Torvill & Dean do Cinderella pantomime on roller blades
The classic rags to riches fairytale story of Cinderella unfolded at the Bristol Hippodrome this week to a standing ovation and two curtain calls.
Iconic skaters Torvill and Dean took up the baton of British pantomime by gliding around the stage on roller boots in a dry ice mist of Boléro music for their debut appearance at the city centre theatre.
Mixed with slapstick comedy routines, rapturous applause, gender bender roles, risqué jokes and outlandish costumes the 300-year-old pantomime traditional was alive and well on Tuesday night.
For sheer physicality Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill stole the show as the two former Olympians gave a beautifully athletic and breathtakingly acrobatic performance as the fairy godparents King Crispin and Queen Juniper
But with all the twirling around the stage and hanging upside down from what appears to be flimsy purple satin ribbons loosely knotted around their waists it was a bit worrying to watch especially as the pinnacle of their gold medal career was back in 1984.
The familiar face of the multi-talented and manic Andy Ford and the role of the stepmother were missing and missed but all the newcomers received a warm West Country welcome and for me it was my best-ever panto.
This is the second time the Bristol Hippodrome has staged Cinderella in four years and the seasonal script and pop-up twinkly backdrop is a little déjà vu although there were some lovely new innovations especially the magical freeze frames, woodland creatures and ‘my little pony’ moments.
I liked Pot Noodle advert star and stand-up comic Jarred Christmas who shouted ‘kia ora’ as his catchphrase greeting as Buttons which is a bit confusing as I thought he was promoting an orange squash brand not using the Māori word for ‘hi’.
He arrived on stage riding an office swivel chair and was topically described as ‘one Mary Berry short of a great bake off’.
The exception to the merriment was a stubborn chap sitting in the front row who refused to rise to the comedian’s bait and remained stoic becoming the butt of a flurry of ad libs especially about his dress sense.
There was a big intake of breadth when Buttons told children in the audience to repeat to their teachers the next day a joke about toilet paper rolling down the hill to get to the bottom.
Luckily most of the more X-rated jokes like the one referencing Tom, Dick and Harry went straight over the heads of the young people but could have been the reason for the refusanik grown-up in the front seat.
There were a few twists with tradition as the wicked stepmother – a part I hold dear having played the role in the 1960s in my final year at Great Marlow School – is missing; the principal boy was a boy; the truly hideous ugly sisters were orphans and the glass slipper was sparkly crystal!
The Hippodrome used film of the audience projected onto the curtain as a warm-up plus a showtime countdown and this produced some funny ‘candid camera’ moments.
A chance meeting in the winter forest led to a truly, deeply and madly love match for Cinderella played by Rhiannon Chesterman with a soft Irish lilt and the all-singing and all-dancing tenor of Prince Charming played by Blair Gibson.
But my favourite was the camp aide-de-camp Devonian Samuel Holmes as Dandini who wore a manly pink suit to the ball and sang the Nina Simone number Feeling Good in a butch baritone voice.
Lots of local references – usually derogatory but none about anywhere in North Somerset except for Weston-super-Mare.
The scene with Tim Hudson and Charles Brunton as ugly sisters Wasabi and Saffron carrying their toy dogs in desperate need of house training led to some gross groans from those in the stalls who got wet especially when they were told ‘you are lucky it isn’t a shih tzu’ and included more cringe-worthy bathroom humour involving putting bread down the loo to feed the toilet duck!
Dressed as overgrown Girl Guides the wicked stepsisters perform the Gangham-style hit Japanese song PPAP which is sweeping YouTube and while standing hopefully under the mistletoe the pair were rejected with the retort ‘I wouldn’t kiss you under anesthetic’.
Buttons and company performed the statutory Who, What, and I Don’t Know house naming game, the pure pantomime of ‘it’s behind you’ with a gorilla and the chocolate milk tray branding routine.
A self-effacing Christopher Dean endeared himself to the audience with his ‘gert lush’ attempts at talking Bristle including ‘cheers drive’ and in slow motion made numerous attempts to relive his Sarajevo glory moment only to be rebuffed by Jayne Torvill until the triumphant finale.
Director Anthony Houghton doubled as the long-suffering Baron Hardup, father to Cinderella and stepfather to the monstrous duo.
The supporting cast including the young dancers didn’t put a foot wrong and in the blink-of-an-eye full credit for the speed of lightning costume changes. It was a great night out enjoyed by me and my companions aged 12 and eight.
Cinderella plays until Sunday, January 8.
