Theatre walls filled with twinkling stars, strip lights beaming around the audience – even before the curtain went up on Cinderella at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, it was already promising a magical evening.

Add an outstanding cast, talented dancers and music, under the direction of Paul Herbert, and this production of Cinderella is one the best the theatre has staged. 

From the moment Claudia Kariuki, as the Fairy Godmother, with lyrical voice, stepped out to rouse the audience to help her look after Cinderella, she had us all under her spell.

Onto the stage bounced Buttons, a comic James Merry, getting the children to yell a warning every time someone went near his tool box – and he even got a rousing response from the grown-ups.

Cinderella was played by a serene Clair Gleave, worn out and overworked cleaning Hard-Up Hall. But as this was a modern slant on an old fairy tale, she proved to be a feisty heroine. Not too willing to fall into the arms of Prince Harold, played by a handsome Stanton Wright with terrific dance moves, when he offered her his kingdom.

As always Cinders’ ugly sisters lit up the show and Peter Gordon as Thelma, in a dress the size of a tent and Matt Pinches as slim Louise, dressed in psychedelic cat suits, were hilarious, battling each other with insulting flying.

Their mother, Baroness Hard Up, is played by Lucy Benjamin, a sexy, blonde, dynamo of energy, scene-stealing and the star of the show as the villain who had the audience booing and hissing every time she slinks across the stage.

Brilliant direction by Joanna Read, made sure the energetic mayhem didn’t flag and all the old panto favourites were backed by a script of technological phrases in tune with the youngsters of today.

Another highlight was when Thelma, Louise and Buttons sang their own version of Twelve Days of Christmas with Buttons as a custard pie target. Also when the traditional audience song was a surprise Caribbean calypso, with everyone on their feet swaying to the music. Followed by the coming cast armed with water guns and spraying the audience.

The final scene was spectacular, Thelma and Louise dressed as giant Christmas cakes and everyone in breathtaking costumes. The cast certainly deserved the standing ovation they got for providing a wonderful, fun, family evening.

Cinderella runs at the Arnaud until January 7.

Sheila Checkley