**** STARS

By George Dixon

English pantomimes are a strong tradition during the Christmas holiday season, for us in Australia, our winter, with its Christmas in July, fits the bill well.

This year an adaptive company, “Going Live TV”, launched the world’s first interactive virtual pantomime, Cinderella Live. This highly acclaimed production makes it debit in Australia, through “Pantolive”.

Pantomimes continue to bring something special for both children and parents.There’s always gold and fun for everyone, I believe there is no such thing as a bad panto.

“Oh yes, there is, I hear you say, Oh no, there isn’t” is the standard reply; and so the banter and interaction with the audience begins.

The concept is simple, A well-known story, with over the top acting, colourful costumes, one-line side jokes for the adults, music, singing and dance, a hero, a villain and plenty of interaction from the children.

It’s an experience not to be missed as you boo or hiss shout out contradictions like “Oh yes it is” Or scream with concern that “It’s Behind You” is all done in an atmosphere of pure delight.

The best way to enjoy the experience is for the children to dress up, have some friends over and make a party of it. Even in lockdown, the whole family can get into the excitement and atmosphere by dressing up and interacting.

It is one of the things that children will long remember, mainly because of how they felt. For me Bippity Boppity Behind You!  Cinderella Live brought back fond memories with smiles and laughter.

The online experience is interactive, if you stream via a phone or tablet, you will find appropriate buttons to generate sounds like cheering, clapping, or calling out, but don’t be surprised if you find the children simply standing and engaging directly with your monitor.

Cinderella is the perfect introduction to pantomimes; this annotation written by Tom Whalley is very clever, whity and enjoyable for the whole family. Charlotte Peters direction provides a perfect flow to both the storyline and the interaction of the characters.

Being live online provides the best front row up-close experience, the magic of TV provides spectacular entrances, for the fairy Godfather Chris Rankin (Harry Potter),

The two ugly sisters Sharon Hardup Tim Churchill and Karen Hardup Steve Fortune play the part straight, with perfect timing and roughness of voice which is very entertaining. The timing for all of the one-line jokes works exceptionally well, many of them are old school, which is what you come to expect from pantos.

The Baroness Grizelda (the real villain) is superbly played by Jessica Ellis. In very typical style, she encourages you to boo and hiss her over the top acting, and over-reaching gestures which make anyone cringe.

Buttons, Chris Johnson, provides a relaxing introduction to the show, and what pantomimes are and how they work, for anyone who has never been to a live show.  Buttons is the one who provides permission for all of the interactions, along with handy tips as to where to find the buttons on your devices. Buttons, for your device buttons,  it’s quite funny really.

As the show is interactive, Buttons also asks you to keep an eye on things and to call out if needed. He also plays the shadow love interest to Cinderella.

Cinderella, Kathy Clayton,  is well cast, with great contrasting direction, the complete opposite to the ugly sisters, she presents realistically, and is the most normal person in her family, as the fairy godfather says, ” Kind and good at heart.”

Prince Charming, Cuan Durkin, meets the fairytale image of a Prince, with slight awkwardness at the beginning, which develops into determination and zeal, as he searches for the owner of the glass slipper.

Pantomimes are also known for their lavish and bright costumes. Angela Earl, Costume designer, has done an outstanding job with all of the costumes, notably the different outfits for the sisters and the matching and complimentary wedding outfits for the Prince and Cinderella.

Music and song choices are integral to a fantastic show. This production ticks all the boxes, well done to Lindsay Miller, Musical Director and Sound Engineer.

Through the magic of screens, I could watch various children dancing away and having a lot of fun to good upbeat music.

Where later we find some of the characters take a shortcut, through the spooky forest, taking a rest, they decide to sing the song “Ghostbusters.”  I’m sure that it’s ok, and nothing can go wrong (spoiler alert: It’s fun and not spooky.)

In the age of Covid, and with the unpredictability of lockdowns it is good to see how some production companies are adapting.

Live interactive, or virtual interactive on-demand productions, are very innovative providing opportunities for families to be entertained.

Bippity Boppity Behind You!  Cinderella Live is the world’s first virtual pantomime, but more than that, it’s a very traditional English panto which is very special indeed.

While the Australian season was short being July 24,25. With school performances  July 21,22, 23.

The virtual interactive performances are still available  On Demand.

Bookings via the link.  https://au.pantolive.com/

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