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Cinderella Cast Have a Ball!

Buttons (Matt Watson) and friends. Photo by Martin Pulley.

Cinderella, Rugby Theatre, from 19 - 28 January 2024

Review by Ann Evans


Congratulations to the Rugby Theatre for putting on yet another fabulous production. This time it was the Panto Cinderella, written by Kevin Bright and directed by Emma Bright which opened last night to a full house.

There was all the traditional characters we know and love but delightfully the Rugby cast  had created their own original versions with some hilarious personalities, quirks and  mannerisms that gave the show a certain edge in entertainment value.

Not only a witty script but the actors played their parts to perfection – and not just the key roles either. The Town Crier (Senga Veasey) was perfect for the role. She didn’t smile but she certainly brought smiles and laughter from the audience whenever she was on stage.

Town Crier (Senga Veasey), The Prince (Kirsty Bright) and Dandini (Rosie Fuller) Photo by Martin Pulley.

The cast member who played the Postie amongst other parts (Adam Rowinski) was hilarious in that role particularly, and my personal favourite– the wicked stepmother Baroness Hardup played brilliantly by Ann Cooper. She was a force to be reckoned with and truly hilarious. She absolutely knew how to make an audience laugh simply by walking across the stage!

The Baroness complimented the two ugly – sorry, beautiful sisters, Camembeth (Kevin Bright) and Gorgonzolia (John Tweddle) really well. They were also great in their roles, working well as a team which the audience rightly loved. So not just two ‘baddies’ in this Cinderella, but a troublesome trio that Cinderella has to deal with.

Baron Hardup (Ash Hirons) and Baroness Hardup (Ann Cooper) Photo by Martin Pulley.

Cinderella is played by Emily Stafford, and she knew how to handle herself too. This isn’t a whimsical, timid Cinders, more a very practical Cinderella with a very good singing voice once first night nerves were out of the way. And Buttons (Matt Watson) might by scared of spiders and the dark, but he could play guitar and rocked the hall with his version of Buttons be Good, instead of Johnny be Good, which was brilliant!

Fairy Godmother (Beth Amos) and Cinderella (Emily Stafford) Photo by Martin Pulley.

As for the chorus of dancers – from little ones to seniors, they put on a wonderful show of dancing. There were some great choices of music, excellent choreography and lovely colourful costumes. Choreography was by Carrie Gamble, assistant choreographer was Kristel Bianco and musical director Caroline Tavinor. They ensured there were lots of magical moments and some very entertaining dance routines. My favourites being the little forest spirits, and the masked dancers at the Prince’s Ball. Also, something I hadn’t seen in a panto before was the full cast doing a dance routine to Adam Ant’s song, Prince Charming – very appropriate and atmospheric at the Prince’s Ball.

Bailiff Michael Read and villager Alar Allik. Photo by Martin Pulley.

The thigh-slapping Prince was played very dashingly by Kirsty Bright and Dandini was played by Rosie Fuller. Now normally Dandini is merely the Prince’s sidekick without much to say, so it was fantastic to see that this Dandini was funny, talkative and full of character, a worthy servant to the Prince! Oh, and the pantomime horse Dobbin (Suzanne Swan and Alar Allik) was fabulous!

Gorgonzolie (John Tweddle), Camembeth (Kevin Bright) and Postie (Adam Rowinski). Photo Martin Pulley.

The Fairy Godmother (Beth Amos) was very sweet with her forgetful ways, but she performed some real magic when Cinderella changes from her raggedy dress into a long silk gown before your very eyes – no dimmed lights, no bright flashes, just some increasingly dramatic ballet from Cinderella and the dancers – and she is suddenly and magically transformed into a gorgeous princess. Okay, so my eight-year-old granddaughter, Anya, sitting next to me, explained how it was done, but it was a magical moment and very impressive!

Well done also Baron Hardup (Ash Hirons) – not least for putting up with his wife! The two squabbling bailiffs (Michael Read and Laura Hopwood) and all the cast who all made their roles their own.

Cinderella and sisters. Photo by Martin Pulley.

Not forgetting too, the team behind the scenes and front of house – those already mentioned plus Stage Manager Pete Mobbs, scenic designers Mike Derville, Peter Privet, John Dulcamara and the team; lighting designer Andy Harness; sound by The AV Team; special effects Matt Rowe and Rachel Rowe; properties Pru Javis and Allan Oakes, costumes Sue Henry and the wardrobe team; make up and wigs Emma Marshall, Kelly Taylor and the make-up team. The band comprised of Musical Director/keyboards Caroline Tavinor, Drums Robin Payne, Guitar Tilly Coles, Bass guitar Raz Goodwin, Brass Tim Sell.

Cinderella and little mouse dancers. Photo Martin Pulley.

While pantomimes might be intended for the youngsters, the adults had a fabulous night too, but the final word from eight-year-old Anya, who said: “It was very funny and they were very good actors. My favourite part was the sisters having a make-up fight!”

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