Panto Review: Cinderella at Harpenden Public Halls

Jess Robinson

Jess Robinson - Credit: Archant

It’s always a shame that Harpenden’s annual pantomime is overshadowed by its big budget, star-studded equivalent in St Albans, as there’s so much to recommend in the Public Halls production of Cinderella that it really deserves wider recognition.

This is a proper, old school panto in the music hall tradition, yet with enough contemporary references to ensure the adults in the audience don’t nod off when the lights go down, with a first-rate script from panto stalwart Chris Law, who also appears as Baron Hardup.

X Factor star Honey Fine, a former member of girl group Mon Amie, makes for an endearing Cinders, playing off well against CITV’s Luke Roberts as Buttons, particularly in an impressive three-handed song alongside Prince Charming Steve Leeds, best known for Nick Jr’s Go! Go! Go!

Ugly Sisters Ernie Almond and Simon Nicholas brought a macabre charm to their roles, with some quality ad-libbing after stumbling over a couple of lines only adding to their performance.

But the highlight of the show was unquestionably impressionist Jess Robinson as the Fairy Godmother, whose exceptional performance raised the standard of the entire production. With a remarkable talent for capturing celebrity voices in speech and song, she brought the house down with a musical medley featuring her interpretations of everyone from Dame Shirley Bassey and Julie Andrews to Adele and Lady Gaga by way of Gwen Stefani and Kate Bush. Quite incredible, and worth the ticket price alone!

Apart from the usual sprinkling of recent pop numbers like Little Mix’s Black Magic, this year’s songs included a name-checking celebration of life in Harpenden which is worth highlighting: “Inn on the Green for snacks how about you, Strada to just relax how about you, Stage Door and Party Box Silver Palate too, M & Co, Thorns and Threads, Topkins and Boots for meds how about you, The Common in the sun can’t get my fill, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose too give me the bill...”

Fantastic fun, which is a pretty accurate description of the entire show, which is undoubtedly the best panto Harpenden has seen in recent years.