A Belter of a Cinderella Story

When it comes to retelling Cinderella, two of the three most important roles in terms of plot and audience participation are Cinders’ best pal Buttons and her Fairy Godmother. Thankfully, this new show from Insideout Productions is blessed with a belter of a loveable Buttons, Dario Cacioppo, and a heart-of-gold Weegie “Fairy G Mother”, aka Jamie McKillop. The pair have “got” in spades the fearless performance style needed for panto, and are full of a contagious enthusiasm as they sing, dance (Cacioppo admittedly the better mover) and “land” those all-important narrative points.

The musical score – heavily influenced by rap and house – is performed with real commitment, but does lean on a somewhat eclectic mix of songs.

The third requirement is a suitably boo-hiss-able villain which, in Cinderella, is a role assigned to her “ugly” stepsisters. Full marks here for writer and director Paul Harper-Swan’s decision to go with the high-booted, leather-clad goth step-sister Whitney, performed by the show’s musical director Alison Rona Cleland with a pitch-perfect disdain at an audience she considers full of “West End Weirdos” and losers.

With those three in place, the interesting decision to “cast” boggle-eyed puppets as two minor characters – other stepsister Brittney, and personal assistant Dandini – means that it’s not difficult for the titular Cinderella and her Prince Charming to be somewhat overshadowed. Shiny stars, therefore, to Joanne McGuinness who skilfully stays on the non-sickly side of sweetness as the good-hearted, bespectacled Cinderella. However, given that this particular production is laying the foundations for a panto “tradition” at a relatively new arts venue, the decision to cast any kind of “name” as the Prince is understandable.

Gerard Miller is only likely to be familiar to regular viewers of BBC Scotland’s weekly soap River City (which he joined earlier this year), and he comes across on stage as being slightly bemused by the whole affair. The chemistry with his Cinderella is also more in the plot than between the two performers, meaning that it’s more difficult for older audience members to take this particular P Charming – the most fabulous prince in Panto Partick, apparently – as the object of Cinderella’s infatuation.

As a whole this show is slightly too loud given the size of the venue – some small children were covering their ears when in direct line of the amps. The musical score – heavily influenced by rap and house – is performed with real commitment, but does lean on a somewhat eclectic mix of songs. Michael Jackson's “Thriller” is spot on for the necessary “Behind You” scene set in a spooky wood at night, but using the theme song of the most recent Bond film as a big romance number does – despite the mildly tweaked lyrics – feel somewhat disconcerting.

Disappointly, there are no particularly big “wow” moments; even the transformation of Cinderella’s dress is upstaged by her fairy godmother’s wardrobe. Also, the decision to put the audience messages, birthday wishes and sing-along competition after all of the main plot has been tidied up does rather give it a “tacked on” feel, robbing us of a sufficiently happy-ever-after ending.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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