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Awkward Cinderella saved by talented performers

A review of Neptune’s Cinderella

The lobby of the Neptune Theatre’s Fountain Hall is filled with a lively crowd. Among them are more princesses than one might expect to see on a Thursday night in Halifax. Jeremy Webb’s Cinderella has drawn spectators of all ages, all lined up for the tiaras distributed at the door. Young girls in sparkly dresses run about and bounce excitedly, tulle skirts flying.

The crowd is loud and excitement is high. Even the bartenders are wearing plastic tiaras, and by the time the audience files into their seats, almost everyone proudly sports a crown.

While we wait for the show to begin, classic rock and pop hits blast from the speakers. One by one, audience members turn to each other, questioningly. This is not what one would expect to hear before a performance of Cinderella. They are catching on. This is not a normal Cinderella at all—it’s pantomime.

As the programme notes, a pantomime is a show that “takes a well-known story, such as a fairy tale, and infuses it with extravagant characters, dancing, singing, comedic moments, and encourages the audience to get in on the fun.” 

This means, gags, slapstick and, in this case, the characters of the classic story are singing pop songs. The dance breaks include songs like Call Me Maybe, Somebody to Love, Ballroom Blitz, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Firework. The modern songs woven into the well-known fairytale add another element of chaos.

This seems to have caught a lot of people by surprise and at first, does not work in the actors’ favour.

At the top of the show, as the fairy godmother flies in with sparkles, crazy hair and rainbow socks, she is full of energy—the audience, not so much. There is no doubt that the cast is extremely talented, that much is clear from the first dance number. But it seems, at first, that the script does not do the actors justice. No matter how animated they are, the jokes just aren’t landing.

But by the time Chris Vergara (Boutons) and Ryan Brown (Prince Charmin) take the stage, with the help of a few kooky dance numbers, their genuinely laugh-out-loud performances succeed in winning the audience over. From that moment on, cheers get louder and laughter much more frequent.

This seems to be a relief to both the actors and the audience as there follows a lot of audience interaction, including call and response and audience participation. The best moments, however, are when little voices can be heard shouting out of the crowd with all their might, excited for Cinderella’s story, no matter how caricatured the characters.

While every cast member was amazing, the performances of Michelle Yu and Ryan Brown, Cinderella and her Prince Charmin, are stand-outs of the evening. Their voices are incredible, and the prince’s comedic timing even better than his voice.

The set, costumes and lighting elevate the production. The set and lighting are grand and impressive, and the costumes are not only stunning but ever-changing. The amount of costume changes for the ensemble alone is enough to make anyone’s head spin.

For all two and a half hours, every scene is full of energy. The performance is complete with smoke, strobe lights, mice puppets and even pyrotechnics. The cast and backstage crew create magic.

Audience member Gloria Laurence agrees. After the final bows, she cannot stop smiling.

“It was amazing!” she says. “I never expected it to be as funny as it was. Everything about it was terrific.”

She says if she could, she would go right back in to watch it again. “The set, the talent, the music, the costumes… It was fantastic. It was magical.”

Cinderella is gracing the stage until Jan. 7, 2024, so there is plenty of time to book tickets and go see the magic for yourself. Audiences are in for a wonderful night indeed!

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