Review: Cinderella, by Dennis Lowe, adapted by Suzy Lowe, Dennis Lowe Theatre Company, Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, until January 3 2016
It is very fitting that Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion chooses to re-open its doors with a spectacular, colourful pantomime delivered by a company indelibly linked with the building – the Dennis Lowe Theatre Company.
For decades Dennis was Felixstowe’s Mr Entertainment, producing summer shows and Christmas pantomimes with all the glitz and glamour you’d expect to find at the London Palladium.
That mantle has now been taken up by daughter Suzy, a trained professional dancer and choreographer, and she has taken Dennis’ traditional script and propelled it, singing and dancing, into the 21st century.
She has produced a slick and hugely entertaining show with so many costume changes that I lost count.
It’s a traditional panto, in the best sense of the word. It tells a clear, straight forward story with heroes you want to cheer and villains who love it when you boo.
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The proof that writer, director, dancer Suzy got the mix just right came when the packed theatre nearly deafened the cast with their “behind you”s and boos, particularly during a sing-along haunted forest routine.
The show had a brilliant focal point in the charismatic Dave Norton as Buttons who sat on the edge of the stage and led the young family audience into this magical world of make-believe.
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He was given wonderful support from Chris Fryer and Stephen Lawrence as two squabbling, bickering ugly sisters, Rita and Cheryl Hardup. They certainly have the X-Factor when it comes to their outrageous dress sense and again formed a close bond with the audience.
Leann Ling channelled pure Cruella de Ville, complete with cigarette holder, as the evil stepmother who berated not only Cinderella but her poor bumbling husband Baron Hardup played by Mick Farrow.
But the romantic focus for any pantomime has to be the hero and heroine. Michael Haywood-Smith was an elegant prince, charming by name and charming by nature, while Ellena Bacon brought a suitably strong, elegant beauty to the role of Cinderella. The pair shared some beautiful duets and brought a wonderful sense of character to roles that could have been somewhat predictable.
The songs were a good mix of pop classics and contemporary numbers. The inclusion of Let It Go from Frozen resulted in an impromptu audience sing along with everyone joining in and raising the rafters.
The reopened Spa has now been well and truly christened. As the company settles into the run, the cues and bits of business, which were occasionally a bit flabby, will be swiftly tightened up and will produce a community panto of the highest quality. Hugely enjoyable.