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Cinderella, LODS - Palace Theatre, Southend

Guest Reviewer : Gerald Hines

“Cinderella” is a lesser known musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Derived from a tv film which originally starred Julie Andrews, the show recounts the traditional story of Cinderella in a concise way. It was given in an attractive presentation at the Palace Theatre by Leigh Operatic and Dramatic Society yesterday, on their opening night.

The production had been carefully rehearsed and was well performed by a hard-working cast under the direction of Helen Sharpe. A particular “well done!” to those responsible for the costumes, which throughout the evening always looked effective, particularly in adding sparkle where necessary. I suspect that this show presents a particular challenge for amateurs in its demands for spectacle, which need to be balanced against a restricted budget. This production provided effective use of pyrotechnics at important moments, which helped give moments of flamboyance and magic to the show. The settings were simple with a few flats and props being moved on and off, but this meant there was a necessary focus on the tale telling and acting.

The band [Musical director: Rachel Plunkett; conductor: Claire Penfold] provided tight support to all the singers and dancing throughout the evening. Choreography [Rosie Munns] was seen at its most effective in the movement that occurred throughout the ball scene.

Cinderella [Reanne Nash] quickly got the audience on her side as we saw how she coped with her challenging position in the rather unpleasant household of her Stepmother.

Cinderella’s singing was confident and she set up her character’s love for the animals quickly in her interaction with the four animals [ mouse 1 and 2, cat and the dove] managed by four energetic puppeteers. I did, however. feel it was a shame that the mice were not a little larger or more distinctive - from my seat in the stalls it was often a challenge to see exactly what they were doing.

The Stepmother [Julie-Dawn Newman], a character who came across the footlights as suitably unpleasant, was very well played. The ugly sisters [Grace: Kathy Ward; Joy: Courtney Emery ] were also excellent, providing suitably unpleasant stage personas, but avoiding going too far into caricature, and well differentiating their characters,

Lionel [Jason Weir] captured the audience’s attention from the moment he came on. The camp nature of the character was played up by Jason, and the audience responded enthusiastically to his every entrance.

The part of Prince Christopher [Declan Wright] is challenging in that he has little to do. However Declan’s singing was easy on the ear, and he managed the challenges of rejecting females and falling for Cinderella effectively.

The King and Queen were both given full value [Barry Jones; Jo Whitnell], the pair doing well to develop their characters despite very limited opportunities in stage time. Similarly, the Fairy Godmother [Sasha Monique] is only on stage for short periods of the action, but helped by her natural stage presence and glittery attire, she made a strong contribution to the evening.

The chorus were hard working and moved well. Their support to the principals was important, and they helped change the stage rapidly, allowing the show to keep moving at a good pace. Their contribution to singing lacked power, but, unlike the principals, they were not helped by the mikes.

“Cinderella” is not one of the great Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, however, if you have an evening free this week, and like musicals that are little outside the mainstream, I commend LODS production to you. It would also make, a good introductory experience to theatre for children who are themselves starting to act or dance.

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