Review: Cinderella Panto at Harlow Playhouse, Essex

(We were given PR Tickets and hospitality for this performance) Cinderella at Harlow Playhouse is a brilliant family friendly pantomime. It is really fun with lots of comedy and songs, but nothing too scary for younger children. 

prince charming and cinderella on stage at harlow playhouse essex
You wont be shocked that Prince Charming and Cinderella end up together, but there are plenty of surprises in the Harlow Playhouse Panto

Cinderella at Harlow Playhouse Review

The pantomime might not have the most spectacular special effects or a sophisticated script, but it is crammed full of classic pantomime action and slapstick humour which had my jaw aching with laughter. If you are familiar with the Playhouse’s pantomimes then you will find some sketches comfortingly familiar and recognise Ben Parsley's Buttons doing what he does best: making the audience laugh.

The Panto is entertaining right from the beginning, but it’s part way through the first half that the humour really starts to pick up and continues through the rest of the performance. 

While the Ugly Sisters are an amusing duo with some excellent timing I personally think the dame characters suffer a little from the need to be so rehearsed. With a sole dame the level of ad libbing brings an extra element to the Panto which I felt was a little lost in this performance with Buttons not having a character to bounce off. The moments where there was more freedom (like when Buttons is passing messages back and forth between Coco and Chanel) were funnier. What the Ugly Sisters lose is creative freedom they definitely make up for in costume changes. The backstage crew must be nearly as exhausted as the performers by the end ensuring that everyone is dressed in the right clothes (and wig) for the right scene.

Coco and Chanel dressed in drag as dames starring as the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella
Coco and Chanel are Cinderellas Ugly "Step" Sisters

The ensemble and Dandini dancing in Cinderella
Prince Charming, Dandini and the Ensemble

While all the cast were great I was particularly impressed with the performances of the ensemble who had polished dance routines that were incredibly slick while each having individual styles and personalities that showed through. 

The story follows kind hearted Cinderella who lives with her Step Sisters at Hard Up Hall along side their servant Buttons. Buttons is in love with Cinderella, but can’t quite get the confidence up to tell her. Meanwhile Prince Charming doesn’t want to take life too seriously and wants to marry for love rather than duty, but time is running out. His servant Dandini is secretly Danielle and is also secretly in love with the Prince. 

Thanks to the interventions of Fairy G (the very busy Fairy Godmother) the Prince and Cinderella meet in the forest one day while the Prince is in disguise, but Cinderella has to be off before the Prince discovers her identity so he decides to host a ball and invite all the women in Harlow to it. You can guess the rest. But what about the heartbroken Buttons and Dandini? Will they find happiness? Don't worry it will be happy ever after for everyone, well maybe not Coco and Chanel (the Ugly Sisters). 

The aggressively man hungry Ugly Sisters make a number of risqué jokes (but not as bad as the Dame in Colchester’s Beauty and the Beast) as well as the inevitable men dressed as women humour, but this felt comfortable with my children present.

The panto includes mice puppets and even a horse drawn carriage with two beautiful ponies. There is ballet (professional standard and by the Ugly Sisters), Street Dance by Hip Hoppop and plenty of singing. Cinderella is full of local jokes and references so children will love to hear mention of Pets Corner etc. Be ready to shout out "Oh no he isn't", "He's behind you", "Boo!", join in with the "Sweet Pantomime" sing along and get a little bit of a soaking if in the first few rows. 

Harlow Playhouse's Cinderella is a good ole village hall Pantomine complete with the local community feel, but brought up to a professional level. It will definitely put a smile on your face this winter.

Buttons played by Ben Parsley on stage at Harlow Playhouse
Harlow's Ben Parsley stars as Buttons and co-wrote the script

Useful To Know

  • Cinderella by KD Theatre Productions Ltd is on at Harlow Playhouse from 2nd December to 8th January 2023.
  • Harlow Playhouse were selling a number of flashing light toys and programmes as well as the normal drinks, sweets and ice creams. 
  • The run time is published as 1 hour 8 minutes for the first half, 20 minutes interval and 1 hour second Act.
  • The nearest parking is Harvey Centre car park (if you enter the car park after 6pm you will only pay £1 for parking and it’s 50p all day on Sundays).
  • There is low ticket availability remaining so book asap (availability for the January dates is higher than December).
  • Harlow Playhouse address is: Playhouse Square, Harlow, CM20 1LS
  • Written by: Daniel Bell & Ben Parlsey and Directed by Daniel Bell.
  • Principle cast members:
    • Cinderella - Amy Goodwin
    • Prince Charming - Jonathan Dudley
    • Buttons - Ben Parsley
    • Coco - Jimmy Burton-Iles
    • Chanel - Tom Pepper
    • Dandini - Grace Chapman
    • Fairy G - Kate Playdon
  • If you enjoy Cinderella then you can book tickets now to see KD Theatre Productions Easter Panto of Goldilocks and the Three Bears which will see Ben Parsley back on stage as well as the popular Fanny Galore (who we saw in Wizard of Oz this year, the Dames jokes were a little cruder, but I fully expect the performance to be hilarious). It is running from 31st March to 4th April 2023.

(Production Images taken by Justin Heron of Portal Works and used with permission.)

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