So, here we are at ITV panto number two, Cinderella (2000). Is it as surprisingly decent as Jack and the Beanstalk (1999) or is it actually as naff as the most amateur of primary school productions?
Cinderella (Samantha Womack) is treated as a servant by her wicked stepmother, the evil Baroness (Sian Philips) and her two ghastly daughters, Griselda (Ronnie Corbett) and Lucretia (Paul Merton). Only Buttons (Frank Skinner) shows her any love and kindness, but that all changes when she bumps into Prince Charming (Alexander Armstrong) when gathering kindling in the woods while he is with his servant Dandini (Ben Miller). After the Prince announces a ball to find a future Queen, Cinderella’s fairy Godfather (Julian Clary) helps her prepare to meet Prince Charming and escape her terrible life.
Cinderella is not very good. There are few positives, Paul Merton and Ronnie Corbett are fun enough and have a fairly entertaining song, Julian Clary is great but I feel as though his role’s in Jack and the Beanstalk somehow fitted him better. Sian Phillips is fine but the fact that she is clearly loving every second of her part helps to make her performance more enjoyable than it otherwise might have been. Frank Skinner is a fun and likable Buttons, occasionally breaking character to get a few laughs. Harry Hill appears and while he is essentially doing stand-up for two minutes, it is well incorporated into his small part.
Unfortunately, that’s about it for the positives. The biggest problem with Cinderella is that it drags like a chain-smoker on a pack of woodbines. There is so much filler it is unbelievable. There’s a scene where Cinderella goes into the woods to collect kindling and the there’s a short, albeit well-choreographed dance where the trees move around and play tricks on her. What does it amount to? Nothing. There’s another scene where Cinderella is given the carriage, dress and footmen by her fairy Godfather in preparation for the ball but there’s at least 5 lines dedicated to answering the question of how they’ll get the carriage out of the house; it just isn’t needed, let the plot hole be, we can just assume Julian Clary magicked it out. The two ugly stepsisters have a scene where they paint the house and throw paint over each other, it’s literally there to fill the time while the other actors dress for the next scene and the sets are sorted but it comes at a pivotal time in the plot and breaks up the pace terribly.
Also, there’s a similar writing issue here as there is in Jack and the Beanstalk. In the original story, Cinderella makes a dress to wear to the ball and is set upon by her stepsisters who tear it apart. Here, she doesn’t make a dress, just proclaims she’ll wear the plain dress she’s being wearing throughout the panto, which is then torn apart. It’s a totally pointless scene, she’d never have been let in to the ball wearing a plain, already pretty tattered dress, why not just write the scene where she makes a dress, or have Buttons give it to her. In fact, such a scene would replace some of the dull and unnecessary filler that litters the entire panto. Like Jack and the Beanstalk’s ending, this is a somewhat nitpicky point, but it helps highlight a script that badly needed a rewrite.
Aside from some fairly fun performances and funny moments, Cinderella drags on for an age, is filled to the brim with filler and really ought to have done with just a bit more effort on the writing side. Pretty poor on the whole.