Cinderella – an English pantomime is just the ticket

Monday Magazine’s theatre critic reviews St. Luke’s Players Cinderella production

By Sheila Matindale

“Pantomime is a type of musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is still performed throughout the United Kingdom, generally during the Christmas and New Year season and, to a lesser extent, in other English-speaking countries. Modern pantomime includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy and dancing, employs gender-crossing actors and combines topical humour with a story loosely based on a well-known fairy tale. It is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers.”

This definition from Wikipedia accurately describes what should happen in one of these engaging pieces of theatre, and St. Luke’s Players are always right on the money with their annual Christmas show. Their pantomimes remind me of the happier parts of my British background. Written by Dave and Helena Hitchcock, and directed by Neville Owen and Janine Longy, this is the kind of family entertainment that really gets one into the spirit of the season.

The two romantic leads – Trinity Dowling as Cinderella, and Robin Dykes as Prince Charming, are sweet and talented. Jan Streader is a wonderful fairy godmother; the Players have chosen for her to be aging and slightly dotty, a marvelous mixture that makes us love her, and want to help her with the spells! Heather Lee is just great as Buttons – the sort of friend everyone should have. But the show-stealers are the ugly sisters, both played by men. Steve Eastman and Mike Chadwick are an absolute hoot! As well as being amazing in their outlandish dresses and make-up, they engage the audience while the set is being changed, with corny jokes and interactions with the rows of kids sitting at the front. And wait until you see them trying on Cinderella’s dancing shoe!

Credit must be given to the Cow (Dexter Gilbert and Marian Fischer) who manoeuver the charming costume around the stage and up and down the steps without accident.

This is a huge cast, with groups of five girls playing ‘friends’ – gaggles of teenage girls—and five others being mice. Little wonder there is no room on stage for the pumpkin coach, a delightful concoction which makes its way around the auditorium (kudos to whoever dreamed that up.)

The playwrights deserve our congratulations for inserting many local references into the text, as well as all the embellishments to the original fairy story, which befit the genre.

St. Luke’s Players have a long history of community theatre, and they always do a superb job. If you have not yet experienced this bunch of really talented people, do go and see this show! Cinderella runs until New Year’s Day, with both matinees and evening performances. You’ll come away laughing and feeling the warm and fuzzies.

Tickets are available at The Papery, 669 Fort Street. Monday-Friday 10-6; Saturday & Sunday 11-5.

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