Reviewed by Janice Bailey
With a story as familiar as Cinderella comes certain expectations. We have all seen the Disney cartoon versions where magic happens and we don’t question how. The story of Cinderella has been given new life with the advent of Robert L Freedman’s teleplay, with music by Rodgers and Hammerstein followed by the eventual stage adaptation.
Lauren Scarfe, in her debut directing role, has taken on a massive task to bring this show to life at the Shedley Theatre, complete with the music and magic. In the main she has succeeded. Set design by Scarfe and John Sheehan works well, along with Peter Howie’s Lighting Design. The use of the screen provides a modern touch but I found it somewhat intrusive when it wasn’t being used. Louise Watkins and Ann Humphries deserve special kudos for their costumes, especially in the ballroom scene. The transformation of Cinderella’s ‘rags’ to ballgown deserved the applause it received. However, as I am a traditionalist I wanted a blue sparkly gown – not the floral, which was more befitting of curtains or a couch. It achieved the intent of making Cinderella stand out but unfortunately for the wrong reasons – the remainder of the ballgowns were spectacular. Cinderella’s shoes, however, were definitely magical! The ‘magic’ which turned the cute mice and the pumpkin into Cinderella’s carriage and horses was cleverly achieved.
The orchestra, under the direction of Helen Loveday, do justice to the music of Rogers and Hammerstein while Thomas Phillips’s choreography is balanced and entertaining.
Scarfe has assembled a good enthusiastic cast. The ensemble are strong and their sound is full and well-rehearsed. The dancers look and perform like pros.
Kate Dempsey is suitably princess-like as Cinderella and delivers a seemingly effortless performance. However, there’s the traditionalist again – my expectation is that Cinderella should be blonde, just as Snow White must be a brunette. Dempsey’s Cinderella plays opposite her husband, Dominic Hodges’s Prince Christopher. Hodges also delivers a ‘charming’ performance.’ Stephanie Foy as the Fairy Godmother is delightfully amiable and vocally capable. Jessica Beattie as Joy, one of the stepsisters has an outstanding voice – together with Laura Langman as Grace, the second stepsister, they make a memorable team. Special mention must go to Theresa Dolman as the stepmother, who stepped up with just twelve hours to learn the role – she didn’t miss a beat!
The audience on opening night received the show with enthusiasm and warmth.