Ah, Cinderella – the most classic of fairytales. This particular 2022 production by Centre Stage has a pretty big pair of glass slippers to fill – it’s a rendition of the epic Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical which started as a 1957 TV movie starring Julie Andrews and continued as a ’90s movie starring Brandy and Whitney Houston.
Overall, the show provides a strong and pleasing framework for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s wonderful songs. For a few hours, it will indulge your inner child in the wonder and magic of musical theatre. There are some adorable scenes with animal puppets, colourful dance sequences and – of course- the big ball gown reveal.
The production does have certain moments, though, that slightly feel – as the Prince would articulate – “medieval” – mostly because of the original script, which doesn’t include much of the modern feministic traits I would love to see in the show. Despite that, I still had a magical time at the Bridewell Theatre.
A recent couple of years brought us so many Cinderella interpretations, including the 2021 version with the iconic Billy Porter as the Fairy Godmother, or the infamous 2022 West End “Cinderella” which unexpectedly closed its London run and opened on Broadway. Does revisiting the absolute classic version of the story still make sense? Centre Stage company proves that it’s a feat worth trying, and from what it looked like – it also brought lots of joy and excitement to the cast and creatives.
The cast was large and truly diverse. I loved how inclusive the roles were, and how much energy the actors brought onto the stage of Bridewell. From the “Camp Horse” to the Royal Couple – the actors do their best to create a cohesive, remarkable spectacle.
Cinderella – standout performances
There were a couple of standout performances by the actors who truly made this show shine.
Zach Burns is Lionel, he fabulous servant to the Prince and the Royal Couple. His energy and authentic, loud fabulousness brought a refreshing comedic factor to the show. His small smirky comments and little comedy stints, like the little improv moment of the “shoe owner” hunt among the audience, just lifted the production to a higher level. Rosalind Parry as Stepmother (looking fab in dark red outfits) plays a fantastically cold individual with tons of stage presence. She very much reminded me of the Stepmom created by Victoria Hamilton-Barritt in the West End. My absolute favourite moments were the interactions between these two. Burns and Parry just had the sparks and energy that matched each other – I would watch a full-size show where Lionel and Stepmother just throw shade at each other!
The King (Basil Zafiropoulos) was such a surprise! At first, he seemed like just a kind, adorable, slightly goofy partner of the Queen – but when he started singing, I was just so impressed! I had a feeling he had something to do with opera in the past, maybe? The Queen (Michelle Lokot) did a splendid impression in the first act, but only fully showed her vocal skills later in the show (“Reprise: Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful”). But it was worth the wait – the Royal Couple altogether was such a well-matched stage duet.
The long-awaited Fairy Godmother (Sara Rajeswaran) channels her inner diva – as it should be, she’s stepping into Whitney Houston’s shoes! With her glowing makeup and sparkling outfit – and even more sparkling smile, she brings sass and attitude into this role. Her “Fol-De-Rol” and “Impossible” are some of the finest comedy and vocal moments of the first act.
Dancers bring a well-through thorough movement to the show, with a couple of synchronised ballroom dance scenes, but also the villagers’ dance in the first act. The performers, even though mostly playing in a group or dancing in couples, managed to create a distinct set of characters, without saying a word of dialogue (unless you count the sounds of mice and cats).
Plenty of work went into the costumes – I was stunned by the royal outfits, but also the commoners’ skirts, vests and aprons. The outfits added such a riot of colours to the performance while letting the cast shine.
Blessings and Curses of the Enchanted Kingdom
There is a 17-piece orchestra stationed on the balcony of Bridewell Theatre. And it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s impressive to hear a band of this size in an amateur production. At the same time, such a powerful band requires perfect sound management – which here, unfortunately, was sometimes lacking. Especially at the beginning of the show, despite sitting in the front row, some lyrics of the songs were hard to decipher.
The case of sound management strongly affected Cinderella’s (Priya Roy) performance. Roy created a character of a cute, doe-eyed, rather quiet girl who “lives to serve”. She is vocally gifted, and it was especially clear during the solos, with a quiet accompaniment of the band. However, the vocal style in which she performs just wasn’t strong enough to cut through the loud orchestra at times.
The staging seems uneven and at certain points, just not fully clear in its function. The floor painting resembling the retro clock gives an incredible impression to everyone stepping through the doors of Bridewell Theatre. I was hoping it would be highlighted in the minutes leading to midnight at the ball, but no – it was only used as a decoration during the pre-show and interval time.
The dark semi-transparent curtain works well when the cast has to assemble or move stage elements in the back, covering the stage operations. But I was just really confused by the biggest piece of staging on the stage – a huge, pink-flowered sakura tree. It’s the most impressive and visible piece of the stage set, yet it doesn’t play a role in the production – and actors are barely even placed in its vicinity. It was a bit disappointing, I was hoping for the tree to be used as more of a prop, maybe by hiding confetti for the ball gown reveal scene or dropping some flower petals from it for Cinderella and Prince’s first kiss.
“Cinderella Enchanted” by Centre Stage, shows that the fairytale’s slipper, even if slightly aged, still fits. It delivers a joyous night out, with lots of laughs and a big, emotional ending. Perfect show to open a winter holiday theatre season with!
Cinderella Enchanted Edition
Performances: Tuesday 15th – Saturday 19th November 2022
The Bridewell Theatre
Director: Giusy Pappalardo
Musical Director: Benjamin Levy
Choreographers: Brendan Matthew
& Deborah Stanton (Ballroom Specialist)
Producers: Andrea Civera & James-Lee Campbell