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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Carlisle's Sands Centre pantomime Cinderella goes to the ball

Emma Morley gives the first review of Cinderella, this year’s professional panto at The Sands Centre, Carlisle

As soon as ‘It’s panto time!’ was announced it was clear the audience at The Sands Centre wouldn’t need much encouragement to enjoy this year’s show as children (and teachers and parents) burst into life with screaming and clapping.
Happily for the cast and crew this continued throughout the production of Cinderella, along with the expected booing, the odd ‘it’s behind you’ and even more screaming and shouting at all the right moments.
There was everything you’d expect from a pantomime.
The fairy godmother, played by The Sands panto favourite Robbie Dee, flew in and kicked things off and his ‘boss’ Lulu Bell, played by youngster Aimee Ashurst, deserves much praise for her strong performance.
Steph Fearon, who may be a familiar face to viewers of BBC1’s Over the Rainbow, gave a polished performance as Cinderella while Billy Walker (who originally hails from west Cumbria) gave a solid performance both acting and vocally as the Prince. When the pair came together to duet, their vocal talent really stood out.
There was a huge response when the Ugly Sisters Essex and Chelsea (Chris Black and Stevie Charles) appeared on stage and Yvonne Patterson was a perfect baddie as the sinister wicked stepmother Frau Ling.
The show proved that there’s much to celebrate in local talent with another noteworthy performance from the likeable Buttons, played by Carlisle-born Stevie D and his ‘botty burps’ whenever he saw Cinderella got lots of laughs.
When he asked for a teacher or parent to ‘volunteer’ to come on stage to help him practise how we was going to tell Cinderella he loved her, there was no hesitation from the excited children as they pointed to the adults around them.
It was lucky parent Craig Wharton who was chosen to join him on stage and dress in a wig, dress and lipstick, caused amusement inside and outside the main hall.
The choreography was lively and slick, particularly during a visually impressive scene where cast members including the Prince performed synchronised movements on chairs with white gloves that glowed in the dark.
The masked ball and choreography in a lively tribute to Lady Gaga’s appearance at Radio 1’s Big Weekend at Carlisle Airport earlier in the year also deserves a mention.
The much-loved fairytale was given a Cumbrian makeover in places, with references to Botchergate, Barrow and the appearance of Carlisle United shirts and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, which was used instead of a pumpkin.
A brief appearance by Eric the pony and a sparkling carriage along the bottom aisle may have gone unnoticed by some of the audience, with some excited children having to stand up so they could catch a glimpse of this brief appearance.
Although references to Derren Brown, Gordon Ramsay and a coalition horse seemed lost on the younger audience this didn’t seem to bother them and there was much to keep the adults amused.
Familiar songs including Rihanna’s Umbrella using the word Cinderella instead of umbrella and Pink’s Get The Party Started along with references to Justin Bieber, Glee an orangutan’s bottom were perfect alternatives for their tastes.
The fun and panto spirit kept going right to the end, with Buttons and the fairy godmother getting the audience to sing along to Sponge Bob Square Pants, something which got the kids joining in enthusiastically.
The finale saw the cast performing I’m A Believer, another audience pleaser.
If you’re looking for an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza for all the family this Christmas then don’t miss Cinderella at The Sands Centre.

Cinderella runs until December 31, for tickets call the box office on 01228 625222 or visit www.the sandscentre.co.uk.
For more entertainment coverage see Nightlife in your News & Star tomorrow.

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