Theatre Review: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Theatre Review: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ is NOT a Pantomime – it is a full-blown Musical! Northern Light’s version is based on the 1997 TV special.

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Presented by Northern Light Theatre Company
Reviewed 1 April 2016

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is NOT a Pantomime – it is a full-blown Musical! It has undergone many incarnations and reincarnations throughout the years: starting life as a televised version in 1957 starring Julie Andrews; re-appearing on the small screen in 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren; revised and ‘made over’ in 1997, again for the small screen with Brandy Norwood as Cinderella, Whitney Houston as The Fairy Godmother, Bernadette Peters as the Step-Mother and Jason Alexander (George in Seinfeld) as Lionel the Steward; ending with the Broadway production (almost completely rewritten) in 2013. Northern Lights’ current production is based on the 1997 version.

Tom Drenthen as Lionel (C) and Ensemble
Tom Drenthen as Lionel (C) and Ensemble

With Cinderella being possibly the most loved fairy tale in all of the Kingdom, there really is no need to explain the story. Unfortunately, probably due to the fact that the libretto has seen many people pen it – starting with the original ‘book’ by Hammerstein, then the teleplay by Robert L Freedman, then adapted to the stage by Tom Briggs – the final script is a bit laboured and not all that funny. However, that has not stopped this production from being charming and fairly magical (as much as it can be on a small budget).

Making her debut as a director, Lauren Scarfe has poured love and affection into this production and for the most part, it shows. What hampered it on opening night were the usual amateur nightmares: the ‘tech’ stuff. Sloppy cueing of lights, some slow scene changes, and sound hassles played a little havoc with the pace; but these are all things that can be rectified.

That aside, this is quite a wonderful version with some delightful things happening. The cast are fully committed to bringing the famous fairy tale to life. Scarfe has injected humour and cuteness into the show with such things as a funny shoe-fitting sequence complete with graphics and the sweetest little mice ever. The transformation of Cinderella’s tattered dress into her ball gown is an extremely clever piece of theatre and costuming.

Then there is the Act Two opening Waltz sequence, beautifully choreographed by Thomas Phillips and performed with well drilled precision by the ensemble – absolutely stunning!!

Kate Hodges as Cinderella
Kate Hodges as Cinderella

Well worth the price of admission, as is the entire performance by Kate Hodges (nee Dempsey) as Cinderella. She does not ‘slip’ up (sorry!). Ms Hodges is always captivating to watch but roles such as this are her forte. She brings Cinders to life and while being utterly charming, relays a sense of believability that sweeps each one of us away believing that fairy tales can come true. Her romantic duets with Prince Christopher (real-life husband Dominic Hodges) are lovely to watch and listen to.

As the Prince, Hodges does well but has slight troubles with some of the higher notes of his songs. As his steward, Lionel, Tom Drenthen doesn’t quite bring out the humour of his character, whilst Graham Loveday does as the King and is in fine voice.

Stephanie Foy is delightful as the Fairy Godmother and positively glows, especially when singing It’s Possible with Ms Hodges. Jessica Beattie (Joy) and Laura Langman (Grace) make great stepsisters and almost steal the show with their number, Stepsisters’ Lament.

Special mention and a thousand kudos must go to Theresa Dolman, who with only 8 hours of rehearsal stepped into the role of the Stepmother perfectly. It seemed as if she had been rehearsing since day one, such was the ease and flair she demonstrated. A brilliant effort and well worth the applause she received.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable production, that while not making you want to rush out and buy glass slippers (a ridiculous invention when you think about it), will make you come out of the theatre feeling good.

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Twitter: @briangods

Venue: Shedley Theatre  Playford Civic Centre, Elizabeth
Season: 1 – 16 April 2016
Duration: 2 hours 15 mins (including interval)
Tickets: Adults $32 Conc $27 Group bookings (10 or more) $30 & $25 – Family $98
Bookings: Bookings Online at www.northernlight.org.au/tickets
By Phone 8281 5026 (9am–9pm) or BASS 131 246

 

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