Cinderella: New Zealand’s Best Top Model

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

02/10/2012 - 13/10/2012

Production Details


A classic fairytale gets a modern makeover this October school holidays as Kapitall Kids’ Theatre presents Cinderella: New Zealand’s Best Top Model at the Gryphon Theatre.

Writer and director Tanya Piejus says, “It’s still Charles Perrault’s timeless tale of rags to riches as a poor country girl’s charm and kindness lead her to a new life – with a little help from her fairy godmother. 

“However, Sandra-Ella, as she’s called in our story, is a contestant on ‘New Zealand’s Best Top Model’ and has to battle arrogant co-competitors, runway shows in high heels and animal allergies to win the man of her dreams.

“I was inspired by some of the young Top Model contestants who often come from difficult and deprived backgrounds. I was particularly thinking of Danielle Hayes, who won cycle 2 of New Zealand’s Next Top Model. She came from Kawerau and got all sorts of opportunities she never would have had otherwise from being on the show. Hers was a real Cinderella story and the parallels were obvious.”

For Adam Koveskali, who plays Top Model judge Kevin and handsome fashion designer Charlie Prince, rehearsals have been a trip down memory lane.

“My very first stage role at the age of five was playing an ugly sister in Cinderella. My gran laughed when I told I was cast in this production as she remembered coming to watch me at primary school.”

The other members of the cast are Fern Wallingford (Sandra-Ella), Catriona Tipene (Montana), Helen Grant (California), Loren Martin (Tara/Giselle), Darry Woods (Jason) and Moana Ete (Chanel).

Cinderella: New Zealand’s Best Top Model
Gryphon Theatre at 22 Ghuznee Street
2–13 October 2012
11 am and 1 pm on weekdays and 11 am on Saturdays.

For more information and bookings, visit or call (04) 934 4068. 

Production Manager: Rodney Bane 

1 hr

Less than satisfying

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Oct 2012

Kapitall Kids Theatre’s Cinderella – NZ’s Best Top Model, is, as the name suggests, based on reality TV shows frequently seen on our TV such NZ’s Next Top Model.  When Sandra-Ella (Fern Wallingford) makes a fool of herself on the catwalk in front of the judges Kevin Parker (Adam Koveskali) and Jason Jay (Darryn Woods) she misses out on being chosen as one of NZ’s top model’s to California (Helen Grant) and Montana (Catriona Tipene) and so she doesn’t get to go to the Fashionistas Ball as part of Fashion NZ week.

But when entrepreneur Charlie Prince throws a party for the contestants Giselle the Fairy Godmother (Loren Martin) comes to Sandra-Ella’s rescue and so she is able to go to the party after all.  But of course she has to leave early and so runs out leaving behind her shoe. Charlie then has to hunt for the shoes owner, including amongst the audience.

While the premise on which this modern version is based has the potential for a lively production much of this is not realised in Tanya Piejus’ adaptation which she also directs.

Although there are some cleverly adapted songs and the show does partially redeem itself at the end by getting the audience up to dance, there are long wordy expositions with little action not helped by a lack of pace and energy from the performers. 

And it is difficult to know who the show is aimed at if the young audience is not familiar with reality TV shows making it a less than satisfying production of the traditional Cinderella story.


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Falls well short of professional standards

Review by John Smythe 02nd Oct 2012

The first of many things wrong with Cinderella: New Zealand’s Best Top Model is that it presupposes a familiarity with such TV shows as New Zealand’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, etc. which are more attuned to tweens and teens than the 4 to 7 year old demographic this production is pitched at.

Having embarked on that questionable format, no effort is made to punctuate the long-drawn out early heats with the all-important musical stings, hence – given it is necessarily devoid of camera shots and editing – the opening sequence is as tepid and tedious as it would be on telly without the pseudo-dramatic sound-track.  

Most of the seven cast members opt for presenting two-dimensional characteristics rather than performing fully-formed characters. The exceptions are: Helen Grant, whose well-wrought wannabe model California (from Hamilton) is consistently true; the woefully underused Moana Ete, whose swiftly eliminated Chanel proves a credible character can arise from precious little material; Fern Wallingford, who is nicely centred and therefore relatively compelling as the warm and friendly, if somewhat bumbling, Sandra Ella (from Waipukurau).

The broad brush-strokes Catriona Tipene brings to Montana (California’s bitch girlfriend) work in parts. Loren Martin is more comfortable as Giselle the Fairy Godmother from NYC than Tara the non-descript front-person for NZ’s BTM. While Adam Koveskali makes do with a cod French accent for Kevin Parker the photographer, he manages to invest designer Charlie Prince with a pleasant innocence once he falls in love with the mysterious woman who turns up late to the Fashionistas’ Ball.

Writer/director Tanya Peijus has failed to invest the show with anything like the dynamic it needs, not least to compensate for having to play in a bland black space featuring a set of steps the actors appear to be fearful of, which rather robs the ‘runway’ moments of any sense of style. (One would have thought that sharing the space with Le Burlesque et Moulin, which opens tomorrow, would have been conducive to some shared design values.)

An A/V screen is under-used but does deliver the clever effect of seeing Sandra exit stage left then arrive at, and step into, her waiting limo (conjured from a lettuce).

A lack of scripted dialogue and a mediocre sound system (or is it just crappy recordings and mis-timed operating?) makes the much-heralded ball scene fall embarrassingly flat and then it all happens again with a totally superfluous party scene, which can only have been added to pad out the show.

The songs are make-overs of pop standards. ‘The One We Want’ (‘Staying Alive’) opens the show quite well but the high point is ‘I See Bread’ (to Tim Finn/Split Enz ‘I See Red’) as the models battle their hunger pangs.

The chorography is barely adequate and/or under-rehearsed for a show that bills itself as professional and is competing against three other live theatre productions for the school holiday business.

Unable to suspend my disbelief I find the moral lesson – that you will win in the end if you are well behaved and good to people even when they are being mean to you (i.e. bullying you and making you into a slave) – to be less than compelling; suspect, even. And speaking of morality, having Charlie Prince, who has openly professed his love for Sandra, as one of the judges who pronounces her NZ’s Best Top Model, is not a good look.

This is a show that requires style, panache and whimsy with a good garnish of comedy – all possible within a low budget production – and sadly it falls well short of what we should be able to expect in the professional arena.


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