Review of Cinderella at the Cotswold Playhouse, Stroud
PUBLISHED: 11:10 26 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:10 26 January 2015
Katie Jarvis is enchanted by the all-singing version of Cinderella, written by Rodgers & Hammerstein, and performed by the Cotswold Players
So: Cinderella. Let’s begin the story: a lovely, talented woman who has never stolen the show before, waiting to prove to the world (or at least a part of it) what she’s made of. A small cast of helpers, who are right behind her, willing her to be a success. A bit of magic and – da da!
Yes, yes, of course I’m talking about Claire Howard, whose directorial debut with the Cotswold Players in Stroud saw her waving her wand (I’m sure that can’t be made into a dodgy euphemism, can it?) over Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella. And what absolute fun it was.
When this written-for-TV musical first went out back in 1957 – broadcast live on CBS – it was Julie Andrews in the title role; and more than 100 million tuned in their black and white sets to watch her. There were fewer than 100 million at the Cotswold Playhouse on opening night, to be sure – but you wouldn’t have known from the enthusiastic applause.
Claire first came across this version of Cinderella (as she tells us in the programme) when a friend suggested it would be perfect for the Cotswold Players’ traditional family show. “I immediately started listening to the music and checking out video clips on YouTube and quickly became enchanted by their wonderful version of this classic fairy story,” she writes. She’s right, of course; not only is the music delightful, but the story is bang on the money – taken from Charles Perrault’s classic retelling of a tale that probably started off being told round household fires, way back when. In other words, all the well-loved elements are there, from fairy godmothers to Cinderella’s helpful household mice.
It’s a script that resounds not only with music but with wit. Cinderella’s glorious stepmother (fab Rachel Beckett) gave every impression of household-level evil: someone whose hobbies might include, say, stamping on ants and inappropriately dressing puppies for YouTube videos. Her attempts to keep her stepdaughters in order verged on moral suicide. “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” she tells them, contemptuously. “It’s inherited.”
And oh! How I loved those stepdaughters. Utterly, utterly wonderful Beth Stone and Hannah Mills were a joy (as one was inaptly named). Throwing themselves with hilarious lack of inhibition into their parts, they stole the stage whenever they appeared, from their clumsy dancing to their compellingly angry rendition (extolling the virtues of their stepsister) of “Why would a fellow like a girl like her?”
Rhiannon Adams, as Cinderella herself, showed us exactly why fellows might be smitten. A Disney heroine to a T, she was – to borrow Claire’s phrase – enchanting. When she and the prince sang – aka the wonderful Daniel Holden – everyone fell in love all over again. Daniel’s voice suggests, to me, that he’ll go far in theatre terms. Talking of Disney, Jenny Nixon and Jeremy Keck, as King and Queen, were also straight out of a Disney film. We can’t miss out Fiona Stone as the enabling Fairy Godmother – on hand to ensure a happy ending – and the very funny Darren Skinner as Lionel, the gloriously deadpan royal steward whose main worries in life revolve around trying to find the disappearing prince and trying to lose Cinderella’s persistent stepmother.
That, and a fantastically talented orchestra to boot. (Or to slipper – whatever.) The point is, we were spoiled.
If I’ve missed anyone out (like Rob Kempner – thank you for the music), I apologise. From youngest mice to oldest whoever (I wouldn’t dare guess), you provided a great evening’s entertainment.
• The Cotswold Players present Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the Cotswold Playhouse, Stroud, January 21 - 24, and 28 - 31 (2.30pm matinees on both Saturdays); www.cotswoldplayhouse.co.uk
For more from Katie Jarvis, follow her on Twitter: @katiejarvis