Theatre Review: Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

The 1997 Cinderella movie featuring Brandy as Cinderella and Whitney as her fairy godmother is one of my all-time favourite movie musicals, and also one of my favourite versions of the Cinderella fairytale. So, I was extremely excited to watch the European Theatrical premiere of the stage version of this magical musical at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester this month.

Cinderella was originally written by Rogers and Hammerstein as a TV musical in the 1950’s. Since then, it has been remade on screen twice, including the absolutely fantastic Brandy version. It was more recently adapted for the Broadway stage in 2013, and there have been quite a few changes to the story for this new version. It now has significant sub plot of social injustice in the Prince Topher’s kingdom, including a new character Jean-Michel, a revolutionary. Only one of Cinderella’s stepsisters is selfish and spiteful; the other is naive and secretly in love with Jean-Michel, despite her mother wanting her to marry the prince. And I think most significantly, Cinderella and Prince Topher meet more than just once! There is a definite attempt in this retelling to have the couple get to know each other a bit, and perhaps fall in love more deeply than just at first sight.

The 1997 film is known for its colour-blind casting, and it was nice to see such a diverse cast in this production too. Although Grace Mouat was originally cast in the role of Cinderella, she was unable to open the show due to injury, and I saw the very lovely Ria Tanaka play the role. In fact, every member of the small cast of 16 was fantastic.

Hope Mill has a very small stage and auditorium, so it was quite an intimate theatre experience which I really enjoyed. This is not an elaborate musical production on a huge stage, but a lovely enchanting one. I was actually really impressed how this musical with a fair bit of choreography worked well in the limited space.

This production felt very magical, and the updates to the plot did add something. There are a few new songs in this adaptation too, but all the classics that I love from the film are still there: Impossible, A Lovely Night, In My Own Little Corner, Ten Minutes Ago and Stepsisters Lament were all recognisable highlights for me. Lighting and puppetry were used to great effect to make the transformation scenes feel extra magical. And I loved the fairytale scenery and costumes. It’s the perfect show to watch in the run up to Christmas!

Cinderella is showing at Hope Mill Theatre until 11th December 2022, and I’d recommend catching it while you can for a magical festive theatrical treat.

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