Family fun with plenty of laughs"

Panto season is well and truly underway and a trip over to the Festival Theatre in Malvern to see their production of Cinderella was another reason to don the Christmas jumper and join in with the festive fun.

The story of Cinderella is a popular one with Pantomimes up and down the country choosing this story of a kind village girl who has to deal with two evil stepsisters in her pursuit of falling in love with a Prince, so how did the Malvern production shape up?

The staging, designed by Jon Harris, Jason Bishop and Ian Wilson provided a sparkly proscenium that lit up with impressive lighting by Andy Webb, adding to the overall look and feel of the show.  The band, with Tom Self at the helm, who gets involved in the production in more ways than one, provided a wonderful sound, treating us to modern pop songs, updated for Panto season.  We meet the Fairy Godmother in the shape of Coronation Street star Katie McGlynn who provided lots of Northern wit and charm through her performance, with plenty of Corrie references thrown in for good measure. 

As the first musical number started with Cinderella (Bethan Jacks) it was clear that backing tracks were being used for the vocals, but due to Bethan suffering from a throat infection, that can be overlooked and I'm sure she will be back to singing live soon.  Nevertheless, she was able to portray the kind and loving Cinderella well and had wonderful stage presence.

To rapturous applause we meet Buttons, played by Malvern Theatre regular Mark James.  He was wheeled onto the stage in a giant pink box adorned with the word Barbie, and inside dressed in blonde wig and a pink coat.  As soon as he stepped out of the box, the applause continued and it was clear that Mark is exceptionally popular with the audience members who attend every year, with one person even shouting out his catchphrase before he had even prompted it.  He was full of fun, witty repartee, and high jinks during a moment where pigs really do fly (you had to be there!).

Adding immediate star quality to the proceedings was Prince Charming (Ben Brooker) and Dandini (Jordan Lee Davies).  They both worked very well together and supplied some incredible vocals throughout the show, with highlights being reworded versions of Pulp’s ‘Common People’ and Kylie’s ‘Padam’.  Brooker, in particular, shone with his almost ‘Rik Mayall’ portrayal of Prince Charming with incredible horse impressions (again, you really had to be there!).   They certainly were the standout pairing of the evening.

As we discuss pairings, I must of course mention the Ugly Sisters, Melody, pronounced ‘Me Lady’ (Jamie Morris) and Harmony (Tarot Joseph).  From the moment they both stepped out on stage, the connection with the audience was instant. Whether you loved or hated them, the comic value outweighed any other thought.  Not to forget the incredible and spectacular costumes they paraded around in which were eye-popping and really did make their mark.

During the show, there were a few moments where I felt the story seemed to deviate in the way of cramming as much funny material in as possible, however it did feel just that, crammed in.  You didn’t have opportunity to savour the last joke, before the next and it felt a little overkill in parts.  Of course, Pantomime is known for not completely sticking to the script, and that is all the fun of it, but certain jokes didn’t seem to land as well as they could have, just due to the sheer volume.

There were a few sound issues on the night with microphones not been switched on in time and someone who went a little over the top with the smoke machine, as on many occasions the audience seemed to disappear into waves of smoke.  This could be toned down slightly as it felt unnecessary.

The ensemble cast worked well during the dance numbers choreographed by Cameron Macdonald and even provided their own secondary entertainment during a scene where due to an enormous bout of wind from one of the Ugly Sisters, an ensemble member was carried off stage unable to function.  This provided much hilarity, as did the many toilet-based jokes that of course kids revel in.  There was an ample mix of adult/child humour, which kept everyone entertained and of course the singling out of a male audience member for the Ugly Sisters to pick on is always a winner where Pantomime is concerned.

Overall, the show was full of smiles, full of silliness and full of happiness.  For fun this festive season, head to Malvern where you shall go to the ball!

This show was reviewed on the 14th December 2023.  Cinderella runs at the Festival Theatre, Malvern until the 7th January 2024.  Tickets available here: Cinderella - Pantomime 2023-24 - Malvern Theatres (

Review written by Emma Rowley


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