Panto returned to the London Palladium this year and in August, we booked tickets for Cinderella.
Arriving at 2pm for the 2.30pm matinee, we found long queues waiting for the doors to open. Once in, we were quickly served at the bar (a small bottle of prosecco £10) with interval drinks ordered.
Looking around, we were pleased to see mainly an adult audience (98%) but when the schools break up, it’s likely change considerably – although at £75 a ticket for the back stalls, it’s not a cheap family outing.
Despite people still queuing for their seats, the show started promptly. The story is well known, but the scenery, special effects (complete with flying horses) and sparkly, colourful costumes were exceptional. Julian Clary, as Dandini, had around 10 changes with each becoming more flamboyant. He must have required a couple of dressers to help him quickly change into the complicated outfits.
The panto had a stellar cast. Paul O’Grady was superb as a nasty Baroness Hardup and Amanda Holden a beautiful Fairy Godmother. Posh Nigel Havers, the Lord Chamberlain, was constantly wanting more lines as “I’ve played in the Royal Shakespeare Company you know.” But for me, the surprising star was someone I’d never heard of. Paul Zerdin (who apparently won America’s Got Talent) played Buttons along with his ventriloquist’s dummy Sam and had some great sketches including an act with two stooges from the audience who he turned into dummies.
Prince Charming was Lee Meade (famous as being Mr Denise Van Outen) and Cinderella, Natasha Barnes who shot to fame understudying for Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl. Despite these being the main parts, it was hard for them to compete with the others.
I also wasn’t keen on Baron Hardup, played by Count Arthur Strong. But maybe that was because I’m not familiar with his radio and TV character.
It was a typical panto with lots of adult humour and innuendo, but so subtle, unlikely to offend grannie and grandpa.
Once song and dance with Julian, Count A-S, Nigel, Amanda and Paul was incredibly funny with timing which must have taken hours to perfect. Tissues were required to mop the tears in our eyes.
If you are going or get the chance to go, it is well worth the price. Just be prepared for children with weak bladders!