Roger Hall’s Cinderella - the Pantomime
10/11/2006 - 09/12/2006
By Roger Hall
Director – Janice Finn
Musical Director – Stuart Walker
A fantastic return to classic panto by Roger Hall – not seen in Dunedin since 1978!!! Roger Hall has written a brand-new version of the ‘Make ’em laugh’ tradition that can only be Panto!
Filled with local humour, music, outrageous wigs, fantastic makeup and costumes, watch Cinderella as she tackles evil, and tries to keep order as she chases her love interest across the pantomime stage.
With lots of opportunities for a really good shout of “it’s behind you” our audiences will be hoarse and happy! Don’t miss the magic and mayhem, the glitz and glamour of Cinderella.
So… break out the men in frocks! Polish those glass slippers! The cast are ready to role, … you too need to prepare yourselves for lots of audience parrr….tiiii….ciiiii…..paaation…
Check out the ODT review on the Fortune Theatre web site – www.fortunetheatre.co.nz
Cinderella - Claire Stanley
Prince - Jonny Hair
Ugly Sister - Joel Allen
Ugly Sister - Gavin Rutherford
Fairy Godmother - Jude Gibson
The King - Geoffrey Heath
Dandini - Phoebe Smith
Fimble - Louis Solino
Fumble - Tracey Bruce
Theatre , Music , Family , Children’s , Pantomime ,
Review by Terry MacTavish 21st Nov 2006
Perfect Christmas holiday fare. Of course there should be snow with coloured lights twinkling in the early dark, but who, young or old, can resist the charm of pantomime even on a warm summer evening? Certainly not Dunedinites, who are flocking to this good-humoured and polished production of Roger Hall’s Cinderella.
This is probably the best known and loved of all fairytales, and with grand piano, red velvet curtains, fantastical costumes and spangles aplenty, the Fortune does it with style.
Pantomimes are lovely. There’s song and dance and magic and gender-bending and transformation scenes, with mice turning into ponies, and the silly characters are all gloriously larger than life. This cast isn’t large for a panto, but that’s no problem with the audience to fill in as guests at the ball, and remind us all that kiwis really can’t dance.
The plot is updated and localised, of course. Cinders is a not-very-oppressed low-decile person who isn’t particularly interested in princes or balls at Larnach’s Castle (and who would be, given the nightmare Di and Fergie found palace life to be). The Prince, flying into town on absolutely the best albatross I’ve seen, isn’t too keen on royal ceremony either, but one look at the stroppy Fairy Godmother and we just know they’ll be matched despite themselves.
Jude Gibson runs the show as a down-to-earth hippy of a Fairy Godmother with a cheerfully vulgar sense of humour. She warns us, "From time to time I’ll appear as another character ~ it’s called cheap theatre", and shows her versatility by switching with aplomb from cheeky Bronx to posh English accent as Queen Hilary, to a suspiciously Helen Clark-sounding marriage celebrant. She works the audience like the seasoned pro she is, and her energy never falters.
Geoffrey Heath in a slightly disturbing doubling as father to both Cinders and the Prince is similarly proficient. Cool Tina Turner wig too.
As Cinderella, Claire Stanley is natural and charming, graceful without being showy, and sweet-voiced. Her Handsome Prince, Jonny Hair, woos the audience with his plaintive song ‘I’m not Prince Charming at all’ which mirrors Cinderella’s ‘I’m not a Cinderella girl’. They make a cute couple and it is not too much of a stretch to believe they’re destined for each other.
In good cannibalistic panto style, a bit of plot is borrowed from The Prince and the Pauper, to enable leggy Tracey Bruce as Dan Dini, waiter/actor manque, to take the prince’s place. And with their perfect comic timing the lively clown duo Fimble and Fumble (Louis Solino and Phoebe Smith) bring an impressively confident touch of commedia dell’arte to the proceedings. It is not easy to obey the FG’s instructions: "Don’t encourage them – they’re only here to change the furniture!"
But the undoubted crowd favourites are Joel Allen and Gavin Rutherford as two ravishing Ugly Sisters in corsets and outrageous hairdos. Hard to believe that just a week or so ago Allen was wowing all as a sexy baritone in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Here he happily colludes in seductively terrorising the nimble-fingered on-stage musical director Stuart Walker. We never seem to tire of chortling at men in frocks, do we, and these two muscular blokes exploit every possible sight gag in a stunning range of costume, from eighteenth century rococo ballgowns to the ultimate horror of a black g-string under a sleek see-through sheath dress.
The songs are well executed and quite hummable – I especially liked ‘Welcome to our Pantomime World’ and "The Morning after the Night Before’ – and the script in true Hall style abounds with jokes and smart one-liners that hopefully go right over the curly heads of our innocent young…
Just one quibble. At the risk of echoing John Smythe’s comments on the current production of Hall’s Aladdin, where oh where is the evil? Fairytales from the dawn of time have been the perfect medium to allow children to confront their fears and explore the dark side, as did the Fortune’s recent Witches (by Roald Dahl) with such success.
Cinderella has such terrific potential. As a child I was entranced by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon’s play ‘The Glass Slipper". The Ugly Sisters were deliciously, comically grotesque, but the Stepmother was utterly bone-chilling. Her power and malevolence were so real that I was terrified for Cinderella. How could Ella’s gentle goodness possibly prevail?
In Hall’s Cinderella the Ugly Sisters are just as grotesque, just as funny, as my memory, but inexplicably the Stepmother has been completely left out of the story. So we certainly get the laughs, but are denied the stomach-churning lurch of terror in the face of pure evil, and the ecstatic relief when at last love conquers all. Here all is sweetness and light, every character is really a poppet, and we have no doubt of the eventual outcome.
Yes yes, I know, it’s Christmas and it’s curmudgeonly to carp when after all this is a most delightful end to the theatrical year. The Fortune, the cast, and director Janice Finn have provided just the right festive flummery. Take granny and the kids, or the tipsy office party, and go and revel in the cheerful shenanigans of the brightest and slickest show the season is likely to offer.
Oh and PS – if you still pine for snow with your Xmas fare, you can always join the throngs on Mount Cargill, excitedly watching the majestic passage of icebergs along the Otago coastline!
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