Written and directed by Peter Rowe, New Wolsey Theatre’s “rockin’ panto” Cinderella lands in North Finchley with a glittery, flaming bouquet of musical acts and comedic turns. Featuring an onstage band, Rowe’s take on the fairy tale thrusts the audience into a world of period costumes, aristocratic swagger and pop tunes.
It’s a story led by Chioma Uma’s bright-eyed Cinderella, but this somewhat baggy panto is equally interested in the supporting characters, too. Samuel Pope is magnetic as Prince Charming’s wingman Dandini, a famous troubadour who may well be a rock star. As the baddie, Rubella De Zees, the remarkable Georgina White incites abundant boos with her high-strung physicality and impish delivery.
Guy Freeman’s Buttons and Steve Simmonds’ Baron Hardup unite forces in several slapstick scenes, adding stimulating notes – and dashes of water – to a first act that often feels circuitous.
With all the actors doubling as members of the band and remaining in view most of the time, there surfaces a collective intimacy that adds much to the production. Their renderings of Jessie J’s Price Tag and The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men (featuring raining puppets) make for especially engaging musical moments.
It’s a shame that both Rowe’s staging and Barney George’s set design unveil their true charisma belatedly, when Cinderella enters the ball. The sleek transformation of a courtyard to a lush ballroom heralds the ways in which the show’s second half amps up its frenzy and rides a bigger wave of glee.