Having a ball at the Playhouse
CHRIS STYLES REVIEWS CINDERELLA AT PLAYHOUSE WHITLEY BAY
WHEN a panto hits the mark it is a real joy. The Playhouse festive show has grown over the years into a professional and polished production, but this year is a big improvement on previous successful years.
The staging and production of the show fulfils an aspirational ambition, with new costumes throughout, which make a noticeable difference.
The choreography and its execution is impressive and as a spectacle, it is light years ahead of the first Playhouse pantomime by Blue Genie Productions seven years ago.
On thing hasn’t changed over that time, though – it is still a traditional panto through and through, with quickfire gags, comedy routines, singing and dancing and, above all, audience participation.
The cast is strong throughout and their interaction, even at the start of a long festive run, is central to an impressive performance which is pitched perfectly to the family audience.
Steve Walls returns to the Playhouse once again and is central to the entertainment. He is joined this year by Ray Quinn, who X Factor aficionados may remember came second in the contest in 2006, at a time when the show was a must-watch for a massive Saturday night audience.
Coming second that year is put into context as the eventual winner was Leona Lewis. He may have been runner-up on that occasion, but his talents certainly take centre stage on the Whitley Bay stage.
The slapstick which is central of every good panto comes from the gloriously outrageous and extravagant ugly sisters Tom Rolfe and
Damien Patton, ably supported by Ben Hanson as a terrific Dandini.
The production is a real team effort, though, and everyone on the stage played their part in making the creative vision of the production team into a belting night out for the family.
The odd hiccup on stage was turned into a moment of comedy by a cast who thought on their collective feet.
There are new comedy routines – including one which incorporates cooking, gardening and keep fit – and the return of one which has become synonymous with Christmas in Whitley Bay.
The challenge for anyone staging Cinderella is how to believably portray the scene when Cinders goes off to the ball and the step up in production values is obvious in this brief, but impressive, moment.
And the sign of a good panto is that it builds towards a finale of the audience yelling in full-throated fashion at the stage and this production certainly ticks that box.
The Whitley Bay panto has an extended run this year and word is that ticket sales are matching that ambition.
I’m not surprised – it is a triumph and a show which really makes Christmas go with a swing.
Cinderella runs until Saturday, January 7.