As Fairfield Halls first Pantomime since it's reopening in the Autumn, it is great to see pantomime move from the smaller Ashcroft Theatre into the much larger Phoenix Concert Hall. On entering the theatre the anticipation of a fully magical evening is evident with lavish staging and projections.

As the show begins we are transported to the village with projections that morph and sparkle under the spell of the Fairy Godmother, perkily played by CBeebies Cat Sandion.

Of course we all know the story of Cinderella so there can never be a huge amount of surprise, but this version falls short in not creating enough original twists to make it stand-out, and not giving the storyline enough emphasis. The traditional elements such as slosh and the 'it's behind you' are there but not given enough emphasis. There is no doubting the spectacular qualities that the staging and projections brought. The artwork and different scenes were all beautifully crafted by designers Mark Walters (set) and Nina Dunn (video), This was used imaginatively but was less successful in Cinderella's transformation, and the carriage appearance was a bit of an anti-climax. At times the brightness of the projections fought against the action that was happening in front.

The band were excellent but the sound levels were loud throughout giving the feeling of a gig rather than a pantomime. Some great vocals were at times fighting with the band. I am sure this will get sorted during the run.
The characterisation and voices of Grace Chapman (Cinderella) and James Bisp (Prince)were great and their duets were the musical highlights.

Baroness Hard-up's (Katie Cameron) American take on the role, was a reminder of Dynasty, and revelled in her wickedness. As Ugly Sisters Tess and Claudia Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron had all the husky nastiness required, but needed more comedy to make the characters loveable rogues.

Ore Oduba made a charming 'dancing Dandini', making full use of his 'Strictly' talents, but the person that truly held the Pantomime together was Tim Vine as a slightly mature Buttons. Much fun was made of this and his great one liners. He showed his pantomime credentials, with his asides and adlibs that had the audience in stitches. The moment when he discovered one of the kids brought up on stage was a grand-daughter of a critic was an absolute golden moment.

Though it has its faults, this is a tremendously spectacular evening and good family entertainment. It will hopefully establish Croydon as one of the country's best pantomime venues. Looking forward to seeing what they do with Beauty and the Beast next year.