Friday, 31 December 2010

Cinderella Pantomime, White Rock Theatre, Hastings, Review 2010/2011

White Rock Theatre
Sat 11th Dec 2010 - Sun 2nd Jan 2011

Performance seen 31st December 2010


Buttons : Jimmy Osmond
Baron Hardup : Graham Sherman
Trinny : Ben Stock
Susannah : Gareth Wilde
Cinderella : Shinead Byrne
Dandini : Matt Dempsey
Prince Charming : Matt Wilman
Fairy Godmother : Amy Anzel
Lord Chamberlain : William Banyard
Churchill : As Himself

Ensemble : Aston Bradley, Kerry Histed, Matthew Holland, Charlotte Lee, Rebecca Tutt, Kane Verrall
Juveniles : The White Rock Babes

White Rock Theatre Pantomime 2010/2011 Cinderella CurtainOK that's it Cinderella mania comes to an end for me,
 at least in 2010. Now that all 3 shows have been seen each panto now has a star rating.

Having seen the star studded Eastbourne production I honestly didn't think anything was going to equal it in entertainment quality but well done to QDOS entertainment, the White Rock Theatre and the cast and team behind Cinderella for what was a brilliant end to 2010.

I was already aware this production was the only of the 3 Cinderellas I was seeing not to have a live band.

Having seen shows before where the artists sing to prerecorded music with backing vocals I have witnessed the poor quality that can occur as a result.

However, whilst I love appreciating a live band, QDOS have proved that you can have a 5 star production without employing any musicians.

This was nowhere near a capacity crowd on New Years Eve. But those that weren't pub crawling or celebrating the New Year at home with family still made up a good size appreciative audience. I do know that this show has achieved excellent audience numbers and that the final shows on 2nd Jan are fully booked. It was only the fact it was New Years Eve that this show wasn't better booked.

Taking the final bows Jimmy Osmond and Cinderella cast 2010Jimmy Osmond was quite a coup for Hastings as the star of their pantomime, probably one of the biggest names appearing in any UK panto.

I was never in any doubt as regards to this youngest Osmond brother's singing ability. What I couldn't get my head around was how they were going to build his own well known hits into such a traditional show.

This is where a very good script comes into play. His numbers work well with the Buttons/Cinders love story and making Buttons the cabaret at the ball gives the perfect excuse for a Jimmy Osmond medley of hits.

Now I know that many Americans can't get their head around the UK love of our pantomime tradition. Jimmy Osmond is an exception having now been in large productions for the past 3 years.

Very good at panto he is too! Despite being older than me ,with his cheesy grin and seemingly permanent youthful looks he also ,rather irritatingly, looks much younger than his age.

The older members of the audience really appreciated the great vocals and nostalgic old hits. The younger audience members didn't seem to care they weren't familiar with the hits clapping along to the music and appreciating Jimmy's acting and comedy ability as well as his music.

A lady behind me explained to her daughter that Jimmy Osmond was the 60's equivalent of today's Lady GaGa or Katy Perry. Mmmmm maybe a same sex comparison may have made more sense for starters?

Jimmy coming down into the audience and singing and dancing with audience members was a part of the show that got a great reception. Although to the 3 miserable women in the front row who all passed up the chance to have a once in a lifetime experience having a quick twirl with Jimmy what were you thinking? It was well deserved that you subsequently got a ribbing from Baron Hardup (comedian Graham Sherman) for being '3 miseries'.

Like Tunbridge Wells we had to resort to the water pistols at one stage for a bit of humour. OK I do personally find this desperate, but I'm also not one of those wingers in the audience who is going to complain about a drop of water.

Besides, I found it somewhat surreal that Jimmy Osmond was standing down in the stalls right in front of me squirting me in the face. It's not something that happens every day that's for sure!

I've mentioned Graham Sherman already. I know in some reviews he has been described as the star of the show. I don't know about that as it is just a great overall production but there is absolutely no doubt he is a very funny man indeed and a real asset to this pantomime.

Taking the final bows Jimmy Osmond and Cinderella cast 2010Comedians nearly always build a few local places into their routine. Graham is no exception but he had clearly done a lot of work into putting many familiar localities into the hilarious script. I found the vast majority of the material to be fresh, funny and yes even cringe worthy at times as many of the best jokes are.

Graham, as is tradition, undertakes the "audience call outs" and the childrens' goodie bag sections of the show which are equally professional and entertaining in delivery.

Cinders is played by a young lady with a beautiful voice, Shinead Byrne. It's a lovely, well played, role and I can't fault her performance at all. I couldn't help feeling that, unlike the other two shows, she starts off looking more like Snow White than Cinderella both in appearance and costume but that is a minor qualm.

A good moment here to mention Cinderella's coach and Shetland ponies. A beautiful way to end the first half. This is a beautifully lit coach and the cast did what Tunbridge Wells should learn. They led the lovely ponies pulling the coach on from the wings and then turned them to come towards the front of the stage so that the audience could fully appreciate them before the curtain came down.

Churchill (the well known insurance company mascot) makes an appearance in the second part of the show. The company sponsors the production and fortunately the "Oh Yes" and "Oh No" sequence is short lived.

The ugly sisters, Trinny and Susannah, are nothing short of superb. Ben Stock and Gareth Wilde look brilliant in their diverse range of wacky costumes and the rapport between these two fine actors works well throughout the show.

The great thing about this panto is that the cast ,when things don't go quite according to plan, know what to do to get even more laughs. Trinny and Susannah are masters of unscheduled mirth and Jimmy Osmond  proved why he would never have made it as a baseball pitcher as he threw props the wrong way.

Matt Dempsey and Matt Wilman are great as Dandini and Prince Charming and it made a change having an American actress, Amy Anzel, as a very glamorous Fairy Godmother.

Watching 3 versions of the same pantomime has actually been quite interesting in seeing different variations of the same theme. The Fairy Godmother role being one of the most differing. Eastbournes funny, scatty, heavily used version. Tunbridge Wells more refined 'posher' take on her with the emphasis more on vocals than on humour. Finally Hastings truly glamorous fairy, not heavily scripted, when she appears its always with a pyrotechnic flash in true fairy fashion.

Actually I think I also ought to praise here the pyrotechnics which were used on many occasions but not overused and which were very effective. Loved Jimmy Osmonds 'firework spraying' keyboard too !!

The dry ice control man at the White Rock also seemed to have better control of his 'fog' than the other theatres did.

There is also one further thing I liked about this show and that is that local kids are given the chance to have their moment of acting glory. Both the other productions use the very talented youngsters from the Deborah Lamb Theatre School. Nothing wrong with that, they are always excellent. However the local kids who had auditioned for the Hastings show did just as good as job and hopefully made many parents very proud.

This show was a pleasant surprise for us. Hastings with their 2010/2011 panto didn't just get a top quality celebrity performer. The town got a premium quality production which was well cast with a continuously entertaining script too.

Final thanks go to Jimmy Osmond for the unscheduled signing he did for Great Ormond Street Childrens Hospital. Despite not being prearranged, a crowd of people, poor lighting and his family waiting we still managed to achieve this for a worthy cause. Thanks Jimmy! If you are a fan of the Osmonds clicking my picture of Jimmy with the card will give you details of how you may wish to bid on a unique collector's item during 2011 and help sick children in the process.
Jimmy Osmond, Buttons in Cinderella supports GOSH
5 out of 5 for Cinderella pantomime Hastings 2010/2011
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  1. Our family decided to see the Panto at the last minute - and it made our Christmas. We laughed all the way through, sang along and acted like kids for the whole of the show. It was the best Panto we have been to - and we have seen some big London shows! I suffer with chronic depression - but if you could bottle up the feel-good factor that this show gave out - no-one would feel down, ever again! Don't let us down White Rock, you MUST have another show this year !!!

  2. I hope this year that the musicians out of work, due to them not being hired for panto season, are able to afford to go and enjoy the show; or in fact able to afford Christmas. Killing livelihoods for the sake of MP3! Imagine how good the show would have been with musicians - the interaction, the gag falls from the percussionist, etc. No one, especially critics should support such a move.


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