper who is Baron Hardup were also in last year's show) make for a relaxed atmosphere among the ensemble, who work together superbly.
Peter Piper's impressions of David Attenborough and Basil Fawlty are spot-on, and give a new twist to the role of Cinderella's bemused father.
The ugly sisters – Tulisa and Nicole – are gloriously vile. They are played by Nathan Kiley and Andrew Dyer who must have watched endless episodes of TOWIE to perfect their Essex accents and lingo, which together with their astonishing costumes - the Cornetto and Tunstall wafer creations being my favourites - and pure spite towards Cinderella make them truly memorable characters.
While the plot sticks closely to the traditional story, a very modern twist is added in the form of 3D special effects. While I found them rather an unnecessary diversion, their quality is superb and aroused many squeals of delight from the children in the audience.
I would not be surprised if every panto in the land includes the global viral hit Gangnam Style. The Cliffs is no exception and their full-on choregraphed version led by Richie during the ball scene had many audience members on their feet.
The traditionalists among us were not disappointed. This production has lavish sets, a fabulous tableau scene when Cinders gets her wish and is whisked off to the ball in a massive coach pulled by two real ponies, a suitably glamorous and tuneful Fairy Godmother in the form of Nicky Adams, and a dashing Prince Charming and loyal friend Dandini played ably by Dom Hodson and Gary Amers respectively.
Cinderella runs until Sunday, January 6, 2013. Bookings on 01702 351135.