I recently had the pleasure of attending the spectacular production of Cinderella at Milton Keynes, and I must say, it was an absolute delight! From start to finish, the show captivated the audience with its magical sets, tricks, stunning costumes, and talented cast. However, one performer truly stole the show for me - Brian Conley, who played the lovable Buttons. But then he would. He is an old pro in the nicest possible way.
Conley's portrayal of Buttons was nothing short of exceptional. His comedic timing, infectious energy, and natural charisma had the entire audience in stitches throughout the performance. He effortlessly brought the character to life, making Buttons the heart and soul of the show. Conley's ability to engage with the audience was remarkable, as he interacted with both children and adults, creating a warm and inclusive atmosphere.
The two ugly sisters Tess (Ben Stock) and Claudia (Neal Wright) embraced their parts and you could tell they were lapping up the boos from the audience. Their catch phrase whenever they came on led to a very loud response from a packed house. Their costumes were second to known and they must have been shattered with a new costume for every scene they were in and there was a lot.
Cinderella was charmingly played by Sarah Vaughn and she was delightful. The adlibs (Choreographed of course) were effortless and she was a believable Cinderella. We had a special Fairy, Fairy 312 (Lucy Conley), who was looking to get her wings and she had one job to do which was to make Cinderella and the charming prince fall in love. Then and only then she can earn her wings. Guess what?
Dandini the Princes man servant, which is a difficult part, because not a lot happens. Played by Owen Stringer made it his own. Finaly Prince Charming (James Darch), had a few good rests during the show, was just that Prince charming and did what Prince Charming needed to do and did it well. Lots of the audience appreciated his Prince Charming looks.
The main cast were supported by some excellent dancers / singers – Nat Ingham, Hannah Morcos, Elysia Pemberton and Ollie Selwood. Excellent dancing and ensemble singing, all true pros and they really did add to the experience and it would have been a great loss if they were not all in it.
But back to Conley. His was a comedic genius, he showcased his great singing and dancing skills. His musical numbers were one of the highlights of the show (Although I kept hearing the occasional Al Jolson tinge to Brian’s Voice). But he left the audience in awe of his talent. Conley's voice was powerful and emotive, and his dance moves were executed with some precision and grace. It was evident that he put his heart and soul into every performance, leaving a lasting impression on everyone in the theatre.
The entire production of Cinderella was a visual feast. Beautifully directed by (Kathryn Rooney), Spot on Choreography by Jane McMurtrie. Clever lighting by Chris Winn with some good special FX by The Twins FX. The costumes were exceptional and looked class designed by Mike Coltman. And finally, what a fantastic orchestra conducted by David Lane.
To sum up on the creative side. The sets were beautifully designed, transporting us to the enchanting world of fairy tales. The costumes were exquisite, with intricate details and vibrant colours that added to the overall magical ambiance of the show. The choreography was also top-notch, with the ensemble dancers executing complex routines flawlessly.
The supporting cast was equally impressive, with each actor bringing their own unique charm to their respective roles. The chemistry between the characters was palpable, creating a believable and heartwarming dynamic on stage. There was no evil stepmother, or Baron Hardup of Hardup hall in this production, but you didn’t really notice their absence until you were walking out and thought about the traditional Cinderella.
Overall, Cinderella at Milton Keynes, with Brian Conley as Buttons, was a truly enchanting experience. It was a perfect blend of humour, romance, and magic that left me feeling uplifted and filled with joy. Conley's exceptional performance, combined with the stunning production values, made this a show that I will remember for many years to come. My colleague, went further and said it was the best panto he had seen ever! And he is old!
I highly recommend catching this production if you have the chance - it's a magical journey that will leave you with a smile on your face, pains in your belly from laughing and a great start to your Christmas celebrations or uplifting joy from when Christmas is over and the early January blues might kick in. this production is class and will bring a warm feeling in your heart.
It deserves so much more – But 5 starts out of 5
reviewer: Mark Bilsby