State Theatre until July 15
There’s nothing like a good ol’ pantomime to stimulate the theatrical senses and evoke memories of early childhood interactive experiences, and it’s nice contrast to attend as an adult.
Bonnie Lythgoe, executive producer/director of Cinderella at the State Theatre, is clearly passionate about traditional panto.
The opening night audience seemed to consist equally of celebrities and members of the media, children with their parents and young, gay men. With the Ugly Stepsisters being played by male actors in drag, it was a bit like Priscilla Queen of the Desert Meets The Wiggles.
All of the characters have been well-cast and most of the performers are triple threats who are reliable without being remarkable. Jaime Hadwen is perfect as the blonde, sweet Cinderella, as is Tim Maddren’s Prince Charming. In this production, there is a character that I don’t remember from any other version of Cinderella. Dandini (Jimmy Rees) is Prince Charming’s off-sider/best friend, and with the elaborate costumes and the way in which this panto is played, he seems to be a far more appropriate romantic match for Prince Charming than Cinderella. Perhaps Dandini is less a best friend and more a “special friend”.
The “box-office” appeal is provided by Gina Liano (Real Housewives of Melbourne) as Grizelda The Evil Stepmother. Peter Everett camps it up as Baron Hardup, and he obviously relishes his involvement. The Ugly Stepsisters are played by Josh Adamson and Craig Bennett. With her powerful stage presence and strong voice is Lara Mulcahey as the Fairy Godmother.
The stand-out performer is Londoner Kev Orkian as Buttons, who serves as the narrator who breaks the fourth wall and provokes enthusiastic, interactive responses from the audience. Orkian’s experience is very apparent as he demonstrates his adeptness at improvisation.
As with all good pantomimes, some of the dialogue is topical, and there are mentions of Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson which will amuse adult audience members. If you are partial to the weak pun (excuse the tautology), this is the show for you. There are a hundred “boom-tish” moments such as, “Where have you been all my life?”. “Well, I wasn’t here for the first half of it”, and “I like to do the bossanova”. “I thought you like to do the boss-a-favour.” Do you wonder why we refer to them as “groaners”? It was like revisiting some very, very, old friends.
There are some irrelevant bits such as “The Twelve Days of Winter”. Their inclusion seems like padding and makes the performance perhaps a bit long for the younger audience members, but they are a lot of fun.
For an enjoyable school holiday experience, and if you’d like to introduce your children to the theatre, Cinderella, now playing at the State Theatre, is perfect.