BWW Review: RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA, Cadogan Hall
Originally written in the 50s by musical theatre duo of wonders Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for television, Cinderella was then adapted for the stage multiple times and saw actresses of the likes of Julie Andrews and, more recently, Broadway-favourite Laura Osnes take on the title role.
This past Sunday, 20th October, Cadogan Hall hosted a one-off staged concert of the piece that turned the venue into a genuinely enchanting scene. With the London Musical Theatre Orchestra setting the mood for Christine Allado and Jac Yarrow to fall in love and change their world directed by Jonathan O'Boyle, the production was a stunner. The magic began even before the show did, with a spotlight aimed at the slippers and a blue-purple hue enveloping the auditorium.
George Reeve curated projections that looked right out of a parchment storybook and helped move the action form location to location, while the performers took hold of the socially aware plot. Dianne Pilkington was fairy godmother Marie, turning point of the love story, while Dean John-Wilson was Jean-Michel, the political pivot. Mazz Murray played a deliciously evil stepmother, accompanied by Zoe Rainey as Ella's "nice" stepsister Gabrielle and Jodie Jacobs as the crowd-favourite bratty other sister Charlotte.
The only downside of the night was the failing audio system, which drowned out some of the lyrics and prevented the singers to give a wholly accomplished rendition of the numbers. Thankfully, the defective management of the microphones was just a fluke in an otherwise flawless performance. O'Boyle managed to launch the gathering into a land of giants and dragons with very little visual aids, matching the sumptuous score with the naturally evocative vibe of the room.
Allado was a gorgeous princess-to-be. Her instinctive royal attitude combined well with Yarrow's flair and strong vocals, but Jacobs inadvertently stole the scene from them at any given chance. The Charlotte-focused 'Stepsister's Lament' had the audience in stitches with spotless comedic timing. As her mother, Murray was equally delectable in her wickedness as she kept her cruel act up until the very end.
Straying from the Disney take, this version of Cinderella is a classic yarn for the modern age. Chasing one's dreams sits side by side with the virtues of "Charity, generosity, [and] kindness", making the young woman a true trailblazer in imaginary social reform. The charmingly yet far-fetched romantic plot works well within the political line, and Ella's awareness of the injustice and cruelty that goes beyond the awful treatment that she's subjected to by her own family speaks of humanity and acumen.
As the characters do their bit falling for each other as they waltz together and following their vision, we witness the birth of democracy and decline of the flawed structure led by Jérome Pradon's elitist Lord Chancellor Sebastian. The political slant plays a heavy part, and Jean-Michel's task becomes as crucial as the fairy godmother's.
Cinderella unquestionably reasons with today's precarious political climate and it would make a delightful stable addition to Theatreland, offering a touch of magic and optimism to help a dire time.
Photo credit: Darren Bell