Cinderella cast are in the mood for enchanting at Ipswich Regent
Billed as one of the most magical pantomimes of all, Cinderella comes to the Ipswich Regent for a two-week run. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage popped along to the ball early...
The cast are deep into rehearsals when I stop by, getting down the moves to the Steps smash Tragedy. You’d think Lee Latchford-Evans, playing Prince Charming, would be excused from this bit.
“Yeah we had a discussion about that. I was like ‘I think it’s the other way’, it’s weird,” he smiles. “I’ve had years away from it, it’s not like I just did it yesterday... The problem is when you’ve done something for years and they change it your body remembers it a different way and it makes it harder to learn - it’s like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time.”
Bandmates Faye Tozer and Lisa Scott-Lee and I have discussed rumours of the chart-toppers reuniting again. Any news?
“They’re like stalkers they can’t stop following me,” he laughs.
“No, we got together didn’t we. We did the reunion which obviously has now spawned all these other big reunion shows. In a way we were guinea pigs but it worked really well. We were lucky, let’s be honest, to have the fans back and the love was still out there which was wonderful.
“Because of the Big Reunion, there are so many bands getting back together you think ‘what’s the point’? We’ve had our two years, had a number one album, a number one selling tour, a Christmas album; it was fantastic - so let’s chill out.
“Back in the day we all could do what we want when we wanted, now all the girls have got families, I’m married now as well so it’s not as easy to just get up and fly to a different country. You never know, we might come back together again.”
Evans’ fourth time doing panto - “So not as many times as people might think,” he laughs - he says it’s got a really cool story with songs the whole family will love.
“It’s quite funny though because me and Cinderella, we only have about three scenes together in the whole thing and it’s supposed to be about the Prince and Cinderella but we hardly see each other, she’s just keen,” he smiles.
“If you’ve got troubles and can afford it, come and watch a panto. You literally leave your worries at the door, you let it all go you have a great time for two hours. The kids are excited, you’re laughing at the in-jokes and stuff...”
“It’s going to a funny, funny show, I know because I wrote some of it,” laughs actor, presenter and stand-up Mike “squeaky” McClean, playing Buttons.
A panto pro, he loves the challenge of writing for these shows.
“I call it the comedy flight because it flies over the kids’ heads and lands in the laps of the adults. I’m the only one that delivers that, (me) and the Uglies.”
Needed on stage to insult the “sisters”, McClean - back in Ipswich next year with his stand-up show, labelled as a Derren Brown style mind-reading act only funnier and ruder - describes rehearsals as like the first day of school. The trick is making sure the fun they’re having translates from the stage to the audience.
“The ugly sisters (David Phipps-Davis, also directing; and Miles Western) are brilliant, probably two of the best I’ve worked with; they’re very funny, very topical... We’ve got Maureen (Nolan, playing the Fairy Godmother), audiences will know her,” he laughs. “She’s absolutely brilliant. Lee they’ll know from Steps and the rest (of us) they’ll have no idea.”
Music royalty Nolan is embracing the maddness. Having just led the cast in a few bars of I’m in the Mood for Dancing, she’s been appearing in pantos for the last 23 years. She loves magical stories like Cinderella.
“It’s a real fairytale and fantastic for families. The transformation, I love that moment.”
She sees herself as the youngsters’ fairy godmother too.
“I think the litle ones really believe so I try not to get too involved in the comedy really... I may go a little bit silly and funny...”
Somebody who does have his hands full is Nick Wymer, playing Baron Hardup.
“Children can be difficult at the best of times but they (his “daughters” the Ugly Sisters) are quite awkward. One shouldn’t have favourites but of course Cinderella’s somewhat easier to handle.”
There’s nothing like panto anywhere else on the planet, says the seasonal show veteran.
“It’s a unique combination of slapstick, humour, current music and fairy stories all rolled into something the kids can go wild at. It’s one of the few pieces of theatre that kids can just scream and shout at and nobody minds.”
The star of CITV’s My Phone Genie can’t speak highly enough of his cast-mates - even CBeebies rival Gabrielle Green, who plays Katrina in Wolfblood.
“I don’t think I’ve got any chance, she’s going to outshine me all the way through.”
Green is one of only two panto virgins in the cast. The other being ex-Blood Brothers actor Ben Rowland, playing Dandini, who’s watched his fiancée do panto for a few years and thought it would be fun.
“It’s a nice part, I get a few little gags, a few little funny bits,” he says.
“It’s a lot more relaxed way of doing theatre... (Generally) if things go wrong it’s seen as a bad thing but in panto people thrive off it, especially the mums and dads because it adds to the hillarity. I’m really enjoying it and it’s nice to do something that’s meant for people to just sit back and have fun watching.”
More excited than nervous, Green is looking forward to putting her musical theatre training into practice.
“It’s a totally different experience, I forgot how hard it is to do this sort of stuff. With TV you learn your script and what you’re doing the day before, but with this you need to learn a whole show every night and you do it top to bottom (with no scripts) so it’s a lot harder.”
She describes her Cinderella as very trusting of everbody - not wise in a fairytale setting.
“The step sisters constantly abuse Cinderella but she always wants to see the positive side in them, there are a lot of times where the trick her into doing things and you think ‘God, Cinderella you should learn’. She just wants to forgive, just wants everybody to get along. She believes in her mind everyone has a nice side. She does need somebody to say ‘look not everybody’s as nice as you’.”
Cinderella, staged by Enchanted Entertainment, runs at the Ipswich Regent from December 20-January 3.
“It’s going to be great fun for all the family,” says producer Guy Pascall.
“Cinderella is the most magical pantomime of them all with such wonderful characters. We also have real ponies in the show, which are going to look so amazing when the Fairy Godmother magically transports Cinders to the ball being held by Prince Charming in her beautiful carriage.”
Read my review and pictures from the show here.