The timeless fairy tale Cinderella is a classic for the whole family. Given a wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein treatment the Queensland Musical Theatre 2017 season closer sparkles with magic, frills, mice, and song.
Directed by Deian Ping, Cinderella was restored with a faithful, classic touch that harked back to the golden age of musical theatre. Some very strong casting for the lead roles leant the show a fresh and vibrant feel and clear working with the choreographer meant that the dances seemed to be easily a part of the frame work of the show.
A larger than ordinary ensemble made having some clear scene work difficult, and the stage occasionally felt very crowded, especially during the opening number, and the scenes in the palace. However, most of the chorus found their own delightful stories to play out, and it did mean that no matter where you looked onstage, something fun and engaging was happening.
Choreography by Julianne Burke was wonderful, fluid, and often seamlessly blending in with the action of the scene around it, especially in the palace scenes. Burke managed to navigate an exceedingly crowded stage for the big production numbers and still produced company routines that were full of the type of joy we would expect from a show like Cinderella. A special highlight was the pumpkins, mice, and rats dancing for Cinderella. It was the cutest thing I have seen in years.
Strong musical direction from Gerry Crooks led to a quickly moving show. The orchestra was lovely, but a little soft to hear it properly in parts. The full ensemble vocal work was overall excellent, and the solo, duet, and part singing was very well executed. In places the balance between orchestra, and vocalist was not quite optimal. The lack of volume sometimes made the stage seem very quiet, especially in the opening number where we could hear the dancers feet on the floor, over what is a very powerful, and well played orchestration. Overall, the splendour of the Rodgers and Hammerstein score was faithfully, and joyfully brought to life, and when the balance was adjusted later in the show, the results were extraordinary.
Bringing a fairy tale princess to life is no small task. Especially not one as utterly iconic as Cinderella, and many interpretations have fallen far short of the mark. Sarah Copley however, is perfection. She is sweet, daring, coy, flirtatious, and has a voice to die for. From her rendition of ‘In My Own Little Corner’, through to her duet work in ‘Ten Minutes Ago’ Copley is Disney princess perfect. Every considered head tilt, and hand gesture is reminiscent of the classic film, and her perfectly rounded tones in both her singing and speaking voice always alluding to the princess underneath the servant girl exterior. Copley’s performance is worth the admission price alone.
A perfect princess needs a perfect Prince Charming, and in Thomas Chapman we have exactly that. His voice is velvet, and he holds a thoroughly well composed poise throughout. Chapman gives us a commanding, sweet, thoughtful Charming, who is such a wonderful match for Copley. Their onstage chemistry is magical and will make even the most cynical audience member smile.
Fiona Buchanan gives us a Queen Constantina that is as much Hyacinth Bucket as it is head of state. There is a wonderful vulnerability given to the Queen here. Buchanan finds such a delightful balance between relish in the ongoing festivities and concern for her son and heir. Buchanan’s duet work in ‘Boys And Girls Like You And Me’ is very sweet. Her opposite, King Maximillian, played by Christopher Crane gives us a very stoic, wooden monarch. Crane provides plenty of opportunities for Buchanan to work to draw him into the joy of the festival.
Every fairy tale needs a villain, and this one gives us three. The Stepmother (Ros Booth), and the Stepsisters Portia (Eliza King) and Joy (Eloise Newman). Booth, King, and Newman are an absolute treat, berating poor Cinderella mercilessly and throwing in some “pounding” good jokes pitched right for the adults in the audience. They are a wonderful catalyst for villainy and humour, and their interactions, with anyone who crosses their path are as horrifying as they are applause worthy. The ‘Stepsisters’ Lament’ is so well done, King and Newman clearly have as much fun as the audience during it. And the four part work in ‘When You’re Driving Through The Moonlight’ and ‘A Lovely Night’ is one of the genuine highlights of the show.
Rodgers and Hammerstein always have a moral to their stories, and Aleasha Liddy’s Fairy Godmother gets to deliver this one handily. Floating in on a puff of smoke (and a clever use of set) Liddy gave us a tender but firm Fairy Godmother, equally assuring Cinderella that magic is possible and underlining the truth that although you have your wish, what you do with it now, is entirely up to you.
Honourable mentions have to go to the amazing children of the show, who threw themselves into a myriad of costumes, danced, sang, brought inanimate objects to life, and threw a tsunami of energy out off the stage every time they ran on.
The technical aspects of Cinderella were fairly consistent across the board. They suffered a little from some mistimes, some lighting cues coming up late, a few mic issues, some balance problems with the orchestra and the singers overall, but these began to iron out as the production moved into its second act, and can only get stronger throughout the season.
There were some clunky scene changes that left the audience sitting in the dark for a longer period than they should have been. However, given the simplicity and beauty of the set design and the beautifully back drops by Renee Milton, it was very effective at immersing the audience into the world of a classical musical.
The only notes I could give to this would be that there are some safety issues that I am sure have been resolved, but warrant being discussed. The gazebo appeared not to be locked at one point, as it swayed and drifted when Cinderella and Prince Charming crossed it. The throne platform looked as though it didn’t have enough space for the Queen to walk across it safely considering her costuming, and the rose garden scrim caught the Queen’s dress under it as it was brought in because she wasn’t clear enough for it to be lowered. All small things, but they could have had big consequences.
QMT’s Cinderella is a classic fairy tale brought to life in true Rodgers and Hammerstein fashion. It is luxurious, charming and just a little bit magical. It’s delightful.