Cinderella on skates 2016
PREVIEW: Iconic stars of ice Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are coming to Bristol Hippodrome for the Christmas pantomime.
The pair with star at the fairy godparents in Cinderella.
Britain’s most beloved sporting heroes bring their unique talents to The Bristol Hippodrome for the first time ever and will wow audiences with their amazing routines.
Jayne said: "This will be our first visit to the Bristol Hippodrome and we are very much looking forward to performing in the city.
"We’re already working on some brand new choreography which we hope will bring a whole lot more excitement to the wonderful Cinderella story and reworking some old favourites too."
Christopher siad: "We’re really looking forward to bringing Cinderella to life on skates and spending the festive season in Bristol.
"We can’t wait for Christmas now!"
The Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics saw Torvill and Dean shoot to international fame as the pair became the highest scoring figure skaters of all time after skating to Ravel's Bolero, creating one of the most memorable sporting and entertainment moments and earning them a gold medal.
Torvill and Dean continued to skate together for a further 14 years winning numerous professional and amateur competitions.
Following their professional skating retirement in 1998 the pair embarked on a number of other projects including choreographing for English National Ballet, touring with Stars On Ice and producing ice shows such as Ice Adventures at Wembley, while also continuing to choreograph for other dancers.
From 2006 to 2014 Torvill and Dean became prime time TV favourites as coaches, choreographers and performers in ITV's Dancing On Ice also taking the show on the road in their national UK tours.
In 2014, Torvill and Dean returned to Sarajevo to dance the Bolero one more time, celebrating the 30 year anniversary of their Olympics performance.
Their name remains synonymous with Ravel’s masterpiece to date.
Bristol Hippodrome general manager Neil Chandler said: "Following on from great reviews for their debut pantomime performance last year, we are especially delighted in an Olympic year to have Torvill and Dean arrive at the Bristol Hippodrome where they’ll swap their ice-skates for inline skates to perform on stage.
"This new innovation will really will add an exciting fresh dynamic to a truly wonderful festive tradition."
With further casting to be announced, the classic rags to riches tale Cinderella will be transformed into a breath-taking family extravaganza with glittering sets, gorgeous costumes, big song and dance numbers, bags of audience participation, real Shetland ponies and jaw-dropping skating sequences.
So get your skates on and book your tickets now for the best panto in town.
The role of Buttons is being taken by Jarred Christmas is a comedian and actor whose 15 years on the comedy circuit have catapulted him onto the small-screen in shows such as Mock the Week, Never mind the Buzzcocks, 8 out of 10 Cats, Russell Howard’s Good News and Let’s Dance for Comic Relief.
Jarred has also guest-starred in Hollyoaks Later, CBBC’s the Joke Machine, Jonathan Creek, New Tricks and Up the Women and recently hosted BBC NI’s series Monumental.
The title role of Cinderella is palyed by Rhiannon Chesterman who was part of the original cast of Mrs Henderson Presents in the world premiere at the Theatre Royal Bath understudying the role of Maureen. She later reprised this role for the West End transfer at the Noel Coward Theatre. Other theatre credits include Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Hairspray.
Her beau is newcomer Blair Gibson as The Prince who graduated in performing arts this year and this is only his second appearance as The Prince in Cinderella .
Panto and musical veteran Samuel Holmes is Dandini.
Samuel hails from Plymouth and has appeared in pantomimes Peter Pan, Cinderella & Aladdin. Musical theatre includes Mrs Henderson Presents, Spamalot, Kiss Me Kate, White Christmas, Crazy For You, My Fair Lady, The Merry Widow & The Pirates of Penzance.
Anthony Houghton as Baron Hardup completes the line-up.
Anthony’s most recent screen credits include a lead role in the British feature film Arcadia and the short film Class 15.
Other credits include Poirot (ITV), Chucklevision (BBC), and Agent Z And The Penguin From Mars (BBC) and a lead in the British horror film Millbrook.
Anthony’s theatre credits span more than 25 years and include many leading roles.
The ugly sibling are Tim Hudson and Charles Brunton.
The classic rags to riches tale Cinderella will be transformed into a breath-taking family extravaganza with glittering sets, gorgeous costumes, big song and dance numbers, bags of audience participation, real Shetland ponies and jaw-dropping off-ice skating sequences.
The panto runs from Saturday to Saturday, December 10-January 7.
Tickets from £12.
To book online click HERE or call 0844 871 3012.
Booking for groups of more than 10 call 0844 871 3032.