dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Panto sprinkles a bit of magic dust
After a wait of nearly two years, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre's pantomime is back bringing its magic to the stage in Cinderella. Created by Imagine Theatre, this year's show is a festive extravaganza packed with all the ingredients for a pantomime – laughter, love, music, heroes and villains.
Brothers AJ and Curtis Pritchard are making their panto debut as Prince Charming and Dandini. AJ is certainly charming and showcases his Strictly Come Dancing talents but it would be good to see more of his personality showing through in the Prince. While panto is the world of stereotypes, it is the actors who can develop their role within that stereotype who go on to become huge panto stars. Curtis has a firmer hold on Dandini – he's the Prince's right hand man, determined the Prince will find his one true love.
Local girl Evie Pickerill is lovely as Cinderella. She may be downtrodden by her evil stepmother and stepsisters but she believes in love and goodness and, of course, in Pantoland these are the qualities that always win through. Tam Ryan is a loveable Buttons, winning the audience over from his first moment on stage and a perfect double act with Dame Penny Pockets played by Ian Adams.
Julie Stark's evil stepmother Baroness Hardup ramps up the drama, stalking around the stage, hissing at the audience and ensuring she is followed by boos wherever she goes. And Ella Biddlecome and Britt Lenting are hilarious as the superficial and spiteful sisters. Denise Pearson's Fairy Godmother waves her wand over all the proceedings and belts out some cracking songs to keep the show moving.
But in some ways, it is actually the set that has the starring role in this year's pantomime. Created by set and costume designer Mark Walters, video content designer Nina Dunn and lighting designer James Corbidge, it is a wonder to behold. Throughout the show, there are no physical changes but projecting different images onto the sets takes the audience from the village into Cinderella's kitchen, through a forest filled with flowers and flying butterflies into the magnificent ball. It is truly spectacular. Add into this a beautiful transformation scene as Cinderella's rags change to a stunning ballgown and the pumpkin becomes a carriage and it truly is the stuff of fairy tales.
Written and directed by Will Brenton, Cinderella is peppered with local references with Tam Ryan adding in a few more as he plays up various members of the audience. With all the 'it's behind you' and 'oh yes, it is' panto moments dotted through the show, Cinderella is the ideal family show this Christmas.