Diamond Valley Singers recent production of Cinderella proved that simplistic staging, in conjunction with a passionate and talented cast, can create a highly entertaining night in the theatre.
The production’s text, based on the 1997 telemovie starring Brandy and Whitney Houston, provided a more modern twist on the classic tale, which, director Tamblyn Smith definitely utilized. Smith incorporated a sense of liberated humour and pathos through his direction, which forwarded the themes belonging and individuality throughout the production very well. His concept of using a gigantic shoe, as a multitude of objects, such a door, a set of stairs, and even a town meeting place, was inspired. However, at times, it looked as though it interfered with the actors’ interactions on stage, and, furthermore, posed as a distraction from the show’s narrative.
While the choreography by Smith served its purpose of enhancing the trajectory of the story, it seemed under rehearsed at times, which consequently made it effectiveness diminish as a storytelling mechanism.
Music director Lucas Wilson-Richter has led the cast to the achievement of strong vocal performances on the whole. Even though there were few harmonies that sounded unbalanced and slightly out of tune, the immersive connection between the performers on stage transcended the audience into the world of the story. As a result, the audience began listening to not the quality of the singing, but what they were singing about, which, is the ultimate goal in music theatre storytelling.
The set was simplistic, and at times made the stage feel empty. This made the audience feel at times rather confused regarding fine details of this world the performers were trying to portray. Even though audiences can use their imaginations, it is still important to appeal to the lavish, extravagant nature of Cinderella. Unfortunately, this production did not fulfill this expectation.
While the costumes were quite fitting for the era of the story, it would have been nice to have seen more symbolism in terms of the colour palette used to enhance the characterisations and their meanings to the audience. However, it has to be admitted that the grand transformation of Cinderella into her ball gown was truly stunning and served as the single costume of the entire show that felt completely related to the vision of the production. It was glamorous, beautifully crafted and modelled so well.
The lighting at times seemed disorganised and gave little meaning to the storytelling. This was disappointing as an increased usage of more lighting, particularly of a dramatic and majestic nature could have made the transitions between time and place more smooth and exciting for the audiences eye. The sound, on the whole, was not executed particularly well. There were many moments where actors were not amplified. This posed a great challenge to the audience as they lost understanding on what was happening on stage.
Memorable performances included Kristen Ryan as Cinderella. There was a special glow every time Ryan was on the stage. A captivating actress, Ryan’s voice was also gorgeous, particularly in numbers such as ‘In My Own Little Corner’.
Asher Griffith-Jones’s Prince Christopher didn’t completely fall into the alpha-male prince stereotype, which was really interesting take on the character. Through this, Griffith-Jones was able to inject a bit more humanity into the character. This allowed the audience to see the Prince’s desperate want for independence much more clearly, as opposed to the characters portrayal in other productions.
Finally, Frieda Lai as the Fairy Godmother posed a very strong stage presence and a great understanding of this sassy, but empowered character. Her vocal performance of ‘There is Music in You’ was particularly moving, and her very obvious emotional connection to the lyrics allowed the audience to be nothing but completely in awe of Lai, as she glistened like diamonds in her beautiful pink fairy gown.
Cinderella is playing at Warrandyte High School until July 14th.
Tickets are available through https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=359173&