The Rock 'n Roll Panto Cinderella

"YASSSS Cinders!"

Is it panto season without The Everyman Rock’n’roll Panto? Oh no it isn’t!  Back for another year with a new creative team, Liverpool is being treated to Cinderella- but will she make it to the ball?

Penned by Liverpool author, Luke Barnes, and directed by James Baker, the creative team is strongly led with an impressive repertoire of works between them. 

The show is loosely based on the classic panto ‘Cinderella’, but reinvented for a modern audience-which is a breath of fresh air for the regular panto-goer. Our protagonist is Ellanora aka Cinderella, beautifully played by student, Grace Venus, in her professional debut. Ellanora longs to be loved by anyone other than her pet rats and gains help (or hindrance) from our panto dame, aptly named, Dame Fairy Godmother (Ben Welch) and her Fairy apprentice, Graham (Adam Keast). The duo, who are on their final shift to assist in those in need of true love, help progress the narrative as classic Cinderella meets 90’s dating show, Blind Date. Welch commands the stage as the ‘DFG’ and some of the best parts of the show are when (along with Keast) those improvised moments of panto gold are spat out with cutting wit and genius comic timing. On Team Baddy (and the main antagonist of the show,) is Mr Ooglay, Ellanora’s father, played by Zoe West- proving that it’s not just the panto dame who can be gender non-conforming! Mr Ooglay wants the best for two of his children, the self-absorbed yet hilarious, Dench (Folarin Akinmade) and Judi (Rebecca Levy)-clearly inspired by Ryan and Sharpay of High School Musical fame, but with the camp factor turned up even higher. As the usual story goes (though this time not so much vilifying stepfamilies) Ellanora is in the shadows and confined to a life of all work and no play.

Not only are the cast exceptional actors but each comprise the band who perform on a raised platform above the stage. Expertly, they play an electrifying pop soundtrack which, unlike some pantos, helps to drive the narrative whilst being well-chosen to suit the vocal range of the cast. In a standout moment for the show, The Queen (Aminita Francis) rises centre stage and belts Whitney Houston’s classic, ‘Queen of the Night’. Francis was the tour-de-force of this Panto with hilarious physical comedy, classy vocals and an overall powerful stage presence with lasagne puns a-plenty!

Completing the cast is Thomas Fabian Parrish as Prince Charming, who lives up to his name in a more literal sense than we’re used to. Parrish plays the comic book loving Charming with, well, charm- and is a delight to watch!

There is many a nod to both queer and black culture in the show which is completely unapologetic. This is refreshing as it is not uncommon for the LGBTQ+ community to still be subject to stereotypes, particularly in family shows but this is done both tastefully and respectfully. Snaps for everyone!

Set and costume design was expertly created by Isla Shaw. Although simple, like the characters themselves, it had many a layer and was purposeful in its construction. The costumes were stunning and wowed as they were illuminated by Ryan Joseph Stafford’s effective lighting design. This all added to the camp comradery already on show. 

Although this panto has many a laugh out loud moment- oh yes it does! (I’ll stop now), the first act was slow to find its footing and left members of the audience feeling a little confused. This could be solved by forfeiting some of the trimmings (particularly in the first 20 minutes) to make it as succinct and entertaining as act two- where the book came into its own and came to a satisfying conclusion with no loose ends. (No mean feat for a pantomime!)

This could quite easily be a 5 star show with a little smoothing over and it is sure to delight audiences throughout the festive season. It has inclusivity at its heart which was evident in the sheer joy seen in the eyes of some of the more innocent patrons. With the right balance of crass vs ‘yasss’ moments, you too will leave the Everyman shouting, “YASSSS, Cinders!”.

This show was reviewed on the 22nd November 2023 and runs at The Everyman Theatre Liverpool until the 20th January 2024.  Tickets available here: The Rock 'n' Roll Panto Cinderella | Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse theatres (everymanplayhouse.com)

Review written by Lee Gregory

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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