Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
Once upon a time, a group of fairy-tale characters were looking for their happy endings. Cinderella (Ciara Lyons) was seeking liberation from slavery. Her friend Buttons (Michael Joseph) was hoping Cinders would see his charm. Prince Charming (David Crowley) was hoping to avoid his royal obligations, while his nanny (Joe Conlan) wanted to be a bride.
Their ambitions might not be familiar from the storybook the audience knows, but with predictable villains on hand and a fairy godmother (Emma Wigglesworth) ready to swoop in, the writer, director and choreographer Daryn Crosbie makes sure that the boundaries of tradition are not stretched too thin.
Celebrating its 150th anniversary, the Gaiety panto distinguishes itself with the presence of a five-piece band, under the direction of Peter Beckett. Crosbie takes full advantage of the musicians in Cinderella, which is almost a sung-through musical. There are too many songs to count, each of them a medley of musical references, genres and styles. From disco to soul, rap to rock, Meghan Trainor to the Sherman Brothers, it’s an exhausting repertoire, but the accomplished cast manage to keep up with the turbocharged tempo, even if they sacrifice some clarity along the way.
Visually, the design team have created a cornucopia of crinoline and satin delights. Ciara Cramer and Grainne Bath-Enright offer a blend of physical set pieces, painted backdrops and visual projections that draw clever reference to the theatre’s architecture. Maeve Readman’s wigs and Chris Rowan’s make-up deserve special praise, particularly for the way they help Nicholas Grennell, Linzi Cowap and Aisling Breen to bring Madame de Vile and her loathsome daughters, Melody and Harmony, to life.
The Gaiety Theatre has the longest-running panto in Ireland, and Cinderella is a spectacular addition to its repertoire, with a magical transformation at the end of the first half that will have young audience members speculating about stage magic all the way home.