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First night: Cinderella/Liverpool Playhouse

Angie Sammons is charmed

Written by . Published on December 13th 2011.

First night: Cinderella/Liverpool Playhouse

THE Liverpool Playhouse and Everyman PR department put out a release last week reminding us of the year just gone. Highlights had included Macbeth with Dave Morrissey in the summer, and the bit-of-a-coup that was the regional preview run for The Ladykillers, now transferred to the West End. 

Becky Bainbridge And Sarah Vezmar %28C%29 Robert Day
Last winter's Everyman rock and roll panto was not, as I recall, in the starry roll-call of honour. To be fair (and a touch pedantic), it did start in December 2010. Happily, what was first pioneered as a theatrical template, if you like, in the hallowed Hope Street, has not been forgotten. 

This year the show has moved to Williamson Square and, as it is quite possibly the best rock and roll panto yet, it would be humbug to omit it from next Christmas's round robin. 

This Cinderella is sexy, it's sassy and it's funny. Filthy-funny in parts, which is something of a departure for the Playhouse but not for the Liverpool audience who are right on Prince Charming's massive balls (missus) when it comes to a bit of innuendo.

Bainbridge seems to have that
jack-of-all-trades talent embodied
by one of the Everyman's best loved
actresses past: the recently
late Eithne Hannigan

After all, with lines like “Right then, Prince, I think it's time you took me up the aisle,” and "he obviously prefers it through the back door",  it was a case of he or she who laughs last, laughs dirtiest. 

Francis Tucker %28C%29 Robert Day
Created, once again, by the safe hands of Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chatterton and with a cast of Everyman panto stalwarts, much of this will sail over the heads of the younger members of the audience. I took my two boys and the tears rolled down all of our faces for completely different immature reasons. 

The only thing that's new is seeing the piece performed in a proscenium arch set-up rather than in the round. Oh, and at the Playhouse you can fly - and plenty of the actors do, in every sense. 

Cinderella's story begins when she is a little girl, played all powder blue and socks by Sarah Vezmar. The first scene sees her dad dump her with the delightfully menacing Maud Macbeeth. This is a stand-out performance by the Amanda Barrie-like Rebecca Bainbridge, who can hiss, can tweak a marvellous eyebrow of derision, which surely even those in the gods can't miss; can sing, dance and play a mean saxophone and fiddle.

Indeed, if there is true comparison to make, Bainbridge seems to have that jack-of-all-trades talent embodied by one of the Everyman's best loved actresses past: the recently late Eithne Hannigan.

If either theatre did have a rep still, she would undoubtedly be a fine addition.

Robert Gilbert And Jonny Bower %28C%29 Robert Day
In the spirit of the Everyman, most of the cast also play in the band (belting out easy tunes from Grease Lightning to Valerie) and much of the time this includes the James Bond-like Prince Charming, played as a hilariously nice-but-dim Sloane (Robert Gilbert). 

The Ugly Sisters, Wilhelmina and Titiana are given great gusto by Francis Tucker - every bit The Gruffalo in a frock - and r&r panto veteran Adam Keast who gets to reprise all the silliness of past shows, such as the short fits accompanied by the Psycho shower scene musical interludes. They carry the bulk of the show with skill and atomic comic timing, as do Cinders and Buttons (Chris Lindon) with their easy rapport. 

There's plenty of farting to amuse, hopefully just, the youngest ones, Tintin and Snowy make a topical appearance, everyone in the stalls gets a soaking at some point and some poor bloke called Tony in the front row is humiliated on stage. 

We all know the story, but by the time the glass slipper fitting takes place “shall I try it with the tongue out, so you get your money's worth?” asks Wilhelmina coyly, the ensemble have made it their own.

Chris Lindon %28C%29 Robert Day %282%29

It's laugh a minute. And there were plenty of minutes. The performance did not finish until almost 10.30pm. “Be sure to leave by midnight,” it says in the programme notes.

Were they written by Ken Dodd, I wondered,  as I rehearsed what I might have to say to the kids' school the following morning.

It's a minor criticism. Of all the shows they get to see on Merseyside, the rock and roll panto is always the highlight of their year.

This time, as ever, it pushes all the right Buttons.


*Cinderella, Liverpool Playhouse, until January 21.

Follow Angie Sammons on twitter @twangeee

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Trevor CleverDecember 13th 2011.

Sad to hear about Eithne Hannigan passing away. She was a powerhouse of talent. Still, she'sll have her old mucker Ken Campbell to play the fiddle to.

AnonymousDecember 14th 2011.

This was a cracking panto. Very funny, but the second half does drag a bit, especially if you have small children, which I am assuming the producers don't.

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