Having a ball with Cinderella at the Watford Palace Theatre

EVERYONE loves a rags-to-riches tale and Watford Palace Theatre s take on Cinderella for this year s pantomime is no exception. It s a real family show – full of slapstick humour, music, magic and romance – and the historic theatre itself retains all the

EVERYONE loves a rags-to-riches tale and Watford Palace Theatre's take on Cinderella for this year's pantomime is no exception.

It's a real family show - full of slapstick humour, music, magic and romance - and the historic theatre itself retains all the charm that one would expect from a venue dating back more than 100 years.

Joanna Read and Stuart Thomas' production, which opened last week to a packed audience, stays true to the popular fairytale but throws in a few quirky twists to keep it fresh, modern and funny.

There's nothing suave about Prince Charming in this show - instead of a smooth talking ladies man, director Kate Saxon has created a serious, train-spotting/bird-watching nerd in the form of actor Daniel Norford. He is also a Thomas the Tank Engine fan and his palace is a shrine to his cartoon hero - even his throne is fashioned into a train.

He couldn't be more different to his cheeky, man-about-town sidekick Dandini, who is played by Eugene McCoy, and their escapades together are highly entertaining.

Luckily Cinderella, played superbly by Bethan Walker, finds the prince's geeky credentials alluring and needless to say they fall head-over-heels in love.

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But there are three people in the way of their happy ending - Cinderella's evil stepmother played with true malevolence by Michele Moran and the two Ugly Sisters, who are undoubtedly the stars of the show.

There's Gorgonzola - a cockney-talking Amy Winehouse lookalike played by Peter Holdway, who has played an Ugly Sister at the theatre three times.

He is accompanied by the voluptuous Dolcelatte, played by Donovan F Blackwood, who appeared to be aiming for a Britney Spears/Lady Gaga image.

Together, the pair are hilarious and they had the audience in stitches from the second they trotted on stage in their audacious outfits.

From a food fight in a Ready Steady Cook kitchen scene to rapping, and ghost encounters to their outrageous antics at the palace ball - the Ugly Sisters are the source of most of the show's laugh-out-loud moments.

The fairy godmother, played by Laura Doddington, also gave a charming performance and added the magic and some incredible vocals to the show.

Down-on-his-luck Buttons, played by Andrew Macklin, stole the hearts of the audience with his unrequited love for Cinderella. And in true cheesy panto style, he had them up on their feet singing a Christmas rhyme by the end of the evening.

The child chorus and the youth chorus also deserve enormous credit for their supporting roles, as do the set designers for their impressive work.

If you're looking for a family show in a traditional setting, which is full of all the ingredients that a panto should be, head for the Watford Palace Theatre before January 2.

For tickets call 01923 225671 or visit www.watfordtheatre.co.uk