Peter Rowe really knows how to write a pantomime. And how to direct one, too. His annual ‘rock ‘n’ roll panto’ at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre is consistently excellent, largely because he never wavers from a winning formula: a simple fairytale, swimming in genuinely funny innuendo and local warmth, and stuffed full of classic rock and pop bangers, all played live by a hard-working cast of actor-musicians.
This year it’s Cinderella. Alongside Cinders and her family, there’s also Dandini (Ipswich’s very own rock star) and an evil, gold-digging step-mother. There’s no conventional dame, but you don’t miss one. The function is savvily split jointly between Steve Simmonds’ Baron Hardup, and Sean Kingsley and Adam Langstaff’s ugly sisters, Hernia and Verruca De Zees.
Rowe characteristically excels in handling the large ensemble, just as in his tremendous revival of Once earlier this year. Barney George’s set is opulent, and does a nice switcheroo at the interval that has kids gasping.
Everyone gives it their all, and the show rockets along. It’s powered mainly by Simmonds, who is just great at finding the funny in awful jokes.
As always, though, the Wolsey panto is all about the tunes, smartly reworked by musical director Ben Goddard. This year covers include The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men, Jessie J’s Price Tag, and Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling. “Tonight’s gonna be a good, good night,” the cast sing. And they’re right.