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Review: Cinderella at Sunderland Empire

Loose Women star and soap stars lead panto cast of Cinderella at the Sunderland Empire

****
A performance of Cinderella at Sunderland Empire
A performance of Cinderella at Sunderland Empire

If there was a prize for the most costume changes in a short period of time, it would surely go to Daisy and Silly Cilla, the ghastly duo stirring up all sorts of ill-will in this year’s seasonal treat at the Empire.

And their outfits – all in the best possible bad taste – must take some time to assemble, from Silly Cilla’s towering heels and even higher concoctions of fantastic feathered headwear to gowns laid out with an entire afternoon tea.

Tarot Joseph playing Daisy and Jamie Morris as the man-chasing Silly Cilla, who set her sights on a poor unfortunate in the audience called Peter, are on exuberant form as the Ugly Sisters who set just the right tone as both ridiculously funny as they make their dramatic entrance to Here Come The Girls and genuinely nasty as they bully Cinderella (Channel 5’s Milkshake! presenter Amy Thompson who could certainly out-sing them if nothing else).

Regulars have come to expect high-end panto at Sunderland and this year it’s delivered by a polished cast led by Loose Women star – and recent addition to ITV’s Benidorm – Sherrie Hewson who tells us she’s just returned from, yes, Benidorm to take up new responsibilities as the Fairy Godmother; and Dean Sullivan (Brookside’s Jimmy Corkhill) as Baron Hardup who’s made the dreadful mistake of taking on two troublesome step-daughters who conspire to stop his poor Cinderella from going to that all-important ball.

The fairytale show was a clear hit with the young ones who are more likely to connect with Milkshake!’s Amy and CiTV turned Nickelodeon presenter Jamie Rickers playing the cheery Buttons, while there’s lots of colourful changing scenery, explosive waving of wands and enough pink sparkle to satisfy the many little girls who came dressed as princesses. Their excitement reached a crescendo when two tiny white ponies arrived to pull Cinderella’s coach.

And it had please-all slapstick too. The pratfalls and dislodged wigs were really well done (or else the actors made very good recoveries).

Rickers’ Buttons set the pace as he powered around the stage while personal favourites were the brilliant scenes between Bobby Windebank as Dandini (it’s worth going just to see his dancing) and Owen Thompson as Prince Charming.

Performers from local stage schools - The Kathleen Davis Stage School, The Muriel Harrison School of Dance and the Shameem Karin School of Performing Arts – have been enlisted during the panto’s run and are a credit to a show which soon has the audience rockin’ with clap-along songs such as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, Ant & Dec’s Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble and the shoe-horned-in viral hit What Does The Fox Say?

It all conjured up a great atmosphere which saw adults join in as loudly as the children and at curtain-fall, which had Dandini in fine dancing mode again, Sherrie acknowledged the response, telling us her dad came from Castletown so she’d been led to expect wonderful audiences.

:: Cinderella runs at Sunderland Empire until January 5.

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