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The Queen of Clean to sprinkle the fairy dust this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 14:06 23 December 2010

Woodville Hall Panto

Woodville Hall Panto

Archant

Mention 'pantomime' and Cinderella immediately comes to mind, writes Michael Adkins.

As one of the most well known, the measure of its success comes down to how good two key characters perform – the Ugly Sisters.

It may be a tale of rags to riches for the beautiful but down-trodden Cinders, played at Gravesend’s Woodville Halls this year by 19-year-old Chelsie Padley, but it is the outrageous shenanigans of the pantomime dames which gel the show.

Named Danni and Cheryl, after X Factor judges Danni Minogue and Cheryl Cole, Ben Goodridge and Richard Foster-King were a genius casting by the director of the Spillers Pantomime production.

From start to finish, alongside Chris Pizzey (Buttons), they had the audience at Woodville Halls in fits of laughter with hilarious references to the hit show and one-on-one banter with members of the audience.

The ageing Woodville Halls may need a facelift, but this timeless classic was dragged into 2010 with perfect music pitching of old classics and new up-tempo tracks.

And despite heavy snow hitting the borough again on Sunday, many of the seats were filled.

Kim Woodburn, from How Clean is Your House, and Tom Hudson, who played Jack and Vera’s wayward grandson Paul in Coronation Street, were the most recognisable stars as the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming’s faithful servant, Dandini.

Hudson’s experience on stage and television was evident, while Kim Woodburn gave a fair performance but with little stage presence.

Still, with budgets tight, spending a small fortune on a big name is no longer the be all and end all, not least for a council-funded theatre. Casting the right performers is key and for that you could not fault this production.

From the pretty Cinders to handsome Prince Charming, played by Tom Franck, and everyone’s favourite comedian Paul James as Baron Hardup, the father of the three sisters, it is hard to imagine a better cast.

Set designs and costumes were well presented and senior dancers from the Lisa Jayn Dancers would not look out of place in the West End.

With contributions from local dance schools including Darnley School of Dance, Amelia Appleby School of Dance, Footsies Dance Centre, Sheila Theobald School of Dancing, Tone Moss Academy and The Carol Ann School of Dance, it is sure to be a continuing success.

While the production and performances hit the spot there is one recommendation from this reviewer: Sometimes there is a danger of dragging out a good show and this was maybe 20 minutes too long.

Random acts, Michael Jackson songs and dances crept into the final third which, although fun, looked slightly out of place. Some parts should simply have been consigned to the cutting room floor.

Cinderella runs at the Woodville Halls, Gravesend, until Monday, January 3. Standard adult tickets available from £14.50. Call the box office on 01474 337774 to book.

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