As the first pantomime in Aylesbury's new £45 million Waterside theatre, Cinderella has multiple roles to fill - as a clear delineation from productions at the now deceased Civic Centre, as justification for the expense of the theatre build, and ultimately as a fun family panto experience. Thankfully, it succeeds on all three counts.
The casting of Cilla Black as Fairy Godmother shapes the whole show. Not only does her self-deprecating humour carry through to other aspects of the production, but by concentrating the musical numbers on her back catalogue, there's an element of class that is missing from shows which rely solely on contemporary songs.
The quality is visible throughout, not only from the sumptuous set designs but with a strong cast and a coherent dance ensemble. As Buttons, Andy Collins drives the comedy and audience interaction, working hard to make it look effortless. Ugly sisters Chris Dennis and Nick Richards are lewd and crude, and although their outfits don't always live up to the gaudy splendour of their opening attire, their performance is consistently good.
With such an emphasis on comic roles (further supplemented by Billy Boyle's Baron Hardup and Richard Reynard's Dandini), the title character risks getting overwhelmed. Thankfully, Nicola Brazil's spirited Cinderella makes that impossible, delivering a strong vocal performance that shines.
There are some weak points - Cinderella's transformation suffers from a ball outfit that doesn't differ sufficiently from her pre-change hood and cloak combo for example - but overall this is a fine production to establish the Waterside's reputation in the local area.