It’s been a THOUSAND YEARS since I last saw a pantomime!
OK, well that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly feels like it. The last one I can recall was when I was 6-years-old, so I’m well overdue a festive visit to see a panto.
The idea of slapstick ‘comedy’ that is set to the predictable script of every pantomime everywhere has never really appealed to me. Not to mention, the fact that cheesy songs are thrown into the mix and frustratingly one-dimensional characters litter the stage. It’s pretty much an aspiring actor’s nightmare…
BUT having watched a panto for the first time in a VERY long time, (a bit older, wiser and a bit more laid back), I can finally appreciate it for what it is. A jolly good classic English laugh!
I went to see the Cinderella Rock ‘n’ Roll panto at the City Varieties in Leeds last night, after years of hearing about the pantomime concept. The actors are also the band – what a great fun idea! Especially perfect for a rock ‘n’ roll themed panto…
Cinderella Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto
The thing that drew me to the pantomime at the City Varieties Music Hall is that it is a rock ‘n’ roll panto. The cast is also the band, so you get a load of multi-talented performers on stage.
The rock ‘n’ roll genre means you get to enjoy classic songs such as ‘Downtown’ and ‘Will you still love me tomorrow’, instead of the likes of ‘Let it Go’. All the while booing and hissing at the bad guys and cheering and laughing at the good ones.
Even though I’ve known the story of Cinderella all of my life, I completely forgot how much the storyline lends to such a funny pantomime plot. Predominantly, the sass of the evil stepmother and the crudeness of the ugly stepsisters.
The evil stepmother, Rubella Disease played by Katia Sartini, was a diva. She was the classic villain with an evil plot, but I kind of wanted her to win just because she had such fabulous costumes.
We were constantly waiting for the next time that the ugly stepsisters would be onstage. The stepsisters are always funny, but the combination of Scott Haining and Matthew James Hinchcliffe as Vercua and Hernia, was hilarious. With one sister being cockney and vulgar, and the other being from Somerset and gruff, they were the least lady-like stepsisters you could wish for.
Highlights have to be their brash and aggressive rendition of ‘It’s Raining Men’ that left us grinning the whole way through. They may not have been featured as much s other characters, but I would have happily watched a full show dedicated to them.
Special mention has to go to the moment when sweet Cinderella introduces herself to them and says “but everyone calls me Cinders”. Then Hernia proceeds to, completely out of the blue, aggressively pronounce, “yeah, well we’ll call you slag.”
It was the last thing I was expecting in a family show and I don’t think I stopped laughing for a good three minutes. ‘Crying with laughter’ was pretty much the effect that the stepsister duo had on me every time they walked on stage.
On the outside it may seem like pantomimes are made for children. But let’s be real. They’re totally for the adults.
There is so much smut insinuated (and sometimes directly said) that just goes over the top of children’s heads. But this is why pantomimes are perfect fun for the whole family. They keep the kids entertained with the whimsical nature of the story but give the old folks a good chuckle with the dirty jokes thrown in.
While there was no Dame in this pantomime, there was the Mayor of Leeds, Baron Hardon… I mean, Hardcore… I mean Hardup. Oh, who cares – he was a randy old man who beat up his servant, Buttons, on the reg and tricked Rubella Disease into thinking he had money so he could get in her pants. But he is a ‘good guy’ so we let him off, don’t worry! (Oh, panto logic…)
Special mention goes to Cinderella and Prince Charming, played by Grace Lancaster and Alex Wingfield. They were suitably naive and likeable, with great voices to match. A perfect prince and princess duo.
Other special mentions go to Tom Connor as Dandini, who had a great presence every time he stepped on stage. It would have been nice to see more of his character featured. The Fairy Godmother was suitably bubbly and adorable, played by the infectiously sweet Rachel Nottingham.
I can’t forget to mention the (apparently) long time panto veteran Kenny Davies as Buttons. I always wonder if Buttons will get the girl in pantomimes sometimes, but alas this time Buttons didn’t. Instead, his happy ending resulted in him making off with the keys for running Leeds, and we should all be very concerned… he’ll probably do a worse job than our current government.
Can I also just take a moment to mention the ‘Towncrier of Harrogate’? He may have had a brief cameo towards the end of the show with a grand total of four lines. But I was in hysterics. So, bravo Leo Elso! Proof that there are no small parts, only small actors.
All in all, the Cinderella Rock ‘n’ Roll panto at City Varieties Musical Hall is exactly what you expect from a good old fashioned panto. It’s a raucous good laugh with dirty jokes for the parents and their infamous Boulder Battle for the kids. But the added twist of the actor-musicians and the rock ‘n’ roll classics make this a fun panto with a twist.