Cinderella is the most popular panto in the land but not one which is tackled by amateur groups very often.
The technicalities of transforming Cinders into the belle of the ball or turning a pumpkin into a coach and mice into horses put it beyond the reach of most companies.
But it’s a favourite of Hathersage Players who have returned to Cinderella for the fourth time in 28 years.
This week’s production is scripted by group member Peter Miles and is loosely based on previous versions by Peter and fellow player Bob Dawson. It’s so up to date that at the performance last night (Thursday, February 20) cast members referred to the raid on the village’s Royal Bank of Scotland that morning.
The panto follows the well-loved tale of Cinderella but with a few twists to keep it fresh. Cinders’ dad Baron Hardup is a Derbyshire lottery winner who has bought his title but lacks the refinements that should go with nobility. He gets plastered on champagne at the ball and drops Derbyshire vernacular into his lines. An exquisite performance from Alistair Cook.
At first glance, this is a traditional panto which leaves the audience under no illusion where it is set. The ensemble launch the musical side of the panto with a folk song about a tall Derby Tup, ably accompanied by a seven-piece band under the direction of Peter Gait.
But it’s the Fat-Bottomed Girls duet by the Ugly Sisters which really make the vocal aspects earlyof the panto shine. The pairing of a male and female in the roles of the Uglies, Hilda and Tilda, is unusual but Jamie Benson and Hazel Watson make it work, their voices blending so well in this tricky song. Their fight with powder puffs in the scene where they are getting ready for the ball is one of the panto’s highlights.
An enchanting aspect of this panto is the number of new, young faces who have been given the opportunity by director Peter Miles to prove themselves in major roles.
Annie Allen is the epitome of a sweet-natured, pretty Cinderella seeking solace in the company of imaginary friends who are a troupe of awesome dancers. Young Wesley Walker plays her faithful ally, Buttons, and a good job he makes of it too.
Alfie Hulbert and Giacomo Barlie bring humour to proceedings as the mice and militant union members who insist on various cheese breaks throughout the show.
Of the older generation, Jenni Sugg shines in the role of the autocratic Baroness Hardup, casting put-downs and withering looks at Cinderella. Chris Tuplng commands the boos and hisses as the Demon King masquerading as a wideboy salesman and Wendy Anthony sparkles as Witch Watt in the guise of a good fairy.
Emily Upton is in fine form as the dashing, thigh-slapping prince and Kat Hollis as trusty sidekick Dandini. Alice Shaw gives a delightful and convincing performance as the lisping Princess Rosebud whose speech impediment vanishes in the wave of the fairy’s wand.
Cinderella is running until Saturday February 22, at Hathersage Memorial Hall.