Stage: Cinderella – Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
HARD TO believe that a whole decade has zoomed by since we last had the Cinderella panto on stage in Durban, that season in 2008 having been a bigger and better revival of the 2004 production which marked the first of the KickstArt theatre company’s 14 annual pantomimes.
The first KickstArt Cinderella was a postage stamp production staged at the now-defunct KwaSuka Theatre in Greyville, and it is heart-warming to see how this KickstArt “baby” has developed and grown over the years.
This year’s Cinderella, which runs until January 6, is as much a bumper delight as one could anticipate. Richly embroidered with fresh topicality in song choices, nudge-winks and performances, it is a giddy, glossy, glittering and gorgeous show from the Durban duo with the Midas touch – award-winning writer-director Steven Stead and designer Greg King.
It boasts an attractive and talented cast, some splendid voices, uniformally good lighting from Tina le Roux and spectacular sets from King that incorporate the most camp and cute statues and cherubs on stairways and pillars.
Then, of course, there are the superb, clever costumes which vary from rich ballgowns and gossamer-winged fairies to fun fright-frocks worn by Cinderella’s scene-stealing ugly sisters – Annie (Bryan Hiles in massive orange wig) and “Cattie” (Darren King in killer stilletoes), both of them a scream.
The ugly sister frocks are a constant surprise and come in shapes including a golden Christmas cracker, a giant Lindt chocolate and a flower complete with garden snail headdress. There’s even a nice nod to a previous KickstArt success, Little Shop of Horrors, in a frock inspired by the man-eating, Audrey II plant.
Sweet-voiced newcomer Roshanda Lewis makes a pretty-as-a-picture Cinderella, while Nathan Kruger (last seen in this theatre as the high-camp Mordred, son of Arthur, in KickstArt’s Camelot) is in very good voice and a confident, dapper and regal Prince, with Lyle Buxton also on good form as his Aussie-accented sidekick, Dandini.
Scene-stealers, besides the kooky ugly sisters, of course, include the bubbly Anne Marie Clulow as a ditzy fairy godmother (she was last seen in Durban as Mary Sunshine in Chicago), and an agile, animated and amusing Mthokozisi Zulu as Cinderella’s loveable pal and secret admirer, Buttons. And be prepared for a wonderful surprise with puppets!
Completing the cast are dancers Kirsty Ndawu, Katherine Anderson, Tshediso Kabulu and Sanele Mzinyane, who appear in numerous scenes with lively, varied choreography by Janine Bennewith.
All you want in a panto is here – from the One Finger, One Thumb, Keep Moving line song to sentiment, slapstick and singalong (the dreaded Baby Shark song, complete with actions, this year).
Moving the story forward are performances of quirky songs and chart favourites, among them Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman, Ed Sheeran’s Perfect, American Authors’ Best Day of My Life, the Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston ballad When You Believe, and Button’s first solo, Just Leave Everything to Me (from Hello Dolly).
Jacob Zuma, Julius Malema, Eskom, the Guptas, loadshedding, Lady Gaga, The Playhouse, The Rhumbelow Theatre, data packages… all come in for a good-natured ribbing in a production that features musical direction by Evan Roberts and Jason Bird, and sound design by Ross van Wyk.
Ticket prices for Cinderella range from R140 to R240 each. Booking is at Computicket outlets. Oh, and note that the theatre has its own generator so loadshedding should pose no problems.