Every panto needs a ‘thing’ to differentiate it between all the other pantomimes happening up and down the country.
The Leeds City Varieties Rock ‘n’ Roll panto is unique in that all music is played live by the cast. They’re not just good singers and actors – they have to be extremely talented musicians, too.
Though some of the song choices are a little dull, the cast put plenty of energy behind them. The stand-out by far is Katia Sartini as Rubella – and I have the feeling she knows perfectly well she’s head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. She’s funny, bold and devilishly glam. She’s also got a really powerful, bold voice and her previous experience shows she’s not just a panto star.
The rest of the cast are very cute, particularly Kenny Davies as Buttons and Dyfrig Morris as Baron Hardup. The cast draw plenty of laughs from the audience and it’s a really interactive crowd. I’m not personally keen on the water-soaking or the boulder segment as I find it a little intrusive but it’s clear the kids love it.
Write Peter Rowe has clearly tried to give the show a bit of a feminist kick, when our sweet Cinderella (a pretty bland but perfectly fine performance by Grace Lancaster) turns down the Prince for being frankly awfully rude about Cinderella to the Princess Stella (who, as we all know, is really Cinderella all dolled up). There are cheers from the audience as Cinderella stays determined to find someone who loves her for her, not her money or beauty. A great message, bravo. Until a song and a cuddle manages to change Cinderella’s mind, where an actual apology wouldn’t go amiss.
This aside, the show’s script is very funny and engaging. There’s plenty of jokes for both kids and adults, physical humour and wit and has all the trademarks of a panto without being cliched and old-school.
The lighting and sound are also exceptional. To have such tight cues and hit every single one is an absolute accomplishment. I’m not sure whether people really realise how important it is to have a talented tech team but for a production like this it’s crucial to help keep pace and atmosphere. Clearly a very skilled backstage team.
If you like a bit of panto, I’d recommend going along for something a little different. It’s a jolly good laugh in one of the most stunning theatres in the area.
Catch Cinderella: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto until the 13th January 2019.