Cinderella is the classic story of a girl who is bullied by her two step-sisters. They use her as a maid to cook and clean while they dress themselves up dreaming of marrying the prince. This show is an extravaganza of all the magic of Christmas panto rolled into one. It’s stylish and sleek with professional dance numbers to dazzle, outfits to amaze, magic to astonish and humour to laugh yourself silly to.
Brian Conley as Buttons is simply outstanding. He can sing, dance (yes - strictly got that wrong!) and his sense of humour is off the scale. He is an absolute old school all rounder and I could watch him perform again and again. His suitcase magic act that is his entrance left me in awe. I love a good bit of magic. What a true legend Brian is. A lot felt like improvisation. He touched Gok’s chest and said how smooth it was and Gok needed a moment to compose himself again. Brian has so many memorable funny moments I am not sure where to start but here is a few of my favourites:
‘If I was 20 years younger…and not fussy!’
‘Computer keeps playing Let It go. It’s frozen!’
‘It’s rude to ask a lady her age, so how much do you weigh?’
And instead of the standard ‘Pick on a bad area’ local joke – there was a great moment of ‘Alexa – please tell me the route to London’ and Alexa just keeps talking roundabouts. Everyone who lives here and those who don’t liked that joke.
His partner in crime is Gok Wan. Its true that Gok cannot really sing but he makes up for it with his fabulous outfit (think silver sparkles and you won’t go far wrong) and he has some great one liners, such as ‘Fancy a Chinese?’. Cinderella is played by Lauren Hall and she is everything you would want Cinders to be. She comes across as kind and friendly and all the kids in the audience adored her. Lauren has a lovely voice and oh did we laugh when she says to Brian ‘You remind me of Bradley Walsh’. Cinderella’s outfit was also dazzling. Every little girl wants a dress like that (myself included). Prince Charming is played by Matthew Goodgame and he is handsome, charming and everything a Prince should be. Matthew has a great voice too. His number two is Dandini played by Matthew Malthouse and Matthew sings and dances as support to the Prince. At times I wish they had given him a little more indulgence to dance as he is obviously a talented dancer. The Ugly sisters are Tess and Claudia. I have no idea where they got that idea from! Tess is played by Ben Stock and Claudia is played by Neal Wright. They have the best outfits of the show and many changes. However, they did come across as really evil. Even I was upset when they make Cinderella tear up her invitation.
There were some very tender moments. Its panto tradition to get a few young audience members on stage, but on this night Nieve stole the show. Four years old she said she had tired legs and sat down on the stage while Buttons spoke to the other children. When it was Nieve’s turn she had to ask Buttons to stop the music for Old MacDonald’s farm as he forgot to ask her what she wanted for Christmas. (He had asked the other three). The whole audience’s heart melt. At the end of the song, he told Neive to close her eyes and Gok brought out a teddy for her. Brian said she will remember this moment for the rest of her life and that is the magic of panto. If that doesn’t melt your heart you are made of ice. It was a moment like no other. It had real heart and had me sobbing. During the first half they had a raffle. I was so excited as I never win a raffle but always like to try. We were asked to get out our programmes and each programme had a number on the front. I looked at the front of my programme and couldn’t believe it when they read out my number. I jumped up out of my seat, screamed and waved my programme. It was only then that I realised everyone had the same number. It was a joke. I was the only one on my feet! So I still never win at raffles.
There are moments that simply take your breath away. I was impressed with the magical quick changes for Cinders to go to the ball. But when she gets into her flying carriage and it flies over the audience – it really was an Aaah moment. Another Aaah moment from the audience was when a panto horse went into a box and a real Shetland pony came out the other side. Brian then rides on stage with a full-size horse who does tricks. However ‘Aaah’ this moment was (you are certainly not expecting it - it’s not your average panto), I am not sure how I feel about animals being used on stage. Especially keeping that tiny pony in a dark box. I was very uncomfortable about it. Occasionally it felt there was too much toilet humour. At one-point Buttons comes on sitting on a toilet which I thought wasn’t in the best taste, but the kids in the audience seemed to love it.
As I have said this isn’t your average panto. There were even fireworks at one point. There is a moment for Milton Keynes has talent introduced (on screen) by Ant and Dec. We are also privileged to see ‘Dangerous Buttons’ (not unlike Dangerous Brian). This show has everything! It’s a Panto like no other and worth double the ticket price. There is less cheese than other pantos and it has a really professional ‘West-end’ feel about it. All the cast are exceptional and if you miss this you will really miss something unique.
Cinderella is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 14 January 2018.