With a sprinkling of fairy dust, a dollop of imagination, and a healthy dose of whimsy, the enchanting fairy tale Cinderella has come to life on a Taranaki stage.
Fluttering, bouncing and gliding around the stage are some adorable wee fairies, some talented young actors and actresses, and some experienced and seasoned adults. Together they turn this bedtime story into a wonderful theatre experience for the young and the young at heart.
New Plymouth Repertory Theatre
November 16 – 30
Reviewed by Taryn Utiger
Cinderella was adapted by theatre stalwart Les Emslie in 1997 and this year it has been directed by his daughter by Fleur Coombe. The sparkling fairy story opened to a full house on Saturday night and this magical and charming show is one you just must take your children to.
First time theatre-goers marvel from the moment the lights go down, whispering in excitement to their grandparents next to them as the classic story starts to take shape.
Guided by the skillful Morris West as the storyteller, this version of Cinderella is just how you remember it from your childhood. It harks backs to life before technology, to stories of wonder and whimsy, and to charmingly quaint language that just wraps you up and takes all your troubles away.
There are some great moments in this show – none more so than the hilarious scene involving a stool. Just when you think this inventive and physical comedy skit couldn’t get better, it does, and it’s wonderful.
While all of the adults in this show do a great job, it is rightly the children and young adults who are the real stars.
Thomas Kerr as the cheeky Page is filled with witty quips and has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand with his comic timing and mischievous grin. His upbeat character is contrasted by a morose and downhearted Prince, superbly played by Jeremy Johnston. Jeremy has a strong stage presence, great control of his voice, and like all of the young adults in this play he is a pleasure to watch.
Sophie Grigg is impressive, and plays a fierce and exceptionally catty Prunella, one of Cinderella’s step sisters. She captures the nastiness so well, you can’t help but be reminded of the teenage Mean Girls everyone feared in high school.
Alongside her, Lydia McCaul makes a wonderful Esmeralda. Although she’s also Cinderella’s step sister, she’s the kinder one, who is nicer to Cinderella and yet still fearful of her rotten sister Prunella. Sophie and Lydia make a fantastic pair, giving the story a sense of pace and urgency, while also providing some wonderful comedy with their bickering, their hair pulling and their physical fights.
Amelie Tippett is everything a traditional Cinderella is meant to be. She’s a kind, modest, reserved, and dainty girl who would never hurt a fly, or even speak ill of her horrible Stepmother. She captures the demure nature of Cinderella, and leaves the audience wowed when she steps out in her blue dress and sparkly heels. No wonder she makes the Prince smile for the first time.
The younger versions of Cinderella and her Step Sisters are just as good. Played on opening night by Leticia Coombe, Alexandra Stuck and Millie Grotrian this trio made a charming debut in their first major speaking roles. Hopefully their blossoming talent continues to be nurtured and we see more of them on this stage.
The most adorable parts of this show are thanks to a lovely team of sparkling fairies. Choreographed by Jenni Simkin, the delightful wee fairies flutter around the stage in their tutus, and melt the hearts of everyone in the audience.
Their fairy costumes are part of a collection of beautiful pieces worn throughout this show. The wardrobe team of Lesley Price, Mavis Baker, Maria Turner and Don Freebairn-Read has created some magic with their work. There’s a beautiful gold suit for the dim-witted Barron, a lovely blue dress for Cinderella, and even two bright and perfectly terrible dresses for the Step Sisters.
The set is another stand-out feature. Constructed by John and Darren Coombe and painted by Taranaki artist Sunset, this stage is simply outstanding for a local production. With not much more than a hammer and some paint, this team has managed to create six entrances and exits, a glowing fireplace, an underground corridor, the inside of a stone castle, and an old-timey pastel coloured town.
Opening night nerves means the show isn’t perfect, but there’s so much adorableness and blossoming talent that it really doesn’t matter. Cinderella is still magic, and still such a worthy piece of entertainment to take all of your youngsters to.
Beyond that, theatre groups need to see it as their social responsibility to harness and develop the talents of our next generation of actors, directors and technicians, and it is heartening to see Repertory continuing to do this, and doing it so well.
May the next children’s show be just as magical, and just as adorable as Cinderella.
New Plymouth Repertory Theatre
November 16 – 30
Tickets from Ticketek