Review – Cinderella, Derngate, Northampton, 11th December 2012

CinderellaBobby Davro was such a popular panto star last year that the Royal and Derngate invited him back again for this year’s spectacular. And, just like last year, it’s a rip-roaring Christmas cracker of a panto with a really funny script and loads of entertainment for all ages. Mrs Chrisparkle and I noted how amusing it is when you see lots of kids laugh their heads off at some of the more “adult” lines, even though they clearly haven’t got a clue why it’s funny! There are lots of such moments in this show.

Bobby DavroIt’s a beautiful set, with lavish costumes, a bright and breezy band and a feelgood factor running all the way through it. This year’s panto is sponsored by Skype, which means that particular form of communication conduit gets the odd mention, but it felt less laboured than in previous years when they kept on wheeling on that Churchill dog for no good reason.

Denise WelchBobby Davro can do no wrong on that stage – you can never quite tell what’s scripted and what’s not, all of which adds to the spontaneity of the humour. His winning, instant rapport with the audience works a treat and you can’t resist being in his gang for the night. He clearly has a happy relationship with the rest of the cast and that too helps the evening go with a bang. He’s also given lots of opportunities for impersonations, all of which are spot on. He repeats his crowd pleasing routine from last year with getting the audience bouncing up and down to Tie Me Kangaroo Down, but this year his marsupial companion gets way out of hand – with absolutely hilarious consequences.

Danielle YorkDenise Welch makes a rather “knowing” Fairy Godmother, recollecting her previous experiences with Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) and considering the potential usefulness of Prince Charming if Cinderella doesn’t get him. I was surprised what a clear singing voice she has too.

Andy BradyCinderella is played by Danielle York with charm and enthusiasm; she and Mr Davro make a great double act – at its best with the chocolate shopping trolley routine – and her singing and dancing are very entertaining too. Most easy on the eye as well, if I may be so sexist; plenty for the dads, as Dara O’Briain would say. Her dad, Roy Sampson’s Hardup, gave excellent support in all his scenes, as the poor but idle Baron; including a very funny brief appearance as a policeman.

Darren SouthworthTulisa and Jessie, the Ugly Sisters, are another powerful combination, and Andy Brady and Darren Southworth get great comedy value out of their superbly hideous characters. They brighten the stage every time they come on, and give very good “oh no you’re not, oh yes you are’s”. Mrs C was very impressed with their homage to Lady Gaga in their opening number.

Roy SampsonThe double act of the Prince and Dandini work very well, with James Darch’s Prince oozing grandness and superiority whilst Josh Coburn’s Dandini is a good rottweiler protecting his master. Mr Coburn comes into his own though with the set piece “If I were not upon the stage…” number. This is always a laugh whenever you see it, James Darchin panto or “end of the pier” show, but Mr Coburn’s appearance and the treatment he suffers by being stood next to Mr Davro is hilarious and deserves (and gets) the biggest cheer of all at curtain call. He’s clearly a good sport!

Josh CoburnThere’s a great young ensemble of singers and dancers who look perfect and dance really well, and the kids from the Mayhew School of Dancing lighten up the stage and perform with confident ease.

It’s a really funny evening – uplifting, colourful, musical, and performed throughout with great energy and excitement. We loved it!

Review – Aladdin, Derngate, Northampton, 21st December 2011

AladdinIf you’re looking for a bright and brash pantomime this Christmas, Aladdin at the Derngate in Northampton completely fills the bill. Lavish sets and costumes, beautiful dancers, a very funny script and some star performances mean this year they’re definitely on to a winner.

At first, I was a little dubious about booking, as we were going to at least one other Christmas show this December – as it happens, we’re now going to four – and I thought this one might be overkill. Then they announced that Basil Brush would be in the show, and as Mr Brush and I are old friends (we met in 1971) I couldn’t resist seeing the foxy little chap again. And I’m very pleased we went.

Boom! Boom!I can’t quite get my head round Mr Brush’s new voice – he must have had training from a new vocal coach. Once you can forget that, he’s as funny as ever, being cheeky with the rest of the cast, ad-libbing inventively when things go wrong, and bopping along to all the songs on top of his box. He’s simply irresistible, and got a huge cheer at curtain call.

Bobby DavroTop of the bill is Bobby Davro as Wishee Washee, who I’ve never seen live before and who never particularly appealed to me as a TV performer – nothing against him, just not really my style. But I have to say he works the audience like a demon! His act is full of impersonations that give the story an extra dimension, as and when people like Harry Hill, Bruce Forsyth and Ozzy Osbourne suddenly appear and become part of the tale. He delivers his funny lines with panache and confidence and is the main source of the great energy that runs through the entire show. His version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which he performs with Jeffrey Holland’s Widow Twankey and an uncredited performer known as Pinkie (I think I worked out who he is), is really hilarious. It involves a lot of audience participation and a sou’wester would be useful!

Jeffrey HollandTalking of Mr Holland, we saw him last year in the Birmingham Hippodrome’s Dick Whittington when I felt he was crowded out by some more outstandingly performed and written roles. I’m pleased to say that in this Aladdin he’s extremely funny – his costumes are great, he delivers the more adult lines with deft aplomb, he’s full of energy, and he’s a great bonus to the production.

Brian FortunaAladdin himself is played by Brian Fortuna, which enables the show to play up the dancing element of the entertainment to great effect. For someone to whom panto must feel a very foreign genre, he throws himself into it with infectious enthusiasm. His interaction with the others, especially Messrs Davro and Brush, is very funny, David O’Mahony and he conveys Aladdin’s over-confidence extremely well. Plus there’s a great salsa!

One other terrific performance comes from David O’Mahony as Abanazar (bless you). He exudes disdainful evil from the word go and is haughtily dismissive of the delightful Scheherazade Charlotte Bull(Charlotte Bull) whilst playing up the “Oh yes I will/Oh no you won’ts” with childish glee. He gets the level of camp absolutely perfect.

There isn’t a weak link in the show; it all moves forward at a cracking pace and it’s a brilliant entertainment for the Christmas season.