By Pauline Smith
Music by Richard Rodgers
Books and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Julianne Clinch
The Tin Shed
Season from August 13-28. Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/BROQH
The postponed start of Cinderella because of lockdown was well worth the wait, with colourful characters, great songs and loads of laughs.
Everyone is well acquainted with the story of Cinderella, a delightful, beautiful girl, left in the clutches of her not so nice stepmother and two stepsisters after losing her father, and relegated to the life of being a servant. Along comes a prince, a ball, a fairy godmother, and her fate is changed.
Under the direction of Julianne Clinch, the cast brought this story to life and with what it seemed a bit of updated dialogue to boot. The pre-show music seemed to be an unending loop of the Disney song, Wish Upon a Star, but this just helped to build the atmosphere for the performance that follows.
Scene 1 is the Village Square, where Cinderella is carrying all the shopping for her stepmother and two stepsisters, and where she bumps into Christopher (the prince going incognito). This is the first duet for Cinderella and Christopher with The Sweetest Sounds. There was also the prince’s steward, Lionel, announcing the upcoming ball being thrown by the prince (much to his surprise and disgust at his mother’s machinations to get him wed).
From the get-go, it was obvious that the casting was spot on for this musical. Each lead character was just so well done, in the true spirit that is Disney (although this is Rodgers and Hammerstein). Cinderella (Lara Boyle) is the epitome of a Disney princess. She had the classical fresh looks, the lovely locks (albeit a wig), and a clear singing voice, which meant you didn’t miss any of the lyrics. Prince Christopher (Adam Goodall) was a great match to Boyle in their duets and portrayed the prince charming role admirably.
Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Zoe Costello) was beautifully suited to the role. The full-on make-up, the gorgeous aqua green, gossamer costume and the bubbly energy of Costello portrayed what you might expect from a fairy godmother. However, there was no Bibbity Bobbity Boo from this fairy godmother, instead Fol-de-Rol, a song that put the kybosh on everything you expect a fairy godmother to do for you.
The stepmother (Brittany Smith) and the two stepsisters – Joy (Priya Shah) and Grace (Jamie-Lee Kemp) were absolutely fabulous. Smith portrayed the wicked stepmother to a tee, while Shah and Kemp were a belly full of laughs as the two sisters, continually picking fights between themselves. Kemp made use of her presence to play an “ugly” stepsister to the hilt. The costuming of these three was spot on, with the stepmother being in vamp clothing and the two sisters, in the most outrageous, bright, mismatched costumes imaginable.
The prince’s parents, round out the leads with King Maximillion (Shane Webb) and Queen Constantina (Stephanie Collins). Collins was just delightful as the doting mother, wanting her only son to marry so she could hear the pitter patter of tiny feet running around the palace again. Webb was equally delightful as the King, delivering a few laughs with not being able to get into a pair of trousers, which were obviously a size too small for him.
Worthy of special mention is Lionel (Ren Gerry). Gerry has been a regular face on stage at Phoenix. He has an absolutely lovely voice, and it was just delightful to see him in a co-lead role and performing a solo The Prince is Giving a Ball. The character also provides a few laughs with the stepmother attempting to marry the steward and Lionel trying desperately to get rid of her.
The band, led by Musical Director, Sally Faint, comprised of keyboard, wind instruments and percussion, provided the beautiful music that is Rodgers and Hammerstein in perfect harmony and level to the singers on stage. Costuming (Justin Tubb-Hearne) was fantastic. I almost questioned the dress Cinderella was wearing to go to the ball with its extra sleeves and bulbous bustle on what was once a pretty, pink dress. But this magically transforms into the most elegant ballgown, as do Cinderella’s animals into the horses and footmen for the pumpkin carriage.
The choreography (Ange Schoemaker and Melanie Southall) was delightful and made great use of the small space that is Phoenix’s stage. The set design was well thought out (Justin Tubb-Hearne) and again like the dancing, made great use of the stage with minimal changes required, and cast moving necessary props on and off the stage.
Apart from the usual technical hitches, and the prince knocking over a prop (which I’m not sure he intended to do or not, but covered it very well), this musical flows like magic.
I really enjoyed this performance and particularly liked the Ballroom scene, with the prince being utterly bored, having to dance with every female. He laments to his mother at one point “But what if I don’t find her tonight?”, to which his mother replies “It’s going to be a long night”. The other scene which I really liked was Lionel and Christopher hunting for the maiden who dropped her slipper. I won’t spoil it by saying what goes on.
Well done, Phoenix Ensemble for yet another delightful musical evening.