Rodgers and Hammerstein
society/company: Witham Amateur Operatic Society
performance date: 22 Oct 2018
venue: Public Hall Witham
reviewer: Michael GRAY (Sardines review)
No, not a premature panto, but a rare, and very welcome, chance to enjoy the musical Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for CBS.
It’s given a splendid staging by WAOS; Claire Carr’s lively direction, and her classy choreography, guide the audience through the familiar fairytale, and, despite some lengthy passages of dialogue, sustain the magical mood.
In this version, the Fairy Godmother acts as narrator as well as motivator: a superb performance from Emma Loring, genial, glamorous, owning the stage and using her lovely singing voice to make the most of her numbers, including the Music In You which closes the show.
Not all the character roles leap off the page quite so successfully, but there is strength and star quality where it counts. Aimee Hart is a classic Cinders – demure, pure, with just enough determination to gate-crash the shoe-fitting scene. Perfect vocal work too, both in her solos – the winningly charming My Own Little Corner, expressively danced with check cloth and broom – and duetting with her handsome hipster Prince Chris, Dannii Carr, successfully suggesting the heir apparent’s complex character. Constance Lawton is the evil stepmother, with Rhianna Howard and Hatty Gribben as her “extraordinary” daughters. All three delightfully done, the ugly sisters cosseted and corseted in their gloriously extravagant gowns. Joy and Grace shine in their Act Two duet, too.
The songs are tuneful, if not especially memorable; some of it seems to be looking forward to The Sound of Music. The Sweetest Sounds, by far the best thing musically, was added for a later revival, recycled from No Strings. But MD Thomas Duchan, with his sizeable orchestra, bring out the best in this luxuriant Broadway score. Covering scene changes well, too, except, bizarrely, for the longest and most complex ...
The ensemble makes a fine vocal chorus, as well as filling the stage with movement and colour: the market-place knees-up [with trombone support from the pit], the Waltz with its balletic lifts, the all-too-brief black-and-white Servants’ Dance interlude, the Lovely Night sequence, and the stunning moment when Cinderella the Princess arrives late to the ball, the throng parts and the lovers’ eyes meet across a crowded room.
The garden gauze is a perfect backdrop for the love duet; the auditorium is cleverly used for the search sequence. The all-important transformation scene is simply but very persuasively done, with a gorgeous coach and horses, and the finale, with its beautiful frocks, is a visual delight.
A good old-fashioned show, staged with affection and style, and a perfect night out for the packed audience, including not a few princesses, who eagerly queued up at the end to photo-bomb the royal couple.
WAOS will bring us more fairies next April: a new version of that G&S staple, Iolanthe, set in clubland, with the promise of chrome and cocktails ...
This is not a common show, in fact, it is one that is hardly ever done and not very well known, despite it coming from the musical icons – Rodgers and Hammerstein.
This was such a refreshing change for the normal round of musicals and so well presented by Witham Amateur Operatic Society. We all know the story of Cinderella and this enchanting version does not disappoint.
Cinderella was played beautifully by Aimee Hart. Aimee embodied the demure, kind and downtrodden scullery maid but with a natural air of beauty and a voice that matched her looks. She was everything that every little girl imagines Cinderella to be and was perfectly matched against her handsome Prince Charming, Danni Carr. Danni also sang beautifully and was the regal prince with a heart. They looked great together and were both just ‘charming’!
Tracey Hackett as Queen Constantine and Tom Whelan as King Maximillian worked well together as Charming’s parents and both looked very regal in their respective roles.
Darryl Warnaar as Lionel, the Princes Steward was a strong and consistent performer and although new to the society looked very comfortable on the stage.
As her Stepmother and Cinderella’s Stepsisters, Grace and Joy, were Constance Lawton, Rhianna Howard and Hatty Gribben respectively. I relly liked all these performances – giving so much comedy and fun throughout the show. Rhianna and Hatty bounced off each other so well and their characters were spot on – I particularly liked their duet – the Stepsisters Lament.
Constance as the Stepmother really stood out with her magnificent stage presence. She commanded the stage and was a joy to watch.
Filling the magic shoes of the Fairy Godmother was Emma Loring. Emma really shone vocally in this part – she was sassy and funky and like a blonde bombshell, she really sparkled whilst on stage. This was a great opportunity to show off her vocal talents.
There was a lot to like about this show – the live scene changes, the amazing costumes, the way the cast were used by Director, Claire Carr and the lighting by Nigel Northfield.
My only slightly negative point was on occasions the diction wasn’t quite clear enough and with a show which isn’t so well known this is imperative but overall, this was a fresh and interesting production with a strong orchestra led by Thomas Duchan, so there was something for everyone.
Huge congratulations to the cast, production team and the crew on such an enjoyable production.
TO most people Cinderella is a pantomime and Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote things like Carousel, Oklahoma! or The Sound of Music. But their version of Cinderella was actually one of their most successful musicals. Written originally for television, it broke US viewing records in 1957.
It ls little known over here, but it intrigued enough people to bring in the crowds to Witham Public Hall. It is a play where Women get all the best roles and they all shine. Constance Lawton, Rhianna Howard and Hatty Gribben provided the humour as the stepmother and her daughters, while Emma Loring sparkled - and sang beautifully - as the fairy godmother.
Dannii Carr was suitably regal but vulnerable as the Prince, while Tom Whelan and Tracey Hackett brought some gravitas as the King and Queen. But the show is Cinderella’s and in Aimee Hart, Witham Amateur Operatic Society have a real ﬁnd. She displayed charm, conﬁdence and poise, with a strong singing voice, in her ﬁrst role for the society and captured hearts whenever she was on stage, which was most of the time.
The magical costume change was jaw-dropping and the wildly colourful dancing troupe were expertly handled by director and choreographer Claire Carr.