Cinderella, but will you have a ball?
He's baaaaaaack! Justin Fletcher returns to Reading to star in Cinderella. But who needs a glass slipper when a pair of ballet shoes and a balloon bring the house down.
Reading’s panto is a red hot tradition in the Muddy house, fuelled largely by the purchase of flashing spinny things, popcorn (apologies for the mess under seat H61, we had a spillage) and the much-anticipated ‘12 Days Of Christmas’ showstopper that involves water pistols, toilet rolls and a bra that’s ‘made to fit three’. It’s an oldie but a goodie and always gets a lorra laughs.
But this year, they’ve amped up the LOLs and sprinkled the show in more glitter than a Strictly final. In fact, they’ve created a whole new Crimbo genre… the banto – Cinderella at The Hexagon in Reading is a glorious mash up of ballet, balloon, banter and panto. Trust me, you’re going to love it.
CBeebies demigod Justin Fletcher is back and he’s been reunited with award-winning dame Paul Morse – a glam man in a dress with the finest pair of pins in the biz. In fact, this year, both stars – playing Buttons and Nanny Cuddles – show a lot of leg when they slip into a pair of 100 deniers for the funniest scene I have ever seen on stage. Only one word is spoken, followed by some extraordinary moves. It’s the kind of choreographed slapstick that really tickles and confirmation, if it were needed, that Justin and Paul (or JuPaul, as I like to call them) are a double act made in panto heaven.
I won’t spoil the Balloon Ballet for you, but Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev will be turning in their graves – ‘There’s a reason why they’ve never asked you to do Strictly, Tumble,’ bellows Paul.
What makes this year so special? Well, Justin has turned his talents to writing and although it’s a subtle gear change, there’s something about this Cinderella that is pure gold. The set pieces are sharper, the perennial faves like the sloppy slosh scene seem funnier (helped by Nanny C falling on her arse and losing her wig), great songs and more energy and fun than a night out on the vodka Red Bull.
The show is also packed full of cracking singers. You often find there’s always one hitting a bum note. In all honesty, I couldn’t fault with any of them – and I was listening really hard. Cinders (Gracie Johnson) and her handsome Prince Charming (Carl Tracey ), the Fairy Godmother/ Wicked Stepmother (Rachel Delooze), Dandini (Adam Pettigrew) and the Ugly Sisters (Emma Jane Wylde and Kate Eaves) were all pitch perfect. I know, a rarity.
The highlights? Well, aside from Justin, who does a phenomenal job as our Cinders’ BFF, the moment Cinderella and Prince Charming sign as they sing to each other incredibly moving. In recent years, The Hexagon has added signed and relaxed performances for deaf and autistic children to the schedule, but I think this was the first time, any of the songs have been signed. Another Justin influence, and the show was richer for it.
Special mention to the Ugly Sisters – they could’ve stepped out of the Love Island villa. Traditionally seen as a couple of grotesque geezers, Emma Jane Wylde and Kate Eaves have a blast playing the ‘beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside’ role perfectly – spoiled, brattish and mean.
The set’s impressive too. Someone clearly had a lot of fun with a pot of glitter. Unfortunately the cast are on a diet of baked beans for this run because the set designers spent the show’s entire budget on one mega surprise. I won’t ruin it, but it has the wow factor. Justin and the team have waved their magic wand and *poof* created panto perfection. Next year’s Beauty & The Beast has a lot to live up to.
Cinderella, The Hexagon, Queens Walk, Reading RG1 7UA. Tel 0118 960 6060.
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