Joseph Houston and William Whelton have wanted to stage Roger + Hammerstein’s Cinderella for many years now and when you see Douglas Carter Beane’s new book come to life, you can see why.
Everything is imbued with the idea that kindness prevails and as we approach Christmas in the midst of a cost of living crisis, there is no better message to take us into December.
There are characters that you know from this classic tale, but some have been refreshed and there are some new additions.
Ella herself, played with patience and feistiness by the brilliant Grace Mouat has more about her than we are used to and she is not simply sweeping up, waiting to be swept off her feet. And that is really welcome.
Prince Topher (Jacob Fowler in fine voice) is more down to earth than the wooden ‘Ken’ style Prince Charming of old.
As for the Fairy Godmother – Julie Yammanee has the nuanced delivery of the wonderful Judith Light and she is the show’s horse drawn carriage, as it really comes to life, whenever she is on stage.
Instead of an evil stepmother, we have a vain and camp Madame who is rude and selfish but also conveys so much desperation, that she is much more than a caricature. Annie Aitken is a delight and her body language is mannered even when her character is not.
Ella’s sisters are yin and yang. Charlotte has her mother’s demanding nature and Gabrielle is seeking someone kind. Katie Ramshaw and Olivia-Faith Kamau are both delightful as the products of their Mommie Dearest.
Adam Filipe plays a welcome rebel Jean-Michel who turns Gabrielle’s head away from the dark side and he is a fine performer, as is Lee Ormsby as schemer Sebastian and every time he steps onto the stage he has a glint in his eye.
Joseph Houston directs with confidence and respect for this material and this means that the time generally flies by. William Whelton’s choreography provides energy and comedic moments and the ensemble fill the small stage and perform like a much larger troupe.
Elly Wdowski’s sumptuous set has the feel of an animated film like Beauty and the Beast and her costumes capture the feel of this rags to riches story with aplomb. The animated sequences fill time perfectly and the sound design is crisp and you can hear every single lyric with ease.
The script would benefit from more bite at times because the cast relish the deliciousness of these lines when they cross over into black comedy. But then it returns to being quite cute too quickly.
Roger + Hammerstein’s sweeping music and luscious lyrics are delivered with real beauty and grace by the small but perfectly formed band and a cast that love performing.
Grace Mouat was indisposed due to an injury. But she returns and proves why she has such a loyal following from & Juliet and Six because here she manages to convey sweetness and dogged determination.
The stage never feels cramped and if you are in the first few rows at the front, the cast perform directly to you, during some of the show’s most intimate moments. I have seen so many productions of Cinderella over the years, that this could simply feel like another one.
But the Hope Mill has managed yet again to work their magic and bring some off Broadway stardust to Ancoats and deliver you an early Christmas present – a very good show, as opposed to a bad Cinderella.
Roger + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is at the Hope Mill Theatre until 11th December and can be booked here.