North East Essex Theatre Guild Adjudicator's Report
Clacton Musical Theatre Society
West Cliff Theatre, Clacton
2nd January 2011
It is generally acknowledged that “Cinderella” is the greatest pantomime story of all, as it has all the necessary ingredients: romance, magic and comedy. This script by Peter Denyer has been performed professionally on several occasions and did, indeed, contain the ingredients listed above. It was amusing without being really hilarious (a slapstick scene of some description would have been nice) and we did miss the Broker’s Men! We were delighted that CMTS had stuck to tradition and had female Principal Boys, the modern habit of casting men in these roles is not one of which we approve! As the pantomime was being performed by a musical theatre company, we were also assured that musically the evening would be very strong. It was also a pleasure to see a pantomime being performed on the large Westcliff Theatre stage, this gave us the added ingredient of spectacle, that is sometimes missing in smaller venues.
Liz and I received a very warm welcome from the smartly-attired front-of-house team. The foyer was lively and colourful and during the interval there was a super array of refreshments available. We were given excellent seats and the professionally-produced programme was attractive and informative. The raffle was proficiently, and unobtrusively, handled. It all added to a pleasurable theatre-going experience.
Setting and Props
The hired sets were beautifully painted and very colourful; exactly right for this story. We felt as though we were looking at a children’s fairytale picture book, which says it all really! Furniture was always in keeping and fairly minimal. The coach was absolutely beautiful and helped to create a memorable image at the end of Act One. All the props used were larger than life and in true pantomime mode, without cluttering up the action. Scene changes were quickly and efficiently executed and helped to ensure that the show proceeded at a good pace. Well done to everyone backstage!
Lighting and Sound
The technical aspects of the production were very strong. The lighting design was excellent. The settings were enhanced by atmospheric lighting that helped to create a magical atmosphere. We particularly admired the Forest scene and the final scene of Act One. The UV “Ghostbusters” sequence also looked very effective. Cues were smoothly executed and follow spots used effectively to highlight principal performances. Sound effects were well-chosen and were, again, on cue and not over-amplified. Microphones were also used to amplify voices in the large venue but were used sympathetically, not always the case in some venues we visit!
Costumes and Make-up
“Cinderella” is traditionally set in the 18th Century and this production, with one or two exceptions, certainly was. We weren’t sure whether all the costumes were hired but the overall effect was very colourful and, along with the sets, created the requisite fairy tale atmosphere. The Fairy Godmother was sparkling in lilac, and the Ugly Sisters were outrageous in everything they wore. We loved the extra-long stocking! The Prince and Dandini were very handsome in their period costumes and Buttons was dressed in the traditional “call boy” suit and cap, although a few more buttons on his suit would have been nice. The Baroness was venomous in black, although it was a pity that her wig tended to obscure her face at times. Cinderella’s finale ensemble was stunning in white and silver, but we both felt that her strapless blue ball-gown looked rather too much like a modern “prom” gown. Given that Cinderella’s alias was “Princess Crystal”, we thought her ball dress should have reflected this. The tearing of her “Cinders” dress by the Baroness was effectively devised, although we thought that her opening dress, prior to the arrival of the Sisters, was perhaps too drab. The chorus, as townsfolk and ball guests, looked exactly right. The Dancers’ “Hunt” costumes were particularly noteworthy.
Wigs and make-up were generally fine and were attuned to the characters and period.
Music and Choreography
Musically, the production was very strong and most of the songs chosen suited the singers and the action. We would have liked a more romantic duet for Cinders and the Prince at the ball (which seemed more like an 80’s disco than a royal ball!) but perhaps we are being too old fashioned! The chorus produced an excellent sound and there were some nice harmonies from them. “Don’t Stop Believing” seems to be the popular song of the moment, and the whole company gave it their all, much to the delight of the audience. The live band of musicians did a great job. They sounded good and looked as though were having a great time, entering into the fun of the action! The lively overture got things off to a tuneful and pacy start. Given their talents, we were quite surprised that, once the show got underway, so many of the numbers seemed to be on a recorded backing track. We thought that “Downtown” and “Surrey” (to name but two numbers) could have been live. However, we are sure that there was a good reason for this decision, and certainly all the accompaniment was effectively pitched for the singers.
The show was very well choreographed by Angie. Her team of Dancers were a delight to behold, they looked great and were very professional in their presentation. We absolutely loved the “Hunt” routine! All the musical numbers were nicely staged and in tune with the talents of the company.
There are a lot of different aspects to a pantomime that need to be brought together in a short space of time. Work had clearly been done on all of these aspects, with the blocking of the actors, the dance routines, the singing and the business all clearly thought through.
It was great to see that everybody performed with a smile on their faces – again very noticeable with the chorus, where often people can have a tendency to switch off; so, well done for that. Both of us felt that the production had real charm and colour, David’s experienced hand being evident throughout.
The production was uncluttered and had a good pace, although Act One seemed a bit too long, particularly in comparison with Act Two. This was, no doubt, due to the structure of the script but perhaps there could have been a little bit of judicious pruning? My favourite moment in the show was the traditional “Buttons pretends to take Cinderella to the ball” scene, which was delightfully directed, choreographed and performed. The all-important transformation scene was fine, but Cinderella’s double was a little too obvious, as she kept adjusting her cloak so that we couldn’t see her face! We also felt that more could have been made of the key moment when the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella flees from the ball, which seemed to be rather understated. Audience participation was encouraged and very well handled by the cast, particularly when the children were brought up onto the stage. This wasn’t allowed to go on for too long and therefore did not affect the momentum of the action.
Despite our reservations about some of her costumes, Jessica was a sincere and confident leading lady. She had a lovely smile and danced with elegance. Her diction was very clear and we particularly enjoyed her on-stage partnership with Buttons, their “Surrey with the fringe on top” number was a highlight of the show. Jessica also ensured that her Cinders demonstrated real strength of character in her scenes with her ghastly step-family! Well done!
Ben gave an outstanding performance in this key role, for which he was perfectly cast. Ben was lively and confident, a real “cheeky chappie”! His singing and dancing were excellent and, most importantly, he had a natural rapport with the audience, who loved him! Ben also caught the pathos of his character very affectingly, his sincere love for Cinders was never in doubt! Very well done indeed!
Really good Principal Boys are hard to come by, and Danielle fitted the bill perfectly. She looked the part, had a bright smile and her demeanour was exactly right. She was regal but also demonstrated a nice sense of humour in her scenes with Dandini. There was excellent pair-playing between these two - they complemented each other very well. Danielle’s confident singing and dancing also enhanced an enjoyable performance.
Liz and I both admired Laura’s performance. She made a real character out of an often under-written character (not in this case I hasten to add) and played superbly opposite Danielle’s Prince. The slightly cockney accent worked very well and made the “switch” with the Prince very humorous. Laura had a natural authority on the stage and used her strong singing voice and dancing skills to great effect. Very well done!
Looking a bit like an absent-minded professor in his wig, Bill had some of the funniest lines in the show! He did his best to stand up for Cinderella but he didn’t stand much chance against his new family! Bill caught the humour of his character well. After a slightly understated start, his performance really took wing in Act Two. Bill’s facial reactions were a treat to behold!
Oh Maureen you were awful… and that’s the best compliment I can give you! In this script, the Baroness was a really juicy role. With her miserable visage and whip-lash voice, Maureen went about her dastardly deeds with relish! She clearly enjoyed her bantering with the audience in the “Ghostbusters” scene and everyone else enjoyed her come-uppance at the end. It was a shame that Maureen’s wig obscured her face at times but she gave this performance her best!
Grizelda and Mona Hardup
Just like love and marriage, you cannot have one without the other, and this ghastly duo worked very well together. There was absolutely nothing likeable about them and the two Keiths clearly enjoyed being hated! They bantered their bitchy lines at each other with pace and confidence and moved around the stage very well, particularly in their “Don’t Cha” routine. An O.T.T. array of wigs and costumes added lots of laughs and the two sisters were physically well-contrasted. I thought it was a pity that they didn’t have the usual “getting ready for the ball” slapstick sequence to perform, but the “trying on the slipper” scene, with the false leg and extra-long stocking, was very funny! Well done!
Alison was a glamorous and motherly Fairy Godmother, who used her natural(?) Geordie accent to good effect - it sat nicely upon this character. Alison got the show off to a hearty start with her larger-than-life personality and really looked as though she was having a good time. It was a pity that her lines were insecure in places, but this didn’t detract from a nicely conceived performance. I loved the “A Lovely Night” send-off Alison gave to Cinderella at the end of Act One, it was truly magical!
This was a nice cameo from Terry who was a suitably pompous, “stuffed shirt” character. Good projection and nice facial reactions!
Well done to all of you! It was great to see “all ages” on the stage (the children were a delight), thoroughly involved and confident in everything they had to do. Further to my earlier comments, I just want to reiterate that everyone reacted well to the events going on around them and produced some impressive vocals which contained some pleasing harmonies.
This was a very colourful and technically-proficient production of a much-loved Pantomime. It was well-staged and contained some very pleasing performances. The audience, at the performance we attended, really enjoyed themselves.