Hav­ing a ball at the Play­house

CHRIS STYLES RE­VIEWS CIN­DERELLA AT PLAY­HOUSE WHIT­LEY BAY

The Chronicle - - What’s On -

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.

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