Theatre Royal, St. Helens – until Sunday April 15th 2018. Reviewed by Julie Noller
Cinderella – who doesn’t love a fairytale? Who doesn’t love Panto? Wait… Panto? In March? You may be confused with the timing but if you’re looking for escapism over the Easter holidays then this is the perfect family show for you. We arrived in St. Helens on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The theatre is ideally situated in the centre of town for both uber cheap car parks and the main bus station directly opposite. There’s a shopping centre should you want to take your little ones for a pre-show meal (as the later performance is 5pm – highly recommended).
We were surrounded by Princesses and Pirates and this was my first visit to St. Helens Theatre Royal, I felt welcomed. All staff are friendly and engaging, the children were encouraged to join in and it was great to see so many local performers on stage and know they were genuinely cheered on. It may be a small town theatre but it’s heart is huge. The speeches by the performers at the end had the audience reaching into their pockets to donate to help with the theatres roof replacement.
Lewis Devine as Buttons with his catch phrase ‘I say But, you say…. Tons’ worked hard from the outset to engage with every audience member. His magic worked and it was fantastic to hear each and every child shouting out with pure enjoyment, not to mention hearing parents giggle at his naughtiness. Special mention must go to Trevor the pony who gave a fantastic interview and even cheekily left a little present on stage much to the children’s delighted squeals. So Buttons is in love with Cinderella played by the delicately petite Georgina Parkinson whose quirky voice and huge smile reminded me of a young Barbara Windsor, especially when Cinders dons her ballgown and pink wig. Alas she loves Buttons only as a Brother and more than anything seeks real love. Poor Buttons. We turn next to the Dames, everyone’s favourites the dastardly evil Kardashian sisters aka Ugly Sisters brilliantly portrayed by Si Foster and Mark Newell, the costumes are superbly cheap and tacky, colours bright and bold in contrast to Cinderellas rags. I couldn’t take my eyes off that strategically placed pink fluffy heart. Of course as with Panto we wait for the slip ups and the loss of that very extravagant wig had us in stitches as did Buttons shouting ‘keep your hair on slap head’. Samantha Palin as our Fairy Godmother with, as usual, the perfect glittery dress (I admit suggesting it for Prom) all those years aboard flagship cruise liners shows as she is more than comfortable up on stage singing and delighting us. My surprise was when Dandini took up the microphone with a voice I just wasn’t expecting, wow. Dandini the Princes right hand man, snobby and highly above his station. He makes you cheer on the Prince who of course is played by Lee Latchford-Evans, famed for being a member of the ever popular Steps. He took all the references to those classic Steps tracks in his thigh slapping stride, his smile never faltering. He was thoroughly enjoying himself on stage, there was joking and sniggering. Solo songs, duets and group dances. And then he gave an impassioned plea to support local theatre, Cinderella at Theatre Royal is perfect for introducing your little ones to live entertaining theatre. Those pennies will be well spent for some great Easter fun, perhaps as an “eggstra” special gift? You never know you may be a lucky recipient of a golden ticket, be called on stage to meet Buttons and even leave with a little gift.
Finally we were encouraged to get our phones out and share the finale over social media, it was the perfect ending and had us all singing and even remembering those dance moves. Of course it was a Steps medley proudly led by Lee. I left with a huge beaming smiling still humming and showing off to my daughter that I remembered and even she got why I giggled over our seat numbers… 5,6,7,8 and kept singing them.