Bournemouth.com was delighted to be invited to the Bournemouth Pavilion to catch a performance of Cinderella starring Dani (Tracy Beaker) Harmer, with Melanie (Gavin and Stacey’s Gwen) Walters as the Fairy Godmother and Rhydian (X Factor) Roberts as Prince Charming. The Pavilion also welcomes back Noel Brodie as Buttons after he was a hit as Muddles in last year’s show. The Ugly Sisters are a right double act, played by David Ball and Michael Chance and the show also features local talent from the Stage Door School of Dance and Drama and some beautiful miniature Shetland ponies too!
The show follows the traditional story of Cinderella, as Dani says: “It’s the same story, you just don’t want to mess with Cinderella because it’s so well loved and everyone knows it,” but the real magic comes from the extra touches brought by the cast themselves. Whether it’s the Ugly Sisters getting more than distracted by a dashing dad in the front row who ends up being the subject of an impromptu selfie (once they’d tramped off to the dressing room to get a phone!) to Buttons getting the giggles, these little moments make each performance memorable, charming and unique.
Dani Harmer as Cinderella is loveable and graceful. She had a great relationship with Buttons, which makes for some hilarious moments, especially in his frequent attempts to declare his love for her. Noel Brodie was an absolute hoot last year as Snow White’s Muddles and once more succeeds in charming the audience if again failing to get the girl of his dreams (third time lucky in 2017 perhaps?)
Rhydian is every bit as bewitching as you would expect as Prince Charming. Handsome, with an awesome theatrical voice as expected but he’s also very, very silly! It was great to see his human side, especially larking around in the role-swap with Dandini (Gary Jordan), a subplot which almost threatened to steal the show.
Melanie Walters makes a beautiful Fairy Godmother who shows a closeness and fondness for her cast mates throughout her performance. She’s performed with many of the team before and this is apparent in their familiarity. This isn’t Melanie’s first time in Bournemouth: “Apparently I have (been here before), when I was about 3. So that was… 20-odd years ago…” but being from Swansea she is happy spending her Christmas in a seaside town: “I live next to the sea, so being here next to the sea is just fantastic, I love it.” We were all waiting for a wisecrack (fnar!) about omelettes and weren’t disappointed with the references to her much-loved screen character from Gavin and Stacey, Gwen West.
The Bournemouth Pavilion is always a great venue for a panto. The audience is always up for a laugh, lobbing the occasional whistling rocket balloon, heckling the baddies, cooing when good inevitably prevails and guffawing at the frequent scripted and unscripted funnies. From forgetting lines to wayward glitter (how’s the eye, Rhydian?!), rogue water canons to tiny hecklers (“but I love you Buttons” screeched out by a sympathetic toddler is enough to throw the most seasoned actor off the script), these are the very things that bring the magic of panto to Bournemouth year after year.
We giggled as a rowdy ghost plucked off a character one at a time during the inevitable break while the elaborate wedding scene was set (“we’ll have to do it again then, won’t we?”) and felt an inevitable swell of pride as Cinderella and Prince Charming married in the grandest and glitteriest of settings. Yes, the script is silly, the cast inspired and the venue iconic but put these together with a sprinkle of Christmas magic and it makes for an absolute highlight of the festive season – whether you catch the show in the run-up to the big day or in the lull as you race towards New Year.