Milton Keynes Theatre has built up a reputation for slick, successful pantomimes over the last few years with stars such as Bradley Walsh, Henry Winkler and even Priscilla Presley delighting audiences.
But as the same shows come round year after year, keeping them fresh is the biggest challenge. Having reviewed the panto every year for the last decade, I was looking forward to this year’s panto, Cinderella, but expected it to be very familiar to previous productions.
I’m delighted to say this is a brilliantly original show which has all the elements of a great panto but with lots of content you wont have seen before. The actual story of Cinderella may not have the most complicated plot but it’s told with sincerity by a fantastic cast who have genuine chemistry on stage.
Comedy legend and pantomime veteran Brian Conley stars as Buttons alongside fashion guru Gok Wan who is perfectly cast as the fairy ‘Gokmother’, using his makeover skills to transform Cinders from rags to riches as a princess. It’s the third year the pair have worked together, although Brian has played Buttons an incredible 15 times before! He’s completely at home on the panto stage and doesn’t have to try hard to make Gok laugh or distract him from his lines!
Like any good pantomime, the story elements are magical and sparkly with beautiful staging, a live orchestra and some spectacular effects – look out for Cinderella’s amazing flying coach and some great magic tricks. There’s even a performing horse which has been shoehorned randomly into the story. But what makes it memorable is the fun in between the story scenes, and this show has buckets of genuinely hilarious moments which will leave you with an aching face from grinning stupidly throughout the show.
There are plenty of chances to boo and hiss but the funniest moments are the ones that you couldn’t script. On the opening night, when Cinderella’s invite to the ball was torn up, someone in the audience shouted out “Get some sellotape” and Buttons quipped “It’s not been invented yet!” The rest of the cast are equally brilliant – Lauren Hall is an excellent Cinderella and Ben Stock and Neal Wright are great as the very nasty Ugly Sisters.
There’s plenty for the grown-ups to enjoy and children will be transfixed by this beautiful and magical fairy tale. Don’t miss it!
Cinderella runs until 14th January at Milton Keynes Theatre.