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Cinderella ****.

The panto season is well and truly under way and we've already reviewed some of this year's biggest shows. Now

In North Wales it's Llandudno's big stage that tends to have the best-known names and the biggest spectacle in its pantos.

After the disappointment of last year's, when everyone seemed to be working in their own worlds and nothing gelled, it's good to find that the mixture of TV stars and eye-pleasing prettiness produces a Cinderella that is good solid family entertainment.

And when it came to dressing Cinderella for the ball there must have been some real magic; I've never seen a centre stage transformation like it - one minute rags, the next glittering riches - absolutely jaw-dropping.

The big female name this year is Vicki Michelle who is dressed to kill as Lady Cruella, a slinky diva who's not above knocking your eyes out with a belting Big Spender or Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend.

Michelle has huge fun with the role, slipping in a bit of her 'Allo 'Allo character at one point, and it's a pleasure to watch her relish the villainy.

Pantomime is about show business and it doesn't get more show business than the Ugly Sisters here.

They are played by real-life brothers the Pattons, who are the elder brothers of The Chuckle Brothers. They certainly come from showbiz stock - their dad was a comedian, their mum a dancer and the actor who played Percy Sugden in Coronation Street was their brother-in-law.

They've been a double act for 50 years but the freshness and good humour of their banter is so full of youthful bounce that it's difficult to credit that.

The most familiar face in the show is Michael Starke, who is still best known as Sinbad in former Channel 4 soap Brookside.

I admit I couldn't really see him as Buttons, until I saw him as Buttons. His chirpy Liverpool humour works a treat in a casual, throwaway style that always gets the laughs. He also has a lovely ease with the audience.

Lucinda Rhodes-Flaherty is a delightful Cinderella, every inch the fairytale heroine whose fate you care for. It doesn't seem the slightest bit over the top for Buttons to summon up a Thunderbirds rocket to rescue her from a cupboard, a gloriously silly scene.

I wasn't wild about her Prince Charming and his Dandini. Philip Andrew and Tim Oxbrow do everything right but somehow don't have the impact of the traditional female principal boys.

In an extraordinary piece of pantomime political correctness Prince Charming finds himself almost apologising for the traditional hunting dance sequence, which has been cut very short. So the blazing red costumes are only briefly seen and Cinderella gets no chance to hide the fox.

This show certainly delivers its required quota of comedy, song and entertainment.

Above all, it looks a million dollars with its glorious costumes, picture book scenery and those aaah!-making Shetland ponies that pull Cinderella's coach.

It certainly won't disappoint anyone who wants a big-scale colourful, Christmas family treat.

The panto runs until January 2
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 27, 2004
Words:512
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