Arts + Culture » Theatre

Theatre review: Cinderella: A Holiday Pantomime at Neptune

Musical theatre enjoyable for all ages.

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Ryan Brown and Samantha Walkes go to the ball in Cinderella. (Writer/Director: Jeremy Webb; Choreography: Stephanie Graham; Musical Direction/Arrangements: Lisa St. Clair; Set Designer: Patrick Clark; Costume Designer: Helena Marriott; Lighting Designer: Leigh Ann Vardy; Sound Designer: Deanna H. Choi) - STOO METZ
  • Stoo Metz
  • Ryan Brown and Samantha Walkes go to the ball in Cinderella. (Writer/Director: Jeremy Webb; Choreography: Stephanie Graham; Musical Direction/Arrangements: Lisa St. Clair; Set Designer: Patrick Clark; Costume Designer: Helena Marriott; Lighting Designer: Leigh Ann Vardy; Sound Designer: Deanna H. Choi)
I can’t say I was chomping at the bit to see Cinderella, the latest of Neptune Theatre’s holiday offerings. Albeit a holiday show bereft of holiday feels (you’ll have to see A Christmas Carol for that), this fairytale adaptation proves to be a disarmingly zany experience. Defining itself as a British-panto with a sprinkle of audience participation, it’s also replete with covers of popular songs, ranging from Great Big Sea to Carly Rae Jepsen to Imagine Dragons to Cyndi Lauper. In doing so, Cinderella avoids being cliche dinner theatre and instead revels in its success as musical theatre enjoyable for all ages.

Written and directed by Jeremy Webb, Cinderella is world unto itself: A kingdom set in the surrounding HRM where time and space don’t seem to exist. Some characters speak with English accents and some don’t. Characters are dressed like old Dickensian/Disney characters while using iPhones and cracking Star Wars jokes. It feels easy to dismiss Cinderella as a wacky hodgepodge where anything  goes, but after seeing the comedic, loving energy the cast and crew give to a tale told a billion times before, you find yourself embracing the chaos.

For all my enjoyment, it’s not without its missteps. Samantha Walkes is a firecracker in the title role of Cinderella: Cool, clever and not afraid to shoot down the outdated belief she needs a prince to save her, Walkes offers an admirable idol in today’s times of social upheaval and rebranding.But she’s sometimes drowned out by the comedic overload of her castmates—in her one-on-one scenes and singing numbers, Walkes is an emotional powerhouse, but when you surround her with, say, Ryan Brown’s hilarious Prince Charmin, French buffoon Boutons (Andrew Prashad) and/or stampeding Cockney step-sisters (Ann Doyle and Becca Guilderson) Cinderella’s pizazz diminishes. In the show’s most knockout moments, you nearly forget who the whole performance is actually about. Since Walkes gives a performance your kids will be talking about for days, it seems only fair to ensure your main star isn’t getting outshone.

I also wasn’t sold on this show’s version of the Fairy Godmother (Martha Irving). Yes, breaking down the fourth wall is fun and all, but unless she’s transforming Cinderella into a glam queen (super cool), she’s a meandering character no one quite knows what to do with. If you listen closely in the scenes with Irving and Cinderella’s dad, Old Jim (Michael Lamont-Lytle), you can hear Webb trying to tie up two large loose ends.

For a story everyone knows, there’s plenty of surprises to be found in Cinderella. With balanced acts bolstered with fun musical numbers, incredible set design and pyrotechnics, there’s a good chance you’ll fall under this show’s spell. Neptune has taken a respectable initiative by carving out a strong, unforgettable heroine— let’s just make sure she remains the heart of this tale.