Sunday night at Cadogan Hall is becoming a bit of a fairly regular thing with people who enjoy musical theatre concerts, or gigs performed by musical theatre performers. And for Cinderella, a 6:30pm start ensures that everyone that lives within a reasonable distance of central London should be well on their way (if not home and dry) by midnight. Here, a producing partnership between Take Two Theatricals and Club 11 London continues, and has excelled itself this time around, complete with impressive costumes and projections.
Naturally, a full production with a decent budget would have had some way of ‘transforming’ a pumpkin into a carriage, for instance – in this concert format, a video suffices. Dance breaks allow the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO to its many players and supporters) to take centre stage of their own accord, conducted as ever by the effervescent Freddie Tapner. In terms of plot, there are few surprises (which I will summarise later), which makes the levels of engagement with this concert production all the more astonishing – we know what’s about to happen, and we expect Ella (Christine Allado) to be subjected to some rather unpleasant treatment before the tide eventually turns in her favour.
It’s Douglas Carter Beane’s book that makes this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical feel fresh and sprightly, brought up to date for an early twenty-first century audience while retaining the rather majestic style of the much older musical numbers. Prince Topher’s (Jac Yarrow) call for a General Election in a month’s time seemed remarkably topical (I can’t possibly think why) – and Yarrow excels in the royal role, with the kind of voice and stage presence (and, dare I say it without being subjected to abuse for being complimentary, looks) that should stand him in good stead for a long and successful stage career. Both Charlotte (Jodie Jacobs) and Madame (Mazz Murray) make much of their roles as snotty and dismissive stepsister and stepmother respectively, expressive without being too hammy. As Madame puts it, she is in between “upper middle class and lower upper class”, and woe betide anyone who stands in the way of her social ambitions.
Interestingly, the other stepsister, Gabrielle (Zoë Rainey), is rather more sympathetic to Ella than more traditional versions of the story, and there’s a subplot involving Jean-Michel (Dean John-Wilson), a political activist who is seeking ways to speak with Prince Topher to highlight miscellaneous injustices within the kingdom. That the kingdom is in such disarray came about as a result of Topher’s parents having passed away, which led to a Lord Protector (or was it Lord Chancellor?), Sebastian (Jérôme Pradon) running the country, but ultimately looking after his personal interests rather than those of the wider public. As Ella tells Topher, “You need to open your eyes to what’s happening in your kingdom.”
Dianne Pilkington’s Fairy Godmother sang beautifully in ‘There’s Music in You’ in the second half, while Jacobs brought the house down shortly after the interval in ‘Stepsister’s Lament’. A delightful evening – yes, it was a crowd pleaser, but a thrilling and magical (yes, I went there) one at that.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